The pessimist in me wants to say yes. Yes, they’re long gone. We live in a post-X-Factor world, where Simon Cowell is a puppet master whose mission is to “slit the cultural throat of Britain, and drink its still-warm blood”, as Lauren Laverne memorably put it on one episode of Mock The Week.
There’s ample evidence to support the pessimists’ view – like when Matt Cardle took a Biffy Clyro song and wrung the power (not to mention the title) out of it like it was a dishcloth. Like when Leona Lewis covered “Hurt”. Oh, and “Run”. Like when One Direction managed to put “One Way Or Another” and “Teenage Kicks” in a song-sandwich. OK, there’s a lot of evidence, but let’s not ready the coffin just yet.
Why? Because it’s not dead. It’s just like a Buddhist or a cat – it’s got many lives. It’s in a new phase now. The way we listen to and acquire music has changed, and as that’s happened, the way new music is publicised and established has also changed. Whatever the moral and economic implications of downloading/streaming music for free might be, people are now able to have their own personalised soundtracks. If math-funk is your thing, there will be somewhere you can find an entire library of it (turns out it actually is a genre). If being in a math-funk band is your thing, there is now somewhere you can upload your tracks so you can nag your friends to give them a listen.
Essentially, not everyone is listening to the same thing anymore – because they don’t have to.
And remember this – in the early 2000s, boys with guitars made a comeback. First there came The Strokes, then Razorlight stormed in with a rough-and-ready, hectic debut and a frontman who possessed an obnoxiously large ego – do you get more rock’n’roll than that? There was The Libertines and Babyshambles – Rock’n’roll came back; it was rowdy, cocky and clad in skinny jeans. And then Arctic Monkeys in 2006 – and they’re still here, doing gorgeous things with electric guitars and regionally-accented vocals.
The girls have been thinner on the ground, admittedly; while the boys were being all indie, the girls were dominating the pop and R’n’B scenes. But we had Winehouse, and now we’ve got Haim and Lissie gradually making their mark. Like fashion, like Madonna’s career, rock’n’roll is a cyclical thing. It will all come round again.
Written by Kirsten Parnell