If you ever watch television late at night, then you’re probably familiar with the commercials advertising compilation CDs. Ranging from the drivel of Kidz Bop (children resigning sometimes questionable choices of pop songs) to the ever-present 60s Singer/Songwriter collections, there’s something to lure everyone in.
Can find that bad Christian pop hit in stores? They have it at 1-800-GO-JESUS. Or maybe you desperately need to have some record of the top 10 radio hits of this very moment to pass onto future generations? Try the Now! collection…as they have what seems like dozens of CDs come out each year that has, you guessed it, every currently popular pop song.
Now, Generation X must know how their parents feel when they see a nostalgic commercial for 70s rock collections, the scrolling names and videos displaying a small scrap of lost youth. Yes, the latest and greatest as-seen-on-TV CD special is “The Buzz”
a.k.a. “The hottest alternative rock collection ever!”
It may as well have been titled: My Teen Years, Vol. 1.
I’m not sure if all of these songs qualify as “alternative” rock…but I do know that by looking at the track listing, it is confirmed that alternative rock is definitely dead. For better or for worse, music like this could only have been produced in the 1990s.
While I have never been sure exactly what constituted “alternative rock” (as rock itself was meant to be alternative), I guess I never realized how much I missed whatever-it-was.
While most remember the introduction of gangsta rap and grunge as 90s milestones, it’s easy to forget that rock and pop at that time was also of its own breed.
In terms of instrumentation, variance of sound and general depth of lyrics, 90s “alt rock” is head and shoulders above both the homogenous bubblegum influx of the new millennium and the 80s europop that came before.
Of course, like all music genres, we didn’t know at the time that it was any different than any other music or that it would ever go away. Luckily, we have this handy-dandy CD to remind us all how good it was.
Yes, it’s hard to put a finger on what makes this music “alt rock”…but whatever it is, it was done right. I mean, look at this track list. These are songs I don’t mind hearing on oldies radio in 20 years.
R.E.M., Sublime, 311, Collective Soul, The Cranberries, Counting Crows, Spin Doctors, Gin Blossoms…these were bands and songs that defined “rock” in the 90s. In addition, the CD has a smattering of pop favorites (Everlast, BNL), big ballads (“The Freshmen”) and deep additions (Mazzy Star, Tracy Bonham) to whet your high school whistle.
And even though their status as “alt rock” is questionable, the 90s pop hits in this collection are a 180 from today’s pop radio. Third Eye Blind, Semisonic, and Eve 6 are the forerunners of today’s pop bands. So what makes the pop of 1994 better than the pop of 2004? Not much, but at least they were borderline original.
Of course, I can’t speak too objectively. As a 90s product myself, I have a soft spot for even the one hit wonders in this collection. I mean, Eagle Eye Cherry’s “Save Tonight”? Marcy Playground’s “Sex and Candy”? Solid gold.
I dare you to try to find a sampling of real “alt rock” today. Or even an “alt rock” station. Would 3 Doors Down or Linkin Park be alt rock? No, they qualify as “pop rock” and “rap rock”. How’s about Blink, Simple Plan or Good Charlotte? Nah, try the “pop punk” section.
Rock has splintered itself so many times over that alt rock has all but disappeared. It must have been a sign in the year 2000, when the immensely popular Cleveland alt rock station 107.9 The End shut down to become…(insert ominous music) a Clear Channel urban rap station. As goes the Cleveland airwaves, so goes the genre. Guitars and drums are out, turntables and bass beats are in.
So goes the world of popular music. Ten years from now, maybe I’ll be reminiscing about how much I miss Avril.
Then again, maybe not.