I have very little patience for modern rock and roll. To be more accurate, I have very little patience for the artists who create modern rock and roll. The music isn't bad—I have banged my head to My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, and Green Day—but to look at them, they're children. Post-teenagers if we give them the benefit of the doubt.
What happened to the men who used to make rock and roll? Even when they were young, the boys from AC/DC, Van Halen, Cream, Traffic, Black Sabbath, etc. looked like men who had lives before rock and brought some of that to bear on their music. I remember hearing stories of how the other members of The Who wanted to kick out Roger Daltrey...but they were afraid of him. He grew up on the wrong side of a coal-mining town (or something) in the bad part of the U.K. and had something of a violent streak. Can you imagine being afraid of Billie Joe from Green Day, who's so "hardcore" he thanked his manager and agents first in his Grammy acceptance speech?
Jimi Hendrix had already been in and out of the Army by the time he was touring with Little Richard's band. He was in his early 20s when he landed in London, blowing the doors off the city by opening a set with "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"—with McCartney in the damned audience. And Robert Plant may have looked like a female elf, but that thing he kept trying to suffocate in his trousers was clearly not safe for Catholic school girls.
Rock stars used to be dangerous, now they look like art-school kids with chips on their shoulders.
And that's a big reason why I think hip-hop has taken off the way it has in the last 15 years. Because, say what you will about the music itself (my love for it ebbs and flows, but I've always respected it), the artists are MEN. Whether they can back up their claims to thug-life credibility or not, or if they go the proficient loverman route, it doesn't matter. I think their perceived manliness is what sells a lot of records. (But black music has long been made by artists who were men first. The R&B acts that dominated the pre-disco charts were made up of some hard-working brothers: James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Jackie Wilson, the Temptations, the Four Tops.)
Look at it this way: the people buying records (and I will still refer to them as such) are, for the most part, teenaged girls. The TRL demographic. Always has been, always will be. And so the desire for the music, and the musicians that make it is, both consciously and subconsciously, a sexual one. (And that is why, back in the '50s, Elvis was such a hit: He was giving black music a face that was somewhat tolerable to white parents—he was the other other white meat.)
I don't find it surprising at all that young women are choosing, with their wallets at least, Prince Charming as their romantic ideal...not Prince Charming's intern. I just wonder when rock and roll will remember that.