Hey Dan Auerbach, Here's What Critics Mean When We Talk About the "Death" of Rock 'n' Roll

Categories: Oh, Really?

dan-auerbach-by-james-quine.jpg
James Quine
Dan Auerbach, rockstar.

Earlier this week, in an interview with radio station WGRD of Grand Rapids, Mich., Black Keys frontman and blooze-rawk genius Dan Auerbach offered a strong response to critics and fans who think rock 'n' roll is dead:

I think that it's so lame of an argument, it seems so stupid. It's like the press needs something to talk about. Being 16 years old and getting an electric guitar is never going to get old. There's always going to be kids making music. There's always going to be kids in bands...

Everything is cyclical. It'll come back around and be popular. The Foo Fighters are like the biggest band in the world. They play stadiums. How is rock dead?"

Sorry Dan, but you're missing the point here. The question is not whether rock 'n' roll will follow the dinosaurs and the dodo and disappear completely from the Earth. Anyone who means "total extinction" when they argue that rock 'n' roll is dead or dying clearly isn't thinking well.

What people talk about when they talk about rock's decline isn't a disappearance, it's a lack of vitality. There will be rock bands for another 50 years, maybe much longer. But will they contribute anything new to the musical or cultural landscape? Will they be a fount from which interesting ideas and attitudes spring? Will they be seen as a revolutionary force or a reactionary one?

The mere presence of large, commercially successful rock bands -- like the Foo Fighters or the Black Keys -- isn't proof that rock is still "alive," either. Vitality means growing and changing, something the Foo Fighters haven't ever really bothered with. (Sorry, recording in a garage doesn't count.) At their best, the Black Keys (whom I love) brought a return to high old standards of musicianship and songwriting. "Lonely Boy" is a great pop-rock song, but it's not going to open up any new musical frontiers.

No, the "death of rock 'n' roll" will look like the ossification of any number of once-vital genres, like, say, blues and jazz. Technically, they exist. There are festivals and magazines and scenes around them, and even new artists playing them. But these genres aren't alive in the sense that they once were. No one right now is dramatically changing what we think of as blues or jazz. They are great artforms, but their development has basically run its course. They were young once, they raised hell, they matured, and now they're old.

Some observers are making a similar argument about rock: Not that it will disappear. Not that 16-year-old kids won't still get guitars and love them. Not that rock bands won't still be popular. (And indeed, rebadged as "country," rock is still huge.) Just that the music may not always matter like it once did.

But talk of "dying" is all kind of over-dramatic, anyway. Here's a better question: Who do you think will a greater impact on the future of pop music: The 16-year-old kids who are playing electric guitars, or the 16-year-old kids who are playing with Ableton Live on their laptops?

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Chuck
Chuck

"I'm sorry, Mr. Epstein. Guitar bands are on their way out"Famous words from 50 years ago....proven incorrect in Feb 1964.

Pop music...which is this article is really talking about....ebbs and flows between genres and styles. "Rock and Roll" was born and has grown best as the counter culture....as a youth revolution....as the decisive answer to bullshit dance music. Rock N Roll exists best as the exception rather than the norm.

Good luck to all the Ableton DJs when the masses dictate that the style is not cool anymore. It will happen.

HETHER FORTUNE
HETHER FORTUNE

The Black Keys suck & so do Foo Fighters. Tired ass blues garage revivalist dude rock nonsense for the detached masses.The fact that these are the bands used as the main reference point for a discussion on whether or not rock & roll is "dead" is the REAL problem. 

"Will they be a fount from which interesting ideas and attitudes spring? Will they be seen as a revolutionary force or a reactionary one?"

There is nothing interesting or revolutionary about this article, that's for sure. 

Patrick Brown
Patrick Brown

Dans solo album is better than all of the Black Keys albums combined

Conan Neutron
Conan Neutron

Ridiculous. There is *PLENTY* new being done with rock music. The biggest problem is the attention is all being paid to things that are already known or reference things that are already known. I like the Black Keys just fine, but they aren't really doing anything that new with rock music at all. 

There are bands that are doing interesting and rad things with rock music. Some of them even in the bay area. Sometimes it's just drawing influence from non-rock areas. Sometimes it's adding things up in a different way. Grunge wasn't the last time rock got a shot in the pants from punk rock you know?

Just because Pitchforkmedia and their ilk haven't crowned whoever to be the next saviors of rock doesn't mean it's a dead or overtly self referencing medium. Look at bands like Torche and Future of the Left, they are most definitely rock bands (despite the labels attached to them) and just by their constant desire to change and grow they are bringing new influence to the rock musical landscape.

Contemporary hip hop has been following the same script for years and years, yet you don't see this kind of wringing of hands over it. 

As for whoever will have the greater influence on pop music, it's largely dependent on who gets the attention. Which is largely dependent on just how all that shakes out. The actual music being made has less and less to do with the influence on popular culture, which is a crazy non-sensical kind of place we're at. And it leads to these kinds of cyclical debates too.

lemmycaution
lemmycaution

oops - cancel that. the link has completely fabricated data.

lemmycaution
lemmycaution

Since 2000, the average cost of a guitar has been cut in half and total guitar sales have nearly tripled:

http://www.musictrades.com/cen...

Certainly rock will never have the same central position in popular music that it had in the 1970s, but guitar based music is by no means dead.

Paul
Paul

Rock was born of danger and kink . Those elements are alive and well , however , they have been extracted from it and used primarily in Hip Hop ( not disrespect ). I feel over saturated radio and the lack of bands being able to afford their trade ( tours , recording , selling records ) have made it near imposible to reach new ears . If you truly love Rock , support it . Go to shows , Buy music , and pick up a instrument . Paul of Superfinos VTO

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