The Evolution of Music

Joe Lennon-Phillips, Staff Writer

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Last July, Forbes reported that hip-hop has taken over rock music for the first as music’s current top selling genre.

Since the 1950s and 60s, the sound of rebellion has been ringing from record players, radios and iPods alike through the passion of rock’n’roll, lending meaning and purpose to lost souls everywhere. Rock music has a sound that contributes to a culture of rebellion, loud and simple drums and rhythmic basslines, loud and crunchy melodic guitar riffs, and high and raspy vocals have not just been present in the American songbook, but rather have defined it.

Though rock has ruled the radio, R&B and Soul have been growing and gaining audience since the 50s and 60s as well, with staples of the craft like Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, and the young Jackson Five. The cool jiving power of R&B, often with smooth rich vocals, took deeper notes from blues music and is now being blended into rap and hip hop with artists like Childish Gambino, The Weeknd, and Anderson .Paak.

But as the once thunderous rock’n’roll empire seems to fade in prominence, musicians everywhere are now wondering if there is still a bright future for rock.

Even just after the 70s, artists like Bruce Springsteen and the Rolling Stones altered their sound for a more mainstream audience. As pop artists like Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, and Michael Jackson took over the radio with catchy repetitive melodies, rock already began to take a hit.

In the 50s and 60s, rock had a sound that resonated with adolescents everywhere, and in 90s, alongside grunge powerhouse bands like Nirvana, emerged a new style of music, a new way to rebel.

Often blending rock or R&B hooks with simple beats, rap music broke out radically and loudly. Groups like N.W.A. directly addressed the grievances they had with society, and the rebellious sound has been an undeniable appeal. But rap and hip hop have not always been as well understood by mainstream audiences as they are now.

Not long ago, the sometimes violent and raunchy subject matter of rap music turned off many potential audiences, causing listeners who didn’t understand or appreciate the music to attempt to discredit it’s creativity, musicality, and listenability. This is quite like what happened with rock’n’roll in the 1960s; there is a disconnect between the fruits of the flourishing generation, and the interests of the preceding generations. In essence, it is this disconnect perhaps which fueled the creative process to begin with, the origin of such misunderstood art, is the artists themselves feeling misunderstood or underrepresented.

Meaghan O’Connor, who now for the first time is teaching a class on the history of rock this year, said, “A lot of people feel that hip-hop is uncreative, and that isn’t true—it’s simply different. Artists are creating different pieces of music by sampling other styles. It’s irritating to hear, often older crowds, speak about how hip-hop isn’t creative.”

“Hip-hop acts as folk did, it’s a culturally aware genre that advocates for social justice.”

This change in popularity has changed the way musicians make their sound. “Reading music is a great tool but it just isn’t a necessity anymore. There are so many different ways of composing now.”

She feels that there are many different ways to express through music, and that hip-hop is a natural step in the evolution of that expression. Not only did hip hop evolve from its predecessors, R+B, Blues,  Soul, and Funk, but they even sample it currently, like Jay-Z sampled the funk record “Kool Is Back” on his popular societally aware single, “The Story Of O.J.”  She says it’s her mission to show this evolution, and one of her many dreams is not only to teach about the history of rock’n’roll, but also the history of hip-hop.

So hip hop has taken over. Does that mean rock’n’roll is dead? Is it time for guitarists everywhere to throw in the strap? Not quite.

Senior guitar student Cole Duffy is an avid music listener who sees a future for rock music, he said “There will always be a future for rock music—it’s timeless. But music has to evolve to continue.”