GENE SIMMONS: Why I Keep Saying ‘Rock Is Dead’
While rock ‘n’ roll has been king of the music world for decades, in the past few years, it’s been unseated by the growing popularity of hip-hop. This has caused many pundits to proclaim the genre “dead” from an industry perspective, noting that it has been eclipsed in all measures by pop, hip-hop, and EDM.
Simmons spoke about rock’s supposed diminishing status during a recent interview with Consequence Of Sound. Addressing the whole “rock is dead” debate, Gene said: “The point is, yeah, rock is dead because if we play the game from 1958 until 1988, which is 30 years, you had Elvis [Presley], THE BEATLES, THE [ROLLING] STONES, PINK FLOYD, and on and on and on. And you can go to the heavy part of it, which is METALLICA, [IRON] MAIDEN, if you want to put KISS in there, that’s fine. AC/DC, on and on and on. Even U2, Prince, [David] Bowie, EAGLES. And then you get to disco stuff, and Madonna, and that stuff, and Motown, of course. And then from 1988 until today, who’s the new BEATLES? I’ve heard a reaction of FOO FIGHTERS, one of my favorite bands, but you’re kidding yourself. There’s also the boy bands: NSYNC, ONE DIRECTION, BTS, and [sarcastically] XYZ, PTA, and good for them that they’ve got success. Don’t kid yourself. As soon as those girls are gonna grow a little bit older, that’s going to go away. It’s like sugar: you taste it, it gives you that little energy boost, and then it’s gone forever and you don’t care. But don’t kid yourself, it ain’t THE BEATLES. They don’t write songs, they don’t play instruments, it ain’t that. And we all love Elvis; [he] never wrote a song in his life. There’s just nothing that compares to THE BEATLES. The reason for that is not because there’s a lack of talent, but because young folks, that kid living in his mom’s basement, decided one day that he didn’t want to pay for music. He wanted to download and file share. And that’s what killed the chances for the next generation of great bands. The fact that the music was for free. So nowadays new bands don’t have a chance.”
He continued: “It’s like flowers — people water them and make sure there’s enough sun and all that stuff. And as soon as you take your eyes off and you don’t water the flowers, they will die. And people wonder why there aren’t beautiful flowers. Well, because you don’t water them. You get what you pay for. So nowadays, if you download a song, the artist will get 1/100th of one cent. Even Spotify … the artist sees very little of that. So you get what you pay for.
“Rock is dead — you bet your ass it is — not because the talent isn’t there, but because the business model just doesn’t work,” Simmons added. “And so that leaves live performances. And I really hope once this vaccine takes hold — you better get shot up twice — that people go out to the local clubs and see all the new bands and support new bands. Like a baby that’s on the floor, go up there, pick that baby up and coddle it, give it love, because those new bands need your love.
“It’s not going to affect me. I make a living, but the new bands need the love and attention. Don’t just go see METALLICA and Taylor [Swift] or KISS. On the weekends, go to a place that’s got live music. And I don’t mean guys that press a button and do EDM. That’s fine, too. But that guy, if you put an instrument in his hands, wouldn’t have a clue what to do with it — never wrote a song, wouldn’t know what an A minor, A major or a seventh is. You need to support the new generation of talented people who are musicians and writers and so on. Don’t let the robots take away everything.”
The “rock is dead” argument has popped up again and again throughout the years, including in 2018 after MAROON 5 lead singer Adam Levine told Variety magazine that “rock music is nowhere, really. I don’t know where it is,” he said. “If it’s around, no one’s invited me to the party. All of the innovation and the incredible things happening in music are in hip-hop. It’s better than everything else. Hip-hop is weird and avant-garde and flawed and real, and that’s why people love it.”
A few years ago, Simmons told Esquire magazine that “rock did not die of old age. It was murdered. Some brilliance, somewhere, was going to be expressed and now it won’t because it’s that much harder to earn a living playing and writing songs. No one will pay you to do it.”
A number of hard rock and heavy metal musicians have weighed in on the topic in a variety of interviews over the last several years, with some digging a little deeper into Simmons‘s full remarks and others just glossing over the headline.