The History of Rock Music: The 2010s
Emergence of multiple sub-sub-sub-genres each representing a "minority" of some kind or another. Far from causing uniform orthodoxy as Marxists intellectuals since Adorno predicted, consumer/popular culture did not erase identities it provided multiple platforms for expressing them, notably for the lower classes that previously didn't have a voice (eg blacks in the USA)
The generation of the 1940s grew up reading comic books. Comics books were a medium that was making fun of daily life. Rock, hip-hop, electronic music of the 1950s-80s were more about the tragedy of daily life. In the 1990s the videogame introduced the interaction with a machine as a major passtime. In the 2000s social media introduced the nonphysical interaction with other people (mediated by a machine) as the main passtime. A videogame is a medium that connects a person to a machine. A social platform is a medium that connects a person to another person via machines that are connected to each other: person to a machine to a machine to a person.
The Facebook generation (2008-12) and the millennials (the generation born after 1980) tech-savvy? not really. They are less tech-savvy than the baby boomers (many of whom grew up programming computers). Most millennials have no clue why "Silicon Valley" is named after silicon or why transistors are so important or what an operating system is. They are users. They are as "tech-savvy" as their grandparents were when buying a new kitchen appliance. What is true is that they use digital devices a lot more than previous generations, and that texting on smartphones is replacing email on desktops (which is not necessarily a sign of smarter use of technology given the size of a smartphone's keyboard and display).
Arab Spring (2011-12) and Occupy Wall Street (2011) Social media were used by young people around the world to start revolutions: the Arab Springs in Tunisia, Egypt, and so forth; the democratic uprising in Sudan in 2019; the anti-Chinese protests in Hong Kong in 2019;... but not in the leading Western countries. Young people in the West seemed incapable of using their powerful tools to organize protests against a regime that was increasingly anti-democratic and increasingly marginalized young people.
Great Recession 2008-2011
Global economic boom (until 2011)
Trump 2017 fake news elected with Twitter and Facebook
2019 wave of protests worldwide (but not in the USA!)
2016-2019 Britain absorbed by Brexit and US absorbed by Trump's many scandals
Atlantic article on the effects of the smartphone: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/09/has-the-smartphone-destroyed-a-generation/534198/ a lonely, dislocated generation. Teens who visit social-networking sites every day but see their friends in person less frequently Eighth-graders who are heavy users of social media increase their risk of depression by 27 percent, while those who play sports, go to religious services, or even do homework more than the average teen cut their risk significantly. Teens who spend three hours a day or more on electronic devices are 35 percent more likely to have a risk factor for suicide Gen X managed to stretch adolescence beyond all previous limits: Its members started becoming adults earlier and finished becoming adults later. Beginning with Millennials and continuing with iGen, adolescence is contracting again-but only because its onset is being delayed. Across a range of behaviors-drinking, dating, spending time unsupervised- 18-year-olds now act more like 15-year-olds used to, and 15-year-olds more like 13-year-olds. Childhood now stretches well into high school.
See also Taylor's book How the baby boomers changed: they were the hippies in the 1960s but now they are the conservatives. Either the hippies were never a significant percentage of society, or something happened as they aged.
Girls were increasingly educated and employed, although obvious differences remained in attitudes towards math, science, technology and... rock music. (I rarely get an email from a female about my music reviews or my science pages, and the vast majority of my friends and followers on social media are male).
Plummeting trust in state institutions, with Congress being rated lower than world dictators.
The similarities with the Sixties do not hold up because social media took the place that used to be of folk, blues and rock music. The political lyircs of protest songs were never particularly good: it is just that in the Sixties, when the media were controlled by the Establishment, music was the only channel to vent popular anger and get organized. Since the first Chuck Berry hit, rock music became the social media of the time. In the 2010s social media like Facebook and Twitter were far more effective at discussing social matters than the vastly dispersed music business. Rock and hip-hop musicians were more likely to engage in promoting "causes", especially universal ones, for which social media were still widely inadequate.
The skills generation(surfing, skating, acrobatic bikinh, videogames) was followed by the generation of no skills (skydiving)
TV no longer a social event but a solo event
The importance of the Like
We are transitioning from the age of broadcast (in which there was a tiny minority of creators and remixers (media that broadcast the creation) and a huge majority of spectators) to the age of self-expression, in which there will be a huge majority of creators asnd remixers.
In 2016 two votes shocked the Western world: Britain decided to leave the European Union in a bitterly contested referendum, and the USA elected Donald Trump, a vulgar right-wing tycoon, in a bitterly contested referendum. The similarities between the two countries (the countries that gave us rock music, hip hop, etc) were striking, and one in particular: the majority of young people voted to remain in the European Union, but the majority of old people voted to leave; the majority of young people voted for Hillary Clinton, but the majority of old people voted for Donald Trump. Young people under 30 voted for Hillary Clinton (55%), old people over 45 voted for Trump (53%). Young Britons voted to remain in the European Union by a huge margin (about 60%), old Britons over 45 voted to leave the European Union by a huge margin (57%). Trump won in the countryside by a huge margin (62%) whereas Clinton won in the cities by an equally huge margin (59%). The "Leave" party won in the British countryside, whereas the "Remain" party won in the cities. 53% of men voted for Trump, 54% of women voted for Clinton. Most men voted for "Leave", most women voted for "Remain". Trump won 58% of the white vote, Clinton won 88% of the black vote and 65% of the Latino vote. A majority of white Britons voted for "Leave", whereas the majority of British minorities voted for "Remain". These old people were the kids of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s: the hippies and the punks. If in the 1960s a sociologist wondered what would become of these "peace and love" hippies, or in the 1970s a sociologist wondered what would become of these rebellious punks, in 2016 came the answer: supporters of right-wing fascist racist sexist nationalists.
Death of the record store, rise of Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Spotify, iTunes
mp3 compression removes nuances, makes them irrelevant... musicians abandon the full spectrum of sound for an impoverished audio experience... musicians start composing for a shorter spectrum
Apocalypse: climate change, AI
surfing, hiking, climbing, are antisocial no spectators solpisistic addictive like drugs no arena/stadium life threatetning like drugs heroic/legendary status acquire individually, word of mouth not winning competition but courage and skills barbarians illiterate ignorant ordinary lives otherwise
In 2016, about 60,000 people died of a drug overdose in the USA alone (more victims than during the AIDS epidemics at its peak and five times more that the victims of the ebola outbreak in West Africa of 2014-15). In 2017 drug overdoses became officially the leading cause of death for people under the age of 50.
"A teenager has less chance of being raised by both biological parents in the USA than anywhere else in the world". The "land of opportunity" is also rapidly dissolving: a child born in a poor family in the USA is less likely to get rich than pretty much anywhere in the Western world (where better education is subsidized by the state). But, like anywhere else in the Western world, young people postponed marriage: only 51% of US adults over 18 were married in 2011. Almost 30% of US households contained only one person. The longer umarried life meant that more years were spent "dating" and living with housemates as opposed to raising children in a family home. It also meant that the average person, and notably the average woman, had many more sexual partners than the previous generations. (A female friend jokes that there should be the equivalent of "frequent flyer miles" for people who have had as many sexual partners as her: her mother married her first boyfriend and is still married to him). It might be totally unrelated, but tattoos spread like wildfire among the Generation X and the Millennials (almost 50% of people
White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPs) are no longer dominant. In fact, the ethnic revolution was already visible for those who wanted to see it: a black man (Barack Obama) and a Catholic (Joe Biden) faced a Mormon (Mitt Romney) and another Catholic (Paul Ryan) in the 2012 elections. For the first time there was no WASP on either ticket. Both the old and new speakers of the House of Representatives are Catholics: Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner. The majority leader of the Senate was a Mormon (Harry Reid) until 2014 (when he was replaced by a WASP, Mitch McConnell). Since 2010 none of the nine judges of the Supreme Court has been a WASP: they are six Catholics (Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor) and three Jews (Stephen Breyer, Ruth Ginsburg, Elena Kagan).
According to a 2015 study by Robert Miner, TV is no longer the first choice for kids' entertainment with 57% of parents reporting that their child prefers mobile devices to TV when it comes to video viewing. Additionally, 58% of kids in households with tablets have their own device, the study also discovered, and half the kids, when disciplined, will have their tablet taken away and are left "only" with TV. That has created a generation of kids for whom "TV is punishment," the firm noted. Additionally, when given the choice between dessert or more time on their tablet, 41% of parents say their child would choose the tablet over dessert Adults too increasingly watch videos on mobile devices because of smartphone growth, larger screen sizes, increased access to broadband and 4G services, better content selections, However, the revenues of the music industry between 1999 and 2009 declined dramatically (from $14,6 billion to $6,3 billion) and the revenues of newspapers between 2006 and 2012 declined even more dramatically (from $49.3 billion to $22.3 billion) whereas television's revenues skyrocketed from $36 billion in 2000 to $93 billion in 2010.
Since the 1950s popular music had been hijacked by the young generation keen on rebelling against the establishment. But this waned in the 2000s and almost disappeared in the 2010s. The millennials were more absorbed in mundane entertainment. The entertainment industry had created a huge commercial system to monopolize the spare time of young people, from videogames to gyms, from social media (increasingly used for fun and not for agit-propaganda) to harmless music festivals. Furthermore, the millennials had more faith in the authorities and the corporations than any generation since the 1940s. This was largely due to an educational system that "tamed" them at an early age and directed them towards professional careers. The overwhelming amount of information available on the Internet was in itself a drug. And access to information created more doubts than certainties about what to do. An obsession with safety on campus greatly increased policing and reduced tolerance for protests of any kind. Last but not least, skyrocketing real-estate prices meant that fewer and fewer buildings were affordable. The great periods of youth creativity had often coincided with cheap or free buildings where young people could stage alternative events. Such free venues had become impossible to find in places like the San Francisco Bay Area and Manhattan.
The music industry was returning to the "hit factories" that had been dethroned in the 1950s by rock music. Before the advent of rock music, most pop hits had been produced by teams of professional singer-songwriters (many headquartered at New York's Tin Pan Alley). After the rock revolution the performer had become the main songwriter and often even the producer of her/his own music.
The shift from the LP/CD to the Internet download shifted the focus from the album to the individual song, and from the conceptual mindset to the short attention span typical of those who can download thousands of songs. But this was not all that different from the car radio, that was still for most people the primary access to popular music. The iPod listener was able to flip through a multitude a songs just like the car driver could flip through the channels of the radio, and listen to only the few first seconds of each song. The big difference was in the production quality. The advent of computerized production tools made the producer an ever more important shaper of the final product. Often a song would start with the beat and some surreal arrangement. Famous singers would be hired after the song had already been designed by the producers. This marked an almost complete u-turn, a return to the pre-rock era. Singers who demanded creative freedom could be dumped overnight and find out the hard way how important the producer had been to make them stars.
Statistics showed that the teenagers of 2017 were getting drunk less often than any other generation on record. They were hardly smoking. And they increasingly stayed away from drugs even in places where drugs were being legalized. Juvenile crime kept dropping in all developed countries. In 1991 most US teenagers (54%) had had sex before the age of 18 but in 2015 only 41% said so. Part of this trend was due to the immigrants coming from countries where teenage drinking, smoking and sex were discouraged. But another reason was that teenagers were much busier in school. A third reason is that Internet technology allowed parents to monitor their children in a way that was impossible when kids were spending most of their spare time outdoors with no mobile phone and no Internet connection.
Oct 2017: The New York Times reveals sexual misconduct by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, and several actresses come forward to accuse him of discrimination, harassment and even rape (beginning of the #metoo movement") #metoo movement of women speaking up against sexual abuse/harassment Jul 2018: Claims of sexual harassment or misconduct have ended the political careers of 11 Republicans and 13 Democrats in one year (#MeToo movement)
2017: #neveragain movement against guns after yet another school massacre March 2017: thousands of students walk out of school in nationwide gun violence protest
A Digital Adolescence iGen. Born between 1995 and 2012, members of this generation are growing up with smartphones, have an Instagram account before they start high school, and do not remember a time before the internet. The Millennials grew up with the web as well, but it wasn’t ever-present in their lives, at hand at all times, day and night. iGen’s oldest members were early adolescents when the iPhone was introduced, in 2007, and high-school students when the iPad entered the scene, in 2010. The arrival of the smartphone has radically changed every aspect of teenagers’ lives, from the nature of their social interactions to their mental health. Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011 The decline in dating tracks with a decline in sexual activity The teen birth rate hit an all-time low in 2016, down 67 percent since its modern peak, in 1991. Across a range of behaviors—drinking, dating, spending time unsupervised— 18-year-olds now act more like 15-year-olds used to, and 15-year-olds more like 13-year-olds. Childhood now stretches well into high school.
Boom of A.I. after AlphaGo and movies like "Machina"
Coronavirus covid-19 of 2020... decades marked by panic events:
1970s Oil crisis and hyperinflation
2000s Islamic terrorism
2010s The Great Recession
Mid 2010s The refugee crisis
Nation-wide George Floyd riots ("I can't breathe") of May and June 2020 Black Lives Matter movement and the George Floyd campaign that spreads worldwide
The Decline of Sex
From 1991 to 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey finds, the percentage of high-school students who’d had intercourse dropped from 54 to 40 percent. In other words, in the space of a generation, sex has gone from something most high-school students have experienced to something most haven’t. (And no, they aren’t having oral sex instead—that rate hasn’t changed much.) Meanwhile, the U.S. teen pregnancy rate has plummeted to a third of its modern high. When this decline started, in the 1990s, it was widely and rightly embraced. But now some observers are beginning to wonder whether an unambiguously good thing might have roots in less salubrious developments. Signs are gathering that the delay in teen sex may have been the first indication of a broader withdrawal from physical intimacy that extends well into adulthood. Over the past few years, Jean M. Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, has published research exploring how and why Americans’ sex lives may be ebbing. In a series of journal articles and in her latest book, iGen, she notes that today’s young adults are on track to have fewer sex partners than members of the two preceding generations. People now in their early 20s are two and a half times as likely to be abstinent as Gen Xers were at that age; 15 percent report having had no sex since they reached adulthood. rom 1992 to 2014, the share of American men who reported masturbating in a given week doubled, to 54 percent, and the share of women more than tripled, to 26 percent. That's quite a change from the (supposedly prudish) 1950s: 1957 has the highest rate of teen births recorded in the history of the USA. .”These shifts coincide with another major change: parents’ increased anxiety about their children’s educational and economic prospects. Among the affluent and educated, especially, this anxiety has led to big changes in what’s expected of teens. “It’s hard to work in sex when the baseball team practices at 6:30, school starts at 8:15, drama club meets at 4:15, the soup kitchen starts serving at 6, and, oh yeah, your screenplay needs completion A decline in unsupervised free time probably contributes a lot. online dating contributes with too much choice that results in serial dating but no commitment online dating removes the stress inherent in a date but they don't learn how to meet people in real life I use dating apps because I want it to be clear that this is a date and we are sexually interested in one another. If it doesn’t work out, fine, but there’s never a Is he asking me to hang as a friend or as a date? feeling.” Not only in thw USA. In 2005, a third of Japanese single people ages 18 to 34 were virgins; by 2015, 43 percent of people in this age group were Japan is among the world’s top producers and consumers of porn
The decade ended with worldwide protests against human-made climate change, largely inspired by Greta Thunberg, a 15-year-old who in August 2018 organized a protest outside the Swedish Parliament. In September 2019 four million people worldwide joined her to demand climate action.
The End of Endings From NYTIMES: "The age of the sequel is over. Now it’s the age of the sequel to the sequel. Also the prequel, the reboot, the reunion, the revival, the remake, the spinoff and the stand-alone franchise-adjacent film. Canceled television shows are reinstated. Killed-off characters are resuscitated. Movies do not begin and end so much as they loiter onscreen. "
Rock music is not the only field in which the great achievements generally happen before the age of 30. The generation of Albert Einstein and Paul Dirac believed that physics really belonged to young people, and for the exact same reason: all major discoveries and inventions had been done by young scientists and engineers. In 1940 the mathematician Godfrey Hardy wrote that mathematics is “a young man’s game” and that mathematical skills inevitably decline as one ages ("A Mathematician’s Apology").
Rap: the changing meaning of a mixtape. Originally a mixtape was a self-funded and self-released product (either a cassette or a CD-ROM) by a musician made available to the public directly without the distribution service of a record label. Once the Internet became an alternative to traditional distribution methods (the record store and the mail-order), musicians started deploying their mixtapes online for free download. This had the great advantage that the fans could also comment on social media and link to the music. It helped the mixtape go "viral". The mixtape was often an illegal object: it appropriated beats stolen from other musicians without their consent. This was done not so much to "steal" but to save on costs: for a rapper the cost of making a mixtape is not the rapping (obviously), it's the beat. Stealing the beat meant that the cost was almost zero. Since the mixtape was a widespread practice in the world of hip-hop, and since the "thief" was not making money from the mixtape, nobody even thought of enforcing the copyright laws. But more and more rappers became famous thanks to their mixtapes, not their legitimate singles and albums. Around 2006 things began to change and mixtapes became legitimate goods to sell in record stores or online. In January 2007 the police raided DJ Drama's headquarters, a famous studio for assembling mixtapes, and arrested him: those mixtapes were technically all "criminal" in that they didn't comply with copyright laws. After that episode, the mixtape became a business product, and a standard practice to launch a career online.
During the Victorian age, two towering intellectuals, Matthew Arnold and Thomas Henry Huxley, debated the role of the humanities in the age of science. Huxley argued that science will kill literature. Arnold replied "no way". More than a century later, the ebullient world of rock and rap proves that Arnold was right: far from killing culture, science and technology have created new powerful tools for the multiplication of cultural forms. Rock and rap appropriate whichever new technology becomes available and use it to create dialogues of one kind or another between performers and audience.
The producers had always been important for the history of music. In the 1990s the mastering engineer became as important because the new digital equipment allowed me to alter significantly the sound of a recording. The carefully architected sound of the band, as produced by the producer, could be completely distorted by the mastering engineer in a few minutes. That began a competition among mastering engineers to create the most vibrant (i.e. loud) sound. They created a new vogue for a narrow dynamic range. The extraordinary dynamic range of Fleetwood Mac and Pink Floyd albums (or even of Michael Jackson's "Thriller") was a thing of the past. Quote from NYTIMES: "Recording engineers and producers often discovered their carefully rendered recordings were being squashed in the mastering stage. Over time, with listeners increasingly consuming music through earbuds and cheap computer speakers, engineers and producers found themselves working in a denuded sonic landscape, many of them longing for the rich and diverse audio ecosystems of old." In the 2010s people listened to music via streaming services like Spotify and these streaming services routinely "normalized" the music's output, so that the listener didn't have to continously adjusting the volume setting while jogging or eating breakfast.
K-Pop continued to top the charts around the world. At the end of the 2010s the most successful were the all-female quartet Blackpink, whose hits included Whistle (2016), Boombayah (2016), Ddu-Du Ddu-Du (2018), Kiss and Make Up (2018), Kill This Love (2019) and How You Like That (2020); and the all-male septet BTS, which had become stars in Korea with Wings (2016), became the first Korean band to top the US charts with Love Yourself (2018), followed by two more #1 albums, the first group since the Beatles to achieve that kind of success. The video of their song Dynamite (2020) became the first YouTube video ever to be watched more than 100 million times in 24 hours.
Trap: history of trap.
Future bass: history of future bass.
Climate movement driven by teenagers: Greta Thunberg in Sweden, and countered by Naomi Seibt in Germany
The 1980s revival
The 1980s revival began with the electroclash movement in the last years of the century. Dance clubs devoted to the hits of the 1980s popped up all over Europe and the USA, and even the flamboyant fashion of the 1980s became popular again. The TV show "That 70's Show" was replaced by "That 80's Show" in 2002. As digital technology became more and more realistic, alternative musicians found that the antiquated sound of the early days of MTV, the sound of synthesizers, sequencers and drum machines, the sound that back then felt "artificial", felt more "real" compared with the artificially realistic sound of big-budget computer-based studios that shaped mainstream music. The worship of the synthesizer yielded, for example, Moogfest, founded in 2004. Then came chillwave and, in the second decade of the century, vaporwave. At the same time acts like Lady Gaga (very much in line with the aesthetic of electroclash) took the synthesizer into mainstream dance-pop. Nostalgia for the 1980s lasted way longer than nostalgia for the 1960s had lasted in the 1970s and 1980s. Synth-pop became one of the dominant genres of the 2010s, and the decade witnessed countless sequels of popular 1980s films (notably the superhero movies). This had some sociological foundations as the new generation, the "millennials", were often annoyed by the aging "baby boomers" and respected more the overlooked "generation x". Traditionally, the generational divide had been between parents and children, but now it seemed to morph into an antipathy between grandparents and grandchildren, the baby boomers viewing millenials as spoiled and ignorant while the millenials viewed baby boomers as the ones who caused all the problems of the world (from climate change to pointless wars).
The age of revolutions
This was the the era of revolutions: Arab Spring, Color Revolutions, Myanmar, Venezuela, Sudan, Belarus, Lebanon, Mali... and eventually the Capitol Riots of 2021
I wish i had spoken more about revolutions in (un)popular music, which are rarely driven by the industry, no matter how much the industry invests, and often invented in the streets of poor urban or rural neighborhoods and typically by teenagers who will never complete college (some of whom go on to win the Nobel Prize in literature).