Are Dave Grohl’s comments on modern rock justified?

Dave Grohl Feature Image 1

Foo Fighters frontman and rock icon has had his say on the state of the modern rock scene.

Rock music is undeniably in a strange place right now and has been for some time. The recent Grammys ceremony only offered further proof when the controversial group Greta Van Fleet took home the award for Best Rock Album. They’re not controversial for their lyrics or deviancy, rather for their general resemblance to Led Zeppelin. It continues to be argued that the band are nothing more than shameless imitators; nevertheless, they seem to be doing something right. See, there’s the problem.

If a genre is to repeat itself then it will inevitably fade. Now, that’s not to say that Greta Van Fleet are representative of the entire scene, they really aren’t. However, at the moment they seem to be at the forefront of it - they are its image, the poster boys of a declining genre. One band which many still admire and respect are Foo Fighters, with frontman Dave Grohl being associated with some of the more notable bands of the last thirty years.

According to NME, ‘Speaking to Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino for a one-on-one discussion at PollstarLive’s conference at Beverly Hilton, Grohl spoke of Eilish, comparing her to his band Nirvana. “My daughters are obsessed with Billie Eilish,” Grohl said. “The same thing is happening with her that happened with Nirvana in 1991. People say, ‘Is rock dead?’ When I look at someone like Billie Eilish, rock and roll is not close to dead!”’

Is Grohl talking about popularity and image in determining Eilish’s rockstar qualities? After all, many would argue that - sonically - Eilish is no rockstar. Admittedly, she’s one of the more successful artists in recent years to cultivate a devoted youth demographic and it’s surely only the beginning. Her music is interesting, accessibly experimental - not to be dismissed - but does that quantify her as a rockstar?

This is where the debate becomes problematic. Groups like Greta Van Fleet carry the stigma of chaining the genre to its past, yet more innovative artists like Eilish can be criticised when platformed as rockstars. Arguably it comes down to this: Billie Eilish’s work exhibits little resemblance to rock music.

It seems like Grohl is talking purely in regards to the rockstar as a phenomenon, rather than considering ties to the genre itself. Her image certainly conforms to what we’d anticipate from a modern rockstar figure, but when one considers her musically there’s little substance to the argument. It’s hard to determine what makes a rockstar in today’s modern landscape.

Bring Me the Horizon have gradually overcome the restrictions of genre pigeonholing and their sound has become a stylistic bubbling pot of influences, yet arguably Oliver Sykes is still a rockstar. This is because the rock genre is still evident in the majority of their material; the same cannot be said of Eilish. Lil Peep can also be considered a rock icon for the modern age. Despite his genre hybridity, he blended the emo sub-genre with more popular styles of hip-hop with the former still maintaining prevalence. 

It’s a debate which deserves serious discussion and there are so many ways that rock music can be perceived in the modern age. The individuals in the spotlight are either argued as contorting the genre too much or not at all and this appears to be increasing. Perhaps the only rock band in danger is what we have long dubbed the “stadium rock band”, but even then this is certainly up for discussion; after all, Foo Fighters are literally referenced here. Whether Grohl is justified in considering Eilish a rockstar is ambiguous. Fortunately for music fans, it makes for stimulating debate that refuses to settle itself. 

In other news, are the Grammys meaningless?

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