The Brit Awards and the death of rock music

by Charlie_East_West on February 21, 2013


Paul Gambaccini recently stated that “it is the end of the rock era…that doesn’t mean there will be no more good rock musicians, but rock as a prevailing style is part of music history.”

These words were brought into sharp focus at last night’s Brit Awards. In 1996, Brit Award nominees includes, Pulp, Blur and Oasis. In 2013, nominees included Rihanna, Ben Howard and the mind altering awfulness of One Direction. The final nail in the coffin of rock music was the lamentable One Direction mash up of two classic songs from Blondie and The Undertones. The kids who are buying this rubbish probably think it is an original song. Apparently the song is number one in over 60 countries. Dark days indeed.

As music critic Neil McCormick pointed out in his review of the Brits in today’s Telegraph: ‘Welcome to the new boring….I just hope there is some young punk out there, watching that, thinking the music business needs a right royal kick up the posterior.”

We are in a recession. Normally, one of the few joys of recession is the culturally and socially significant break out of fantastic music raging against the state we are in. Where are they? Where are the bands and singers who can rouse audiences and also make people think about sticking it to the man? They are all being marginalised by the likes of Simon Cowell and his corporate machine men who saturate the charts with the bland, the over produced, and the underwhelming.

If the best we can rustle up is Mumford & Sons, then god help us all. Jake Bugg (a chink of light in the rock music industry) recently said that Mumford & Sons “just look like posh farmers with banjos to me.” – this sums it all up. Everything at the top end of the charts feels too contrived and bland.

Last night’s Brit Awards was bland. Incredibly bland. Dave Grohl pitched up last night, and looked like a man who wanted to be somewhere else. He looked like a man who was fighting a losing battle. He looked like a man who had accidentally walked into hell. Christ, even Robbie Williams looked uncomfortable with proceedings. When that happens at what is supposed to be a celebration of British music, then it really is time to call in the dogs of rock.

Rock is more than just the music. It is about music AND attitude. It is about sound and vision. Sadly, the only images prevailing at the Brit Awards was Simon Cowell’s smug cheese eating grin and One Direction’s ear bleeding awfulness.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

George_East February 21, 2013 at 11:35 am

I think there is something fitting in One Direction covering a song about wanking.


Ray_North February 21, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Their abomination was an affront to masturbation.


Charlie_East_West February 21, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Ben Howard beat Jake Bugg to the best newcomer award. Beige 1 v Rock 0.


Alex_wilderness February 22, 2013 at 9:31 am

Could this not have been said at the end of the eighties. Part of the difference now is what has come before, the youngsters I know are raging against the machine, but they are doing it with the music we raged along to. They don;t have a new Nirvana, or new punk bands, they have Nirvana and the old punk bands. I think the digitalisation or music means that they have access to the entire back catalogue of music, they can find all the rage they want there. This crowds out new voices more than Cowell and company, let’s be honest it was never the pop charts you looked to for that in the past.


Ray_North February 22, 2013 at 10:49 am

What did it for me, was the award entitled – Most Global Success! Which encapsulated the fact that the music industry is now determined not by the energy and talent of young song writers, but by blokes, probably my age, who want to make bags of cash. I mean, Global Success Award, that should be something that is won by a fellah called Clive wearing a dodgy suit and carrying a briefcase at a weekend ‘away day’ in Richmond Upon Thames where everyone tries to shag their secretary.


George_East February 22, 2013 at 11:35 am

Alex, the point you make about the pop charts is an interesting one. There have certainly been periods when the pop charts were actually pretty good at identifying some of the best music around (most of the 1960s, 1977-82, 1989-1991, the Brit pop era (1994-97)). Yes there was still a whole bunch of shit, but that was mixed in with some great music.
I think the key explanation is the download era as you say but for a slightly different reason. As well as allowing access to virtually the entirety of music’s history it has also resulted in music becoming more diffuse. There is no longer any central narrative to the development of popular music. Youtube, Soundcloud etc have enabled any band or dance musician to put music out there and music is not consumed in the way it used to be as a result.
It has left the mainstream music industry scared and more conservative than ever as it cannot control what is happening and does not understand it. The result is that it increasingly concentrates on two sectors of the market: pre-pubescent kids (hence One Direction and Cowell) and bland inoffensive MOR for the buy 2 albums a year crowd (Emile Sande, Adele, the execrable Mumfords etc).


Alex_wilderness February 22, 2013 at 10:03 pm

Yep, pretty accurate, i’d also suggest that the diffusion also makes it harder to identify groups/artists and promote them on a live circuit. You could get a following online for your music, but it would unlikely to be geographically centralised in a way to get much following. I also don’t think people are willing to take a ‘risk’ on unknown bands when they are so used to shuffling past a bit they are not keen on. Probably why a lot of live music in pubs, clubs and smaller venues these days seems to be cover acts and tribute bands. There is still stuff out there and i am probably too old to be in touch, but the youngsters i work with, either go to big gigs or nothing.


Charlie_East_West February 27, 2013 at 2:04 pm

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