Something’s been nagging at me while I’ve been writing my next novel, In Lonely Lands. Alyx, the misfit 17-year old girl who is the protagonist, is a big fan of old-school hard rock, particularly bands from the 1980’s. I’ve been re-listening to a lot of that music as I’ve been developing her character and citing her musical tastes, and I’ve realized something:
Rock music isn’t “fun” anymore.
I say that knowing that the automatic reaction from many people–myself included–is to say that:
- Every generation thinks the music they listened to as teenagers and young adults is the best;
- Today’s music doesn’t speak to me because I’m not the target audience;
- Times and styles change;
- I’m just old.
To which I reply:
- Yes, I’m aware of that, and try not to let my musical prejudices cloud my judgement;
- Yes, you’re right;
- I’m okay with change, because no one wants to spent the rest of their life listening to Great White;
- Though I’m in point-blank range of 50, I try not to be an old fart.
The horror. The horror.
To be sure, there’s plenty of rock being played these days, but it’s usually what we used to call “alternative” (though it’s beyond me how it can still be alternative when it’s been the mainstream for the last 20 years). And while the neo-alternative can be entertaining and witty (cf. Weezer), it often isn’t what I consider “fun,” and it doesn’t have the “oomph” I’m looking for.
When I do come across new hard rock on the radio, it’s almost always too loud, too fast, and too heavy, to the point that it’s incomprehensible noise (many times with “Cookie Monster” vocals that become tiresome mere seconds into the song). A lot of it sounds really…angry. And I don’t know about you, but I’m getting tired of “angry.” So, I’m afraid the “nu-metal” is not for me.
Just so you know, there are a lot of current musicians I like: Adele, Bastille, Cage the Elephant, Lorde, Macklemore, Bruno Mars, Muse, and Taylor Swift. Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve even learned to appreciate some Katy Perry.
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But they’re very different from the folks I grew up listening to*. Heavy metal/hard rock was my music of choice: AC/DC, Def Leppard, Guns ‘n’ Roses, KISS, Led Zeppelin, Quiet Riot, Scorpions, Skid Row, Tesla, Van Halen. Fresh out of college, I got into Alice in Chains, Nirvana, and Stone Temple Pilots.
*For the record, Mama tried–she introduced me to folk, classical, country & western, and all sorts of other stuff (only Springsteen and Billy Joel stuck). In high school and college, I also listened to a lot of New Wave (Culture Club, Duran Duran, Talking Heads, The Police) and Minneapolis funk (Prince, The Time, Jesse Johnson).
So while today’s music isn’t bad, it just isn’t what I enjoy most and what I’m missing: loud, fast, with lots of guitars, lots of energy, and not much to think about. Songs about partying, or pretty girls, or cars, or how awesome rock ‘n’ roll is, or all of the above.
Songs that don’t take themselves too seriously. Songs that when you’re driving and they come on the radio, you crank them up and sing along at the top of your voice, and it’s okay if you don’t sing them well, because it’s three and half minutes of silly, empty-headed joy. Songs that are just plain fun.
Here are some examples:
Can’t you see what I mean?
That’s the type of music I’d like to hear more of, without having to listen to the same tunes I’ve been stuck with for the last 30, 35, or even 40 years (besides, the clothes and hair have NOT aged well).
Some of those bands I liked then are still together, but they’re way past their prime. Having seen a few of them in concert recently, I’m sad to say that they should probably pack it in and make room on the stage for the next generation.
If you get what I’m saying and can suggest some new artists, please let me know in the comments. Thanks!
Kenton Kilgore is forging a new direction in young adult science-fiction and fantasy. His latest work-in-progress is In Lonely Lands, a modern-fantasy/horror novel, to be published in fall 2016.
Kenton is the author of Dragontamer’s Daughters, based on Navajo culture and belief. He also wrote Lost Dogs, the story of a German Shepherd and a Beagle-mix who survive the end of the human world, only to find that their struggles have just begun. With Patrick Eibel, he created Our Wild Place, a children’s book about the joy to be found in exploring Nature.
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