Well, not “dead” like tissue, but “dead” like a marriage. So says Sam McPheeters in this Vice article from 2010. Comparing rock circa 1994 to the Wild West circa 1890, he describes a “closed frontier,” a state in which the once new and exciting has become museum fodder.
I have remarked that the progress of both metal and jazz appears to have stagnated as the genres have become self-reflective. In the most shallow pop music we see tributes to earlier work: Today, Robin Thicke pays homage to Marvin Gaye in “Blurred Lines.” Some time back, Miley Cyrus sang of how uplifting it was to hear past work by Jay-Z and Britney Spears — echoing expressions of similar regard for T. Rex by The Who and Def Leppard, and for Ronnie Spector by Eddie Money. Was there this much self-conscious celebration of rock history when rock artists were still pioneering? Arena Rock Revival acts like Bang Camaro and The Darkness are basing their entire careers on nostalgia. McPheeters’s article highlights this trend by noting that only one of the top 25 touring acts of 2000-2009 emerged during the current millennium.
As pessimistic as he seems, McPheeters appears to have a decent grip on the state of affairs. I can sense a parallel in the smart phone market: The iPhone created a new industry. It’s not as exciting to track recent developments in smart phones lately, because we have grown to take our immense privilege for granted. Likewise in music, we long for the days when four guys and a modest light show could thrill stadiums full of screaming fans, when the world held its breath for a leading artist’s next music video, when rockers weren’t introspective, broody pseudo-intellectuals as much as they were hard-living challenges to the uptight status quo; but we enjoy such abundant access to good music that we must remember to re-prioritize. There will never be another Hendrix, for example, but that mustn’t preclude us from enjoying the incremental advances of the long stream of artists that have continued to honor his legacy.