Alternative rock creates the same hero models over and over again. Is this natural evolution? Or, are we getting set in our ways?
The hero’s path never changes
In 1949 Joseph Campbell published The Hero with a thousand faces. The book was set to acquire fame that would ensure its popularity across generations and inspire countless artists. Campbell argued that cultures create require heroes of mythological proportions. And that the heroes and the trajectory of their stories are, essentially, the same.
In the early 1800’s the literary world was introduced to the Byronic hero, introduced in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage by Lord Gordon Byron. This type conflicted character can be easily spotted in the model of antiheroes featured in many of today’s movies and literature.
Alternative rock has its own guitar hero archetype
This is where alternative rock seems to be at the end of 2017. A genre, as much as a radical movement supporting a change in rock music, alternative has often become merely an overused label. New alternative artists are emerging, but rarely get a real chance of being heard. And when they achieve some type of notoriety, they usually receive comparisons to the ones that have come before them. Who is the new Bob Dylan? When will the new Nirvana emerge? Could we finally have found a band that could reach the creative heights of the Beatles?
But why should we expect anything else? After all, alternative rock bands sold millions of records since the last 1980’s. A market was created for those fans. Record labels took advantage of the existence of this market. Rock found its new heroes. These musicians started out by being compared to others who’d already achieved fame. Then, they became the standard themselves.
Musicians will always want to play the hero or the villain
Lou Reed talked about his early ambition of writing the great American novel. In many ways, Reed achieved this, albeit in a different format. His work was at first disregarded. The influence of his work can now not be escaped. It is the fate of much of history’s great art. While it may start by challenging conventions, once its importance is accepted, it will become the standard for upcoming generations.
Chances are that you’ve spent this holiday season hearing the same Christmas mix you hear each year playing from every coffee shop, store and relative’s speakers. Chances are you’ve enjoyed it too. Art gets recycled and that’s the way it will always be, as long as there is a format in which to offer it to the public.
Rock music is running in a loop
Yes, we are waiting for the new Nirvana, the folk-punk heroes, the new poet of indie rock. We are waiting for the success story of artists overcoming the odds and achieving worldwide notoriety. Alternative rock will change and it may even get some well-needed shocks along the way. But, as much as it will change, it will still feature the same type of heroes and villains that are part of any mythology.