(For a complete list of 54th GRAMMY Awards nominees, click here.)
In a year in which The New York Times essentially wrote an obituary for rock music, it may seem that rock fans like myself should fear for the future of the genre. However, if you scratched below the surface, to the nitty-gritty corners hiding in the shadows, you could find many genre gems in 2011.
One of the biggest things to affect music in 2011 was the U.S. launch of Spotify. Since the moment I received my Spotify invitation — from Trent Reznor via Twitter nonetheless — I have listened to more music than I think I ever have in my life. I've discovered more new music and gone back and revisited classic albums . One big rock/metal-related story in relation to Spotify was when a group of indie labels opted to pull their music from the service. Metal Blade Records, Century Media and Prosthetic Records kept their bands off Spotify in a debate-filled protest regarding the amount Spotify pays per stream. The economics of streaming are still being sorted out, but the repercussions of not having your music on Spotify can stunt the discovery of new music ... especially in the rock and metal genres where fans are into finding "the next big thing."
When it came to concerts, the top-grossing tours were dominated by rock acts such as U2, Bon Jovi and Roger Waters. Pollstar's top 50 tours list also included artists such as Journey, Mötley Crüe, Foo Fighters, and Def Leppard and Heart. Why is rock music more in demand live? Perhaps the sounds of screaming guitars are less desirable via earbuds compared to the stage of a giant arena.
Several great rock and metal documentaries were released in 2011. Lemmy kicked off the year, highlighting the career of Motörhead's Lemmy Kilmister. Foo Fighters: Back And Forth provided a fantastic retrospective of the band's career. The film also earned a GRAMMY nomination for Best Long Form Music Video.
In 2011 we lost a lot of rock stars who helped define the genre. Phil Kennemore (Y&T), Gary Moore (Thin Lizzy), Poly Styrene (X-Ray Spex), Mike Starr (Alice In Chains), Seth Putnam (AC), Würzel (Motörhead), Jani Lane (Warrant), Mikey Welsh (Weezer), and Cory Smoot (GWAR), among others, played their final encores.
During 2011 I listened to new albums by Rival Sons when I was happy; the Horrors when I was thinking; Evile when I was driving; Kvelertak when I was angry; and Ghost pretty much anytime. Perhaps some fans have never heard of these acts, but through the intricate system that social media and technology has created today, I've discovered satisfying rock and metal music despite the absence of its mainstream popularity. And there's something very rock and roll about that.