On metal

So I’m watching the new episode of “That Metal Show” (yeah, I watch That Metal Show, and I’m home on a Saturday night, and I knew the show was on in advance and am appointment-viewing, what’s it to you? you think I’m not metal?) and I’m taken with the question Eddie Trunk posed to his panel: where is the next generation of arena rock going to come from?
Trunk asked the question as a reference point to Aerosmith’s rumored woes. The big metal bands of the 1970s and ’80s are either rapidly aging or no longer a draw for stadium-sized venues. Metallica is probably the only remaining heavy band of the era big enough to fill Giants Stadium.
The show used this question as a lead-in to Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta. One of the hosts said to Jasta, “Your band Hatebreed appeals to everyone, from metalheads to punks to hardcore.”
And therein lies the rub. Today’s metal is rarely pop music. In my halcyon quasi-mulleted days, metal was top-40, and everyone from Warrant to Winger had hit songs on Z100 and power ballads for crossover success. That doesn’t happen anymore. “I’m not gonna get a lot of radio play,” Jasta said on “That Metal Show.”
Indeed, the pop landscape is a mix of hip-hop, power pop and country crossover these days, which creates a ceiling that hard-rock and metal bands rarely cross. The Billboard Hot 100 2009 top 10 hit tally has a grand total of one hard-rock song: “New Divide,” by Linkin Park, which as a touring band spends most of its time in multi-headliner tours. Foo Fighters, for all their success, have had only three top-40 songs in their career and no top-10s.
So where does that leave the genre? A bit marginalized, I suppose, and cherry-picking its successes. Let’s not forget that Linkin Park has sold 50 million albums, although they didn’t come to mind on “That Metal Show.” Foo Fighters are a heck of a rock band, too, but point taken: Dave Grohl is 40. The show spoke of “resurrecting the genre,” which is an interesting question–it’s certainly not the mainstream force it once was, although it’s certainly not dead, either. (Just look at guys like me, holding the metal lighter, rocking hard to a talk show on a Saturday night.)
So perhaps it’s better to wonder how pop music can embrace hard rock in 2010 like it did Van Halen and the like in the 1980s. The shifting music business is always creating opportunities, it’s just a matter of being creative with them. Imagine: metal night on “American Idol!” Why not?