When it comes to worldwide cultural phenomena, they don’t get much bigger than rock music. Since the 50s, rock has been raucously reforming, creating icons and increasingly niche sub-genres as it goes.
Answering the question of ‘what is rock music? can’t be done with adjectives alone. Because yes, rock music is loud, driving, high-octane and intense. Rock is also the soundtrack to rebellion. It is every transition that took us from Hendrix to My Chemical Romance. It is the instruments that came to define the genre.
What is rock music?
Before there was rock, there was rock n roll, the popularity of which took the US by storm in the late 40s and early 50s. By the 60s, rock spawned into a myriad of different styles and made it across the pond to the UK.
Rock n roll started as a mix of country, blues and RnB, whereas rock was a different blend of roots, such as folk, electric blues, jazz and classical. Right from the outset, the defining rock instrument was the electric guitar. Gibson Les Pauls, Fender Stratocasters, Gibson SGs, and the gorgeously brash Silvertone guitars all became as much of a part of rock history as the awe-inspiringly deft hands that played them.
Generally, rock music sticks to a 4/4 time signature with the usual ABABCB structures that allow the choruses to follow the verse. We probably don’t need to mention that rock musicians have become more diverse as they have moved away from the classic rock form. You have heard of Dream Theatre and King Crimson, right? This diversity is also lyrically reflected; as artists moved away from the classic rock styles, they started penning lyrics more attuned to their psych-rock, jazz-rock and folk-rock tonal palettes.
After the hippie scenes washed the rock genre in kaleidoscopic colour, prog rock, glam rock, and heavy metal entered the scene, which made the most out of the sonic power of rock. Punk and rock may be separate genres, but without rock, punk rock would never have happened. Punk also spawned sonic monsters, namely post-punk, which gave way to the alt-rock uprising in the 90s. Grunge, indie rock and Britpop were 3 of the rock sub-genres that pushed rock into mainstream view. Kurt Cobain’s suicide may not be the sole reason for the decline of rock music and alt-rock, but it happened as rock took a nosedive, despite the best efforts of pop-punk bands, nu-metal and electronic rock outfits.
In 2017 hip hop overtook rock and became the most popular genre, but don’t believe the lack of hype. Rock music still has its place in 2022. 80,000 rock fans still descend onto the Donnington ground every year to witness rock legends and luminaries, and plenty of rock artists are still reaching the Billboard charts with their overdriven sound. Greta Van Fleet, Foo Fighters, Royal Blood, Wolf Alice and Black Midi all delivered award-winning albums in 2021. Before declaring that rock isn’t what it used to be, check out some Rock music blogs UK. You will see that plenty of immensely talented artists are keeping the rock n roll bloodlines pumping.