Dark Days for Modern Rock?

Oct. 1, 2008
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I’m in the early stages of organizing my best of 2008 list, and I’m struck by what a stellar year it’s been for just about every genre of music: indie-rock, soul, electronica, rap, Top 40, etc. I’m equally struck, though, by what a crappy year it’s been for modern rock.

In the wake of post-grunge, modern-rock has mostly been an artistic dead-end, but in recent years there have been at least enough bright singles to keep me checking in with alt-rock radio stations—a “Float On,” a “Crazy,” a “Steady, As She Goes” or a “Lazy Eye,” perhaps.  This year, though, modern-rock radio has been as dark and as humorless as I can remember it ever being. Even those interchangeably ostentatious but sweet emo songs that perked up alt-rock radio a few years ago have been chased away by hulking, nasty elephants like Seether, Staind and Disturbed.

Just take a look at this Wikipedia-derived complete list of Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart number one singles from this year (there aren’t many of them):

Seether – “Fake It”
Foo Fighters – “Long Road to Ruin”
Puddle of Mudd – “Psycho”
Seether – “Rise Above This”
Weezer – “Pork and Beans”
Foo Fighters – “Let It Die”
Coldplay – “Viva la Vida”
Staind – “Believe”
The Offspring – “You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid”

That’s one bleak, joyless list—even the Foo Fighters, who can usually be counted on for a decent rock hit, turned out a pissy, dire song. The Offspring’s comeback single is too sarcastic to count as fun, leaving Weezer’s zippy, hooky hit “Pork and Beans” the only truly pleasurable song to top the Modern Rock charts this year (and that song has its share of detractors, too). These are without a doubt bad times for modern-rock radio.


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