The 1980s: generic pop artists and bands that all sounded exactly the same ruled the radio, while punk and true metal artists were unheard of in the mainstream media. These underground genres had significant followings, but were never featured on MTV, never heard on Top 40 radio stations, and never made much of a cultural impact at all. Meanwhile, flashy outfits and diva queens were the staple of American culture. Sound familiar? That’s because this is happening RIGHT NOW. The old, tired expression that “history repeats itself” doesn’t seem so tired after all; it’s not nearly as tired as I am of this superficial media and their complete ignorance toward the punk and metal scene of today.
When you turn on the radio, what do you hear? Katy Perry, Usher, Justin Bieber, Rihanna, and a plethora of artists and boy bands that all sound the same as them with the same beats, same simple lyrics, and same image. There’s no shortage of thoughtless, simple-minded, Auto-Tuned songs that are good for dancing at parties and clubs, but otherwise have no creative ambition, no thought-provoking lyrics, and no mention of the sheer narrow-mindedness of America’s taste in music. When a band like Mumford & Sons or The Lumineers come around, everybody jumps on the bandwagon and thinks of themselves as “indie” or “hipsters” for liking them, and pretty soon the originality of genres like this evaporates.
So if the media is willing to extend its hand as far as to welcome Mumford & Sons, then where is the recognition for punk, metal, and hardcore? If you see a punk club on a TV show with all the stereotypical scary-looking metal-heads, do you ever even once actually hear a modern punk or metal band? Have you ever heard a scream or a breakdown on a mainstream TV channel? Have you ever heard some of the most popular songs among the scene on the radio? You might get an occasional mention of a band like A Day to Remember or Black Veil Brides on a modern rock station, but only their lightest, most radio-friendly songs are played. Other than that, the media pretends that these genres and the people that like them don’t even exist.
The whole point of this scene was to create a network of fans for a wide variety of music that doesn’t conform to the superficial rules of the mainstream media. Some would say that this has failed because of the disputes between people over the bands they like and the creation of “scene stereotypes”, but that’s another debate entirely. The fact is, this scene has become big enough that conformity has become an issue. We have successfully created a counterculture, complete with its own record labels, huge festivals (Warped Tour, etc.), fashion styles, and more. Though as separate as it is from the mainstream, it’s still familiar with the culture of the other side. Fans of Cannibal Corpse know who Justin Bieber is, and probably don’t like him, although nothing says that they CAN’T. A popular series of albums called the Punk Goes Pop series exists because these bands are able to cover popular songs in the mainstream world and, quite often, make them better. So with all the ground we’ve gained as a counterculture and our familiarity with the mainstream media, how have the general public NEVER HEARD OF US?
Whenever a mainstream person accidentally stumbles across a song from our world, they call it “screamo” and write it off as just noise, never giving it a chance or trying to understand its musical complexity or lyrical depth. I’m using a lot of generalities, I realize, but try to tell me that that isn’t true. Bands like Pierce The Veil have over one million “likes” on Facebook, Sleeping With Sirens’ new album, Feel, debuted at Number 3 on the Billboard Top 200 chart, and Falling In Reverse’s new album, Fashionably Late, debuted in the top ten on the iTunes album chart. But will they ever be on the cover of a mainstream music magazine, or asked to be the musical guest on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon or Saturday Night Live? No. There are too many indie bands to grab up and turn into media whores before they see that there is a musical force to be reckoned with hidden in plain sight.
As I said before, history repeats itself. In order to get out of the trap that was the ’80s, the 1990s needed a band that could bridge the gap between the worlds of pop and punk. That band was Nirvana, the song was “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, and no punk band that came after them could honestly say they weren’t in some way influenced by them. That’s what we need today, a modern Nirvana. We need a band that is intelligent, musically adept, and has enough pop sensibility to attract more than just one side of the cultural spectrum. You would think that being in the Golden Age of Information would have some influence on how people of all backgrounds can be exposed to different styles of music, but people continue to be so arrogant as to ignore what’s right in front of them. We need a new Nirvana to show these people what they’re missing out on as an introduction the hundreds of bands they continue to ignore. They don’t have to like it, they just need to realize that we are a strong culture of fans, and we will no longer be silenced. We are determined to make an impact with our music and the bands we love will be successful because our voices will be heard. We don’t need to be a part of the mainstream world, but one day those people will wish we were.