Will rock ever return to the pop charts?Published 10:24am Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Column: Pothole Prairie
I miss rock ’n’ roll.
Our family vacation to northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., was great. Our son got to play with his cousins, and we got to visit many places — Georgetown, Potomac Waterfront, National Mall, National Archives, Washington Monument, Smithsonian Air & Space Museums (in D.C. and out by Dulles), Smithsonian Natural History Museum, National Museum of the Marine Corps (on the Quantico base), Potomac Point Winery and a handful of restaurants and shops around Stafford and Fredricksburg, Va.
Becca Riley, who is 9, likes stations that play today’s hit music, so whenever all seven of us piled into the Honda Odyssey, we listened to Top 40 music.
The Top 40 tunes of today lack rock ’n’ roll. Oh, sure, there are some songs that have a 4-4 beat and copy rock-ish percussion, but there are no rock songs on the American Top 40. The charts these days feature Lady Gaga, Black Eyed Peas, Katy Perry, Selena Gomez, Rihanna, Bruno Mars and a whole lot of other artists I had never heard of before or probably ever again. Even Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez have songs on the charts these days.
The No. 1 song gets played every 15 minutes, or so it seems. It is “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele. It actually is a rock-ish sounding song, with a pounding bass that actually sounds like a real drum, and it is about the only song of today’s hits I like.
So on Monday, the first day back from vacation, I heard a Counting Crows song, “Round Here,” at the Kwik Trip across from the Tribune office. It occurred to me that when the first Counting Crows hit came out in 1993, rock filled the charts. I didn’t really like that first single, “Mr. Jones,” at the time, but with subsequent songs the band grew on me. Lisa and I possess their greatest hits CD.
Boy, I thought, we sure could be picky back in the early 1990s about which hit rock songs we liked. What a luxury! These days, when hearing Top 40 songs on the radio, I like anything that sounds remotely rock-ish, secretly hoping that the genre makes a comeback among today’s youth.
I don’t know what to call the music played these days. Sometimes, it is labeled “today’s hits.” Sometimes, it is called pop. (If a song in the pop genre isn’t popular, is it not really pop?) Some of the hits surely are hip-hop. Some are a mix of everything. Some of them could be called bubble gum (I’m talking about you, Katy Perry).
Suddenly, the station played a song I really liked. A lot. And I had never heard it before. It was “The Cave” by Mumford & Sons. I checked Monday, and the song isn’t on the Billboard Top 40 at all, but Billboard keeps charts for different genres, like country, rock, Latin, R&B and so forth. “The Cave,” a bluegrass tune with a bit of a rock approach, was No. 11 on the rock chart. Unfortunately, it is No. 91 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Still, I am holding out hope — a slim chance is still a chance, right? — that a rock/bluegrass song can usher in better tunes on radio stations with contemporary hits.
Gaynors agog for Gaga
I must add that my in-laws are all fans of Lady Gaga. We had visited the family of my wife’s older sister, Kathleen. One of Kathleen and Lisa’s brothers had various roles in the production of some of the songs on Lady Gaga’s new album, “Born This Way.”
No kidding. If you visit the Gagapedia, the wiki website all about Lady Gaga,” you can find Brian Gaynor in the credits. Is that cool or what? And I am told he is part of a crew (really a limited liability corporation) also in the credits as DJ White Shadow.
Lisa and I still need to buy the CD. We wanted to find the version with the bonus tracks.
By the way, if you are ever in Dumfries, Va., which is near Stafford, stop at Jojo’s Original Softserve for a taste of ice cream heaven. I had a cone of cheesecake ice cream. Not scoops, either. It was soft-serve. Now that was a summer treat.
Tribune Managing Editor Tim Engstrom’s column appears every other Tuesday.