Rock & roll will never be the same. Rappers are listening to metal; headbangers are keeping up with rap and funk; even rock veterans are electronically ”sampling” other people’s music, as only rappers used to do. That’s how it ought to be; the music stays fresh because it keeps reinventing itself. You can expect more barriers to crumble, more rules to be broken. Following are the new developments in rock — and its allied genres, metal, rap, and dance — most likely to surge in the ’90s.
In the ’80s, upstart rockers broke new ground, but their music was played only on noncommercial college radio. Now, thanks to bands like the Pixies, quirky alternative rock is coming to a frequency near you. The spirit of punk lives – on in their work, but, with their haunting melodies and bracing guitar, they’ve approached the mainstream without losing their soul.
For guitar-based rock, the key word is integration. And the best-selling example is Grammy-winning Living Colour, a black rock band that plays heavy metal with elements of rap, R&B, and pop, all of it anchored by Vernon Reid’s wailing, jazz-tinged guitar. Living Colour isn’t alone in rewriting the script: Mixtures of black and white music — of rock, rap, and metal — can be heard in Faith No More, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and a growing number of other groups for whom rock knows no color.
Today’s biggest metal bands spray their hair and play ”power ballads,” a heavy-metal transformation of easy-listening pop. But there’s another, more musically potent hard-rock scene around. A new generation of metal groups — among them the Grammy-nominated Seattle quartet Soundgarden — are taking the genre back to its boisterous ’70s roots. It’s a world ruled by howling guitar riffs and walloping drums (both with roots in Led Zeppelin), songs about the darker side of life — and yes, long, uncombed hair.
Every year rap grows by leaps, most recently by adding live instruments and absorbing the simplicity of top-hit pop. But the genre needs to fight its image of misogyny and male domination. Queen Latifah is one of a new breed of female rappers giving men a run for their mayhem. And she’s doing it the old-fashioned way, with quality. She writes first-rate rhymes and blends her raps with gut-power singing.
At its best, dance music transports fans into a state of delirium. But where does the genre go from there? Possibly to Manchester, England, home of groups like 808 State, a brainy club combo that gleefully elaborates the pulsing beat with jazzy saxophones, New Age atmospherics, and subtle changes of groove. Their music has a beat — and you can think to it.