Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for MRC
2021 In Review: 8 Trends That Defined Rock
It isn't just not dead; it's thriving. In 2021, rock became less male, less straight, more genre-fluid and further enshrined modern-day elders — all with a healthy reverence for the past
By the looks of the 2022 GRAMMY nominations, rock in 2021 was about looking backward.
There's some credence to this idea: AC/DC, Foo Fighters, Paul McCartney, Wolfgang Van Halen, Weezer, Kings of Leon and the late Chris Cornell had banner years. Even Black Pumas' twice-nominated Capitol Cuts was something of another permutation of their 2019 self-titled debut — to say nothing of their retro-soul sound. But the real story is more complicated than that.
Beneath the stratum of these legacy acts (and, in Black Pumas' case, an up-and-comer), rock expanded in a multitude of directions. For one, the idea of it being a straight, white male's game was put to pasture: women singer/songwriters from Olivia Rodrigo to Lucy Dacus — as well as a host of acclaimed LGBTQ+ artists — took the wheel.
And when it comes to the sound of rock in 2021, things got more exciting than inclusion alone. Just beneath the mainstream and big-box indie, Turnstile blended floor-punching hardcore with wavy R&B and electronic textures, thanks in part to forward-thinking guest Dev Hynes, a.k.a. Blood Orange. Hardcore-adjacent bands like Fiddlehead and Militarie Gun wove the angular indie and emo of the '90s into their strongest songs to date.
Certainly, some cultural currents from prior years washed into 2021's rock sphere — namely, classic rock proving as sturdy as ever, pop-punk and emo riding high and Foo Fighters saturating all media. But here are a few other happenings more-or-less squarely in the province of 2021.
Women Stepped Forward
Most importantly, their perspectives were front and center. And while Olivia Rodrigo's Sour was saturated in heterosexual breakup woes, women wrote songs about everything this year, from grief to joy to sobriety to solitude.
If the Bechdel test — which ascertains whether a work features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man — applied to guitar-based music, 2021 would pass with flying colors.
Representation Expanded Beyond Gender
Two-thirds of rising pop-punk trio Meet Me @ The Altar — who released their Fueled By Ramen debut, an EP titled Model Citizen, in August — identify as LGBTQ+, but that's hardly where queer representation in 2021 rock ended.
Snail Mail's Lindsey Jordan, who is openly gay, put out her acclaimed album Valentine. St. Vincent's Annie Clark, who once said "I don't really identify as anything," released Daddy's Home to widespread praise.
And Japanese Breakfast's Michelle Zauner, who is bisexual, had a massive year with her new album, Jubilee — which contained the hit single "Be Sweet" — and bestselling memoir, Crying in H Mart.
Plus, the half-Asian, half-Latinx, all-female band the Linda Lindas (of "Racist Sexist Boy" fame) signed to Epitaph Records in 2021 — which bodes well for a women-first 2022 in punk.
The Old Became New
On Glow On, Turnstile interpolated Sly and the Family Stone lyrics and their aforementioned punk peers whipped up a noise akin to Unwound or Sunny Day Real Estate. But those and other bands didn't just dig around in music's past; they made sounds from the past new again.
Across the pond, English duo Royal Blood's Typhoons brought back a bass-and-drums stomp reminiscent of the White Stripes or Death From Above 1979, reminding listeners the world over that rock is rightfully dance music.
They're not the only ones mining the past to new ends — a tidal wave of nervy bands in the U.K., like Squid, Dry Cleaning and Fontaines D.C., are recalling the sounds of post-punkers like Wire and the Fall.
Plus, Olivia Rodrigo's interpolation of Paramore's "Misery Business" into megahit "Good 4 U" showed the new guard is bringing back Myspace-era emo. (Machine Gun Kelly did a lot to weave that connection, as evidenced with his successful 2020 album Tickets To My Downfall.)
International Sounds Resonated
Måneskin's ascent in 2021 seemed to come out of nowhere.
Led by conspicuously codpieced singer Damiano David, the Italian rock band managed to lodge Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons' 1967 hit "Beggin'" into youngsters' imaginations via a big win at the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest and, eventually, TikTok virality. This year, they dropped their second album, Teatro d'ira: Vol. I, to critical applause.
And the year-end critics' polls featured another geographic outlier: Nigerian guitarist Mdou Moctar's new album Afrique Victime burned an indelible impression of Tuareg desert-blues into rock fans' consciousnesses.
Genres Became Elastic
Weezer tested the boundaries of their tried-and-true power-pop on 2021's OK Human, and it paid off — especially on the single "All My Favorite Songs," which swapped buzzsaw guitars for chamber orchestration.
There's also a separate discussion to be had about how emo — originally a rock subgenre — has come to subsume almost everything from hip-hop to pop to trap, from Juice WRLD to The Kid Laroi and beyond. (Pop-punk, its sister style, turns up in K-pop bands like ENHYPEN and Tomorrow x Together, too.)
A whole article could be dedicated to Glass Animals' genre fluidity — something they've been known for since their start with 2014's Zaba. But their psychedelic smash, "Heat Waves," launched the UK indie-rock group onto pop radio and beyond.
The track made Glass Animals arguably 2021's biggest rock success and scored them their first hit on the Billboard Hot 100, where it reached No. 7. (Spin its parent album, 2020's Dreamland, and Glass Animals' 2021 single, "I Don't Wanna Talk [I Just Wanna Dance]" for several other permutations of their sound-bending stylings.)
Finally — to bring up Turnstile's Glow On one more time — has a hardcore album ever veered so close to Arthur Russell or PinkPantheress territory without betraying its roots?
Bands Embraced Traditional Song Structures
Is this exactly a 2021 rock phenomenon? Maybe not, but it arguably reached a new apex this year.
After years of "vibes" in indie rock — from slacker-songwriters like early WAVVES and Best Coast to the noise storms of No Age and Bass Drum of Death — it seems like songs are back in style.
Check out pretty much any of the 2021 offerings cited above — they offer verses, choruses, bridges and/or legible lyrics. Is it possible that while textures and references are an integral part of memorable songs, listeners are demanding a little more meat to the bone?
A Rock Veteran Mentored The Next Gen
After high-profile collaborations with Post Malone and Machine Gun Kelly in 2020, he partly spent 2021 mentoring the 24-year-old rocker KennyHoopla (the pair collaborated on SURVIVOR'S GUILT: THE MIXTAPE) and helping Willow Smith transition from alt-R&B to pop-punk by featuring on three cuts from her album lately i feel EVERYTHING.
In addition, he hopped on tracks with MOD SUN and grandson, and furthered the emo rap craze with features on songs from blackbear, Trippie Redd, Sueco, LILHUDDY, and Jack Kays, among others.
The rock veteran also helped a fellow longtime punk star begin a new chapter, too: Barker signed Avril Lavigne to his label, DTA Records, in November, also featuring on her first single on the imprint, "Bite Me."
These Rock Heroes Saturated Everything
Grohl was just about everywhere this year. Not only did Foo Fighters release their 10th studio album, Medicine at Midnight; they performed at Biden's inauguration, entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and received the first-ever global icon award at the 2021 MTV Video Music Awards. (Plus: a bestselling memoir, an upcoming horror-comedy… the list goes on.)
If it's possible to ascertain a future classic rock artist, Grohl is probably your safest bet. And even if Foo Fighters want to take it easy after such a whirlwind year, the irrepressibly enthusiastic hitmaker clearly isn't going anywhere in this decade.
Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins
Photo: Newspix/Getty Images
Dave Grohl Calls Early Foo's Recordings "Total F****** Chaos"
The rocker reveals lesser-known details about his early records and reflects on fallen friends
Dave Grohl founded the GRAMMY-winning rock band Foo Fighters just a year after Kurt Cobain passed away and Nirvana subsequently disbanded. Given the Foo's current place as one of the biggest rock bands in the entire world, it can be hard to imagine they had humble beginnings, and likewise it's easy to forget that Grohl had to essentially start over from scratch following Nirvana's breakup.
In a recent interview with Hot Press, Grohl reflected on losing his bandmate Cobain, then experiencing similar loss with close friend Chris Cornell much later in life. "I just want everyone to survive," he says. "You cross your fingers and say your prayers and hope everyone makes it home safe at night."
Of starting anew with the Foo Fighters in 1995, he refers to the decision as a type of therapy. "[Our] hearts were broken when Kurt died. … I felt I had to do it — to exorcise something in my soul," Grohl says. "We still feel like that every time we make a record — every time we step on stage."
Grohl also admits that he was more than surprised when the Foo's second album, The Colour And The Shape, broke through and launched him and his band back into the spotlight, especially in light of the working conditions under which the record was made.
"I remember making that record while not having a place to live. I was sleeping in my friend’s back room in a sleeping bag. His dog would come in and p on the sleeping bag every f night," Grohl says wryly. "It was total f* chaos. The fact we survived that means we could survive anything."
The Week In Music: Who Is The Fairest Of Them All?
GRAMMY ladies go head-to-head in the battle of the pretty
What are the attributes that make the perfect woman? Is it a camera-ready glow? Fashion sense? Intelligence? Sense of humor? Talent? An uncanny argumentative ability? Chances are the ladies making AskMen.com's Top 99 Women of 2012 list have all of the above, and much more. With actress/television personality Sofia Vergara topping a list containing the usual abundance of actresses, models and paparazzi favorites, current Best New Artist GRAMMY nominee Nicki Minaj led all female musicians at No. 5. Other GRAMMY nominees putting the "s" in scintillating in the top 20 include Rihanna (No. 9), Zooey Deschanel (No. 12), Katy Perry (No. 16), and Lady Gaga (No. 18). Other notables making the grade include Selena Gomez (No. 14), Beyoncé (No. 39) and even hot newcomer Lana Del Rey (No. 95). Of course, lists of this nature are always subjective. But if you're a female looking to get in on the competition, we invite you to sample some tips from our GRAMMY Glam Squad.
While Music's Biggest Night is just a week away, Indianapolis will take center stage on Feb. 5 when the New England Patriots and New York Giants battle it out in Super Bowl XLVI. While the staff at ESPN is busy crunching statistics for their exhaustive game coverage, musicians are chiming in with their official predictions. Not surprisingly, JoJo, who grew up in Foxboro, Mass., will be pulling for Tom Brady and the Patriots. "I just feel like we [will] win by default, because we have heart," said the songstress. Putting on his analyst cap, Nelly thinks the Giants defense will be too hot for the Patriots. "I think the Giants play a little bit better defense, and I just think defense wins championships in the end," he said. Theory Of A Deadman's Tyler Connolly is leaning toward the Giants, but don't quote him on it. "I guess I'll go with the Giants," said Connolly, a San Francisco 49ers fan. When it comes to the halftime entertainment, Connolly did not mince words, however. "In reality you need to think about who's actually watching the Super Bowl — it's big dudes eating nachos and drinking beer," said Connolly. "And they want to watch the commercials with the Doritos girls. … Madonna? They're not going to watch Madonna." While there are few things better than Doritos girls, we here at TWIM we'd definitely rather watch Madonna, while enjoying a side of nachos.
Speaking of the Super Bowl, following Elton John and Madonna's Golden Globes feud last month, the Rocket Man is reportedly turning over a new leaf in offering the Material Girl some advice for her upcoming halftime performance on Feb. 5. "Make sure you lip-sync good," John advised Madonna on "Good Morning America." "I've never seen a decent one. Never ever." While Super Bowl halftime shows have arguably become more about the spectacle instead of the performance, it's hard to tell if John's advice is sincere. In 2004 the tiny dancer's response to Madonna winning the Best Live Act honor at England's Q Awards was: "Madonna, best fing live act? F off. Since when has lip-syncing been live?" While much of the Super Bowl action will happen on the field this Sunday, there's no doubt there will be lots more to see between Madonna's halftime spectacular featuring LMFAO and Nicki Minaj, and John's Pepsi commercial, set to air during the big game.
While Dave Grohl has long been known for his quirky sense of humor, evidenced by videos for Foo Fighters songs such as "Big Me" (Mentos, anyone?), "Everlong," "Learn To Fly," and, most recently, the GRAMMY-nominated "Walk," the Foos frontman is taking funny to a whole new, hopefully hysterical, level. According to a report, Grohl is teaming with comedian Dana Gould to executive produce a 30-minute sitcom for FX Networks. The show will reportedly center on a rock band that is in the midst of their big break, and a breakup. The band seeks help from a therapist, who ends up being broken herself. Did we say sitcom? This sounds like the makings of a perfectly good drama to us. But whatever the show turns out to be, we're sure it'll be a hit, given Grohl's vast voiceover experience in films such as The Muppets and television series including "Daria."
Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich lost the Florida primary Tuesday to Mitt Romney by a wide margin, but that may not be the worst news he got this week. Gingrich also joined the long list of politicians who have been sued for misappropriating a pop song for a campaign without the artist's permission. On Monday, Rude Music Inc., controlled by the song's co-writer Frank Sullivan, filed suit against Gingrich for his use of Survivor's GRAMMY-winning "Eye Of The Tiger" from Rocky III. Gingrich was clearly gunning for some Rocky Balboa magic now that he appears to be the underdog again, and the anthem's other co-writer, Jim Peterik, who hasn't joined the suit, says that's okay with him. "If it motivates people to get out to the polls and create some excitement, that's what it's for," he told the Washington Post. And while Chicago-native Peterik is loyal to his native son, President Barack Obama, he concedes, "I like [Gingrich's] taste in music." Still, as Rocky himself might ask, "Yo, don't I got some rights?"
Adele's "Set Fire To The Rain" is No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" is tops on the iTunes singles chart.
Any news we've missed? Comment below.
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Photo: The Recording Academy
View From The (GRAMMY) Pit
By Chuck Crisafulli
There's got to be no finer feeling for an artist than being up on the GRAMMY stage as a presenter, performer or winner on Music's Biggest Night. But if you don't quite have the chops to be up on the stage, maybe the next best thing is to be inside the stage — that is, within the happy frenzy of the GRAMMY mosh pit. Tonight, about 200 or so lucky souls had arguably the best seat in the house (including me, though the trade-off is that moshers never sit) — it would be harder for an audience member to get any closer to the stars without security being notified.
Tonight, the pit crew was buzzing even before the show began as moshers also had an exceptional vantage point for watching VIPs take their seats. Adele, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry seemed to create the biggest stir, though the appearance of Coldplay also brought hoots and hollers (and the question, "Where's Gwyneth?").
After Bruce Springsteen got the evening started with a blistering new tune "We Take Care Of Our Own," and Bruno Mars kicked things up a very suave notch with "Runaway Baby," the pit quickly got to the appropriate GRAMMY level of excitement. Chris Brown’s "Turn Up The Music/Beautiful People" medley and Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson’s "Don't You Wanna Stay" had the pit crew contentedly waving hands in the air and dancing in place, but things really broke loose during the first GRAMMY one-of-a-kind performance teaming Rihanna and Coldplay in a mini-set that ended with a blazing "Paradise."
"That's unbelievable," one mosher commented loudly as the show went to break, and the pit quickly seconded her. More one-of-kind moments kept that pit energy high — the reunion of the Beach Boys, who performed with Maroon 5 and Foster The People; Carrie Underwood’s duet with Tony Bennett; and perhaps the most anticipated performance of the night, Adele's return to the GRAMMY stage. All performers and winners had their fans in the pit, but everyone seemed to be united in rooting for Adele. When she won her second GRAMMY of the night and told the crowd, "This is ridiculous," the pit responded by shouting, "No it isn't!"
Another bonus of the evening for the pit people was a series of even closer interactions with artists. Host LL Cool J fist-bumped moshers whenever he had the chance, Sir Paul McCartney high-fived a lucky few, members of the Band Perry wanted to know what after-party moshers were going to, and Drake made himself at home right down in the pit in preparation for his presentation of Nicki Minaj's incredibly theatrical performance. Moshers even helped a clearly distraught Jennifer Hudson down the stage stairs after her stops-out performance of "I Will Always Love You" in tribute to Whitney Houston.
While Houston's death was still fresh news, and was acknowledged by many of those on the GRAMMY stage tonight, LL Cool J had set the tone early on by saying that while the loss of Houston was "a death in the family" the best way to handle that loss was through a celebration of music. By the time Sir Paul closed out the show with the medley from side two (in vinyl speak) of Abbey Road, that celebration was truly epic. Joined onstage by Bruce Springsteen, Joe Walsh and Dave Grohl, McCartney and his band brought the show to an explosive close that really did demonstrate — to those in the pit and far beyond — the power of music.
As the time came for the moshers to leave the pit and return to real life, one said, "It was pretty amazing just to be here and be a part of things. But the music made it awesome."
Who's Paying Tribute To Tom Petty? Foo Fighters, Don Henley, Norah Jones And More
Dhani Harrison, Jakob Dylan and more also set to perform at MusiCares Person of the Year gala honoring Tom Petty on Feb. 10
Additional performers have been added to the 2017 MusiCares Person of the Year tribute concert honoring Tom Petty on Feb. 10 in Los Angeles. Multi-GRAMMY-winning artists Jakob Dylan and Taj Mahal, GRAMMY-nominated bands Cage The Elephant, the Lumineers, and artists Dhani Harrison, the Head And The Heart, and the Shelters join previously announced performers Jackson Browne, Gary Clark Jr., Foo Fighters, Don Henley, Chris Hillman And Herb Pedersen, Norah Jones, Elle King, Jeff Lynne, Randy Newman, Stevie Nicks, Regina Spektor, George Strait, the Bangles, and Lucinda Williams. Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers will close the evening. Multi-GRAMMY-winning artist and producer T Bone Burnett will serve as musical director.
Petty will be honored as the 2017 MusiCares Person of the Year in celebration of his extraordinary creative accomplishments and significant charitable work. Proceeds from the annual Person of the Year tribute provide essential support for MusiCares, which ensures music people have a place to turn in times of financial, medical, and personal need.
The MusiCares Person of the Year tribute ceremony is one of the most prestigious events held during GRAMMY Week, which culminates with the 59th Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on Sunday, Feb. 12. The telecast will be broadcast live on the CBS Television Network at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.