To coincide with her article, Olivia Vallone compiled a “Music Through Time” playlist to effectively demonstrate the progression in music of rebellion that has spanned multiple generations. Be sure to follow @theforestscout for all of our curated playlists.
In the mid 50s, it was rock and roll. In the next generation gravitated to songs promoting peace and love; kids of the 90s grew out of that trend that spanned nearly four decades and began listening to grunge music and punk rock instead. And finally, we bring up the rear (as of now) listening to our Kanye and Chance from Chicago, Lil’ him or Lil’ her, and assorted DJ’s across the globe. If I don’t say so myself, it is a long stretch from Elvis to Childish Gambino, so how does this transition occur?
Keep in mind, The Beatles’ music was not always considered classic. Actually, when they came to America they were, of course, greeted with cheering fans, but also had many critics. Some, like American television producer David Susskind, went as far as to call them “the most repulsive group of men I have ever seen.” Even Led Zeppelin, now widely considered to be classic, was disliked by parents of the time. The moral of the story is that the music that your parents loved when they were kids was not liked by their parents most of the time and, as you know, our situation in much different. Just imagine some kids in the year 2046 driving down the street screaming the lyrics to “No Hands” as if it is some old, vintage, classic rap song.
Some music–like that of Led Zeppelin or The Beatles- can stand the test of time because it actually means something to people. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana is still relevant now because, even at the height of its popularity, people related to it so much that it never really left them and, as a result, brought it with them throughout their lives. The originality and expression from Cobain, Vedder or even Joey Ramone spoke to them on a deeper level than pop music ever could; this is why “Jumpin’, Jumpin’” by Destiny’s Child will most likely not be so widely heralded in fifty some odd years. All of these changes were so drastic when you think about it; there would be no way that John Lennon would be able to predict that EDM music would take center stage and Skrillex would sell out Echostage, Washington D.C.’s biggest venue, in the same month as Fetty Wap.
‘Rebellious’ music has always ‘plagued’ the youth of the world, according to the generation ahead of them. I interpret this as not so much of a rebellion, but yet another outlet for young people all around the world to express themselves. Over time, however, this music that still symbolizes the theme of standing up and having a voice, a classic adolescent ideal. Maybe the change in the stylistic nuances of the music can be attributed to each generation wanting a different voice (which again, is classic teenage theory).
Most of this music has a similar message–doing what you want or challenging accepted ideas–you know, sticking it to the man. In essence, it’s self-expression. It, like everything else, evolves over time. When The Who and the Rolling Stones were the face of parental nightmares, most of their songs were about drugs, like “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin'” and “Get Off My Cloud.” A little background: in 1967 Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were arrested for various charges relating to having drugs / letting drugs be used in one’s house, which obviously made them even more popular. There are many conspiracies about this instance, however. For example, some say that the government found a known drug dealer and forced him to sell to the famous rock stars in Europe so that they would be arrested and consequently wouldn’t be able to get a visa for America. Subsequently then, they would be off the streets “corrupting the minds of the youth.” Long story short, though their sentences were repealed. The band then released the song “2000 Light Years from Home” as a response to this experience. Along a similar thread, one of The Who’s most popular songs is called “My Generation”. This anthem was banned by the BBC. Not because of the line “Hope I die before I get old”, or the indication of an f bomb getting dropped, but because it may be offensive to stutterers. (I’m just talkin’ ‘bout my g-g-g-generation) The media was looking for any way to ban certain songs at this time. It’s hard to think about this song being banned because it is such a classic, but to have revolutions, you often have to be considered crazy first.
The 70’s brought on a whole new wave of musical stylings. The Sex Pistols released a song that was very different from the Rolling Stones and The Who. “God Save the Queen” was one of the “most heavily censored records in British History,” according to Alexis Petridis of The Guardian. This song is the epitome of teenage rebellion. To sum it up, “God Save the Queen” is basically sarcastically beseeching God to save the Queen (of England) and comparing her monarchy to a fascist regime. Now, the reason this single caused so much controversy was because it was released right before the Queen’s big Silver Jubilee, marking her 25th year in power. News outlets around the globe were criticizing the album’s release because of how rude it was to the then Queen. Though the Sex Pistols constantly boasted about not being a political band, their song continued to be censored by most radio stations. Ever hear the saying “Absence makes the heart grow fonder?” “God Save the Queen” skyrocketed nearly to the number one spot on the same week of the Queen’s big gathering. But the BBC is said to have covered this ascension. Some people say that “God Save the Queen” should have been the number one song that week but was pushed out of the way by the government. This announcement wouldn’t stop arguably the most controversial band in British history from floating down the main river in London on a boat screaming “God Save the Queen” into microphones. Fans of The Sex Pistols were getting beat up and were victims of other violence. The band members themselves were attacked for speaking their minds a little too loudly and with such a brazenly defiant dose of bravado. The lead singer, Johnny Rotten (John Lydon), commented on the anger the group was causing, “I don’t understand it. All we’re trying to do is destroy everything.” Like I said prior, punk music was now the epitome of rebellion.
Nearly ten years later it was time to mash rock and rap together. Let me set the stage, quite literally. The Beastie Boys were playing their opening act on “The Virgin” tour, by Madonna. The audience hated them. This wasn’t the music they came to listen to. Rather, they wanted their pop music, not this…whatever this was to be called. During one of these performances, one of their songs just happened to have a swear word in it, so the only logical thing to do was for them to be arrested immediately when they came off stage. Although, considering what we know and experience today, we would have to classify this as rather extreme, at the time it seemed to make sense. In later interviews with the band, they mentioned that if they knew they were going to get into trouble with police for swearing on stage, they would not have done it. Unbeknownst to both bands, The Sex Pistols catalyzed the rebellion of The Beastie Boys and set the precedent, passing the torch on ti them to push it one step further. The Beastie Boys, after their Madonna days, churned out some pretty rebellious songs. One of their most famous anthems, “Fight for Your Right” was actually written as a parody of songs like that of their time, like “Smokin’ in the Boys Room.” Most people who heard this song were shouting along, putting their souls into every word. But in reality, the song was supposed to be completely ironic. This song, of course, is still a great rebellious song for teenagers, regardless of its actual meaning. Again, that is what makes this music of rebellion: the songs and the artist make such a big impact on people’s lives that they transcend time, space, and locale.
Though Nirvana, another band labeled rebellious, didn’t exactly make it all of the way through the 90s, they continue to be one of the most influential bands of their time. Nirvana hit their popularity around 1991 with the release of their album Nevermind. Their record label, DGC records, projected selling 250,000 albums in all. They never expected that one of the tracks “Smells Like Teen Spirit” would take off like it did. On the heels of the success of “Smells Like Teen Spirt” their record sold a little more than their initial evaluation, 400,000 per week to be exact. The group went on to sell 30 million copies worldwide. This song was dubbed the anthem of a generation. So, what makes critics and fans like this song all the same? In comparing them to other bands that stood for an ‘uprising’ of youth, they had most of the same facets coalescing to produce a hit. Cobain was addicted to heroin for some time as well as frequently using prescription pills. Personally, I think it is simply that the times have changed. The parents of the day grew up listening to the Rolling Stones, seeing them do drugs all throughout their lives. The parents must have been less uptight than they were in the 60s. Here is where a schism of sorts develops.
Yes, this was rebellion in its purest form, but some people took another route. I’m not going to say much about the big hip-hop ‘war’ of the 90s, but both west and east coast rappers had been rising through the popular song list since the late 80s. This type of music in general was pretty unique; it was new and fresh and, not surprisingly, the adults of the time weren’t exactly in favor of it as it objectified women and figures of authority, like the police. Some people’s music of choice started to become more rap than punk, and it was a mainstream breakthrough for rap artists everywhere.
Moving on from there, My Chemical Romance got its start a year after the turn of the millennium. They are not that far off from Nirvana, so it is easy to see a transition, but it goes in a little bit of a different turn aligning more so with punk music.
“The members of My Chemical Romance surrounded themselves with a crowd of misfits and blessed their followers with the gift of self-confidence.”
This is why they exemplify the band of every struggling person’s dreams. They basically laugh at death or anything that is unnerving in the face. Unlike bands before them, My Chemical Romance leans more towards the emo side of the spectrum. They are categorized as part of the emo/alternative genre and I think the only reason for this is because of the subjects of their songs. “Welcome to the Black Parade” is all about how they must take it upon themselves to be the savior of the broken, another thematic statement aligned to the teenage generation.
Though this decade isn’t over yet, we can see who has been pretty influential in the last 6 years. I know there’s many influential artists and it is hard to find just one that “shape a generation” like Bob Dylan did with the 60’s, and we don’t have to find one just yet. We will not be the ones deciding who shaped our generation musically in 20 years. Honestly, I do not know who will be the next Nirvana, or if there will ever be one that appeals to the youth quit like they did. I cannot say whether or not punk music will continue to be a symbol of rebellion in America of if hip-hop and rap music will come and take its place.
Will Fall Out Boy and Paramore be the voice of our people? Or, when a Drake song comes on during your early morning commute in your 30’s will you crank up the volume and be immediately transferred back in time to the 11th grade when you felt invincible? Does it have to be one or the other? Can they coexist? Maybe you’ll have a playlist labeled “Classics” consisting of both punk and rap, but who knows, only time will tell.