Rock is caught in a hard place as it hits the bottom of the pops
Rob Sharp is a freelance journalist specialising in arts and culture. He was on staff at The Independent from July 2007 to December 2011, first as a features writer, and then as the paper’s arts correspondent. He has written for a wide range of newspapers and magazines. For more information visit his website, www.robsharp.com or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday 11 January 2011
"Rock and roll is here to stay," sang Danny and the Juniors in 1958. If only. New statistics reveal the number of rock hits in the top 100 biggest-selling singles of 2010 to be the lowest in half a century.
According to music trade publication Music Week, only three songs in the top 100 biggest-selling tracks of 2010 can be classified as rock. Most of the songs in the chart breakdown are hip-hop or R&B (47), pop (40) and dance (10). According to the publication, the demise of rock has coincided with an explosion in the popularity of urban music over the past 12 months.
"These things are cyclical," Music Week news editor Ben Cardew said. "The new acts just aren't coming through. There's not been a huge rock act since the Arctic Monkeys and these figures lay that bare. Acts these days simply chase each other's tail; the polls revealing new acts for this year underline that fact."
The biggest-selling rock song of 2010 was a re-release of Journey's 1981 hit "Don't Stop Believin'", which ranked at 25 out of the year's most popular singles, selling 435,103 copies. However, the original was outstripped by a cover version of the track recorded by the cast of the US musical television show Glee.
The song's popularity lags behind the year's top five highest-selling singles, none of which is classed as rock. The front-runners were led by the hip-hop track "Love the Way You Lie" by Eminem featuring Rihanna, which sold 854,144 units. It was followed by X Factor winner Matt Cardle's "When We Collide" (pop); Bruno Mars's "Just the Way You Are (Amazing)" (pop), Rihanna's "Only Girl (In the World)" (pop) and "OMG" by Usher featuring will.i.am (R&B).
The other two tracks in the top 100 of 2010 classed as rock were "Hey, Soul Sister" by US band Train, which placed at 84, and Florence and the Machine's "Dog Days Are Over", at 93.
The poor showing for rock music in the chart reflects a difficult commercial environment for such music.
"Mainstream radio is playing less guitar music than ever before, and the vicious cycle that causes is, of course, a massive factor in the health of British guitar music in general," NME news editor Jamie Fullerton said.
Only three out of 19 tracks on BBC Radio 1's current "A-list" of most heavily rotated songs on the station – released on 5 January – could be considered rock. Those songs were "Pyro" by Kings of Leon, "Sing" by My Chemical Romance and "Bigger Than Us" by White Lies.
Recent news relating to the live music scene does little to dispel the fear that rock is a dying pursuit. A poll published by concert trade publication Pollstar last year revealed seven of the 10 acts with the highest-grossing tours in 2010 had an average age of over 40.
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