Growing up at the height of grunge will do things to a person. Things like instill a mistrust for things mainstream and people who bathe too often. As a child of the ’80’s and an adolescent of the ’90’s, I have found that after the death of pop-grunge, a lot of kids went underground to find ‘good’ music; music that those poor, ignorant mainstreamers were not exposed to. The underground and indie scene fed young teens with enough disenfranchisement propaganda to jade even the most innocent of 13 year-olds. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but like all “movements,” it had its flaws. For those kids who had a brain enough to understand the motives behind the movement, indie became a way of life. Some of us dropped out and glided back into the mainstream, but only enough so that the guidance counselors didn’t mislabel us as “gothics.” Most found a nice blend of mainstream loathing and complete ignorance of the scene. Funny how “scene kids” never really seem to know what the scene is all about.
So many of us mainstream drop-outs are the same today, wondering what exactly it was about the nineties that made us want to rebel against the system when we didn’t even know what the system was or why we were rebelling. I have finally come to the realization that the scene has done nothing to promote individuality or alternative thinking. When your biggest fans are under 18, how can you possibly create a movement free from human vice? We are all animals, slaves to human nature, and no matter how the scene tries, thirteen year olds will be sheep no matter what. We indies make snap-shot judgments just as quick as the pop-punkers of today. We just aren’t as quick to admit it. So it all leaves me wondering, just what is so evil about mainstream?
With the advent of mainstream music’s new strategy, I have been finding it increasingly harder to be the disenfranchised jaded youth I so proudly thought I was. Radio has been, so my surprise, decent, for the first time since Pearl Jam made that horrible business move and Courtney pretended she didn’t kill Kurt. That tricky beast that is public radio has made me both squirm and jump for joy. Take K-Rock for example, the well known home of Howard Stern and New York City’s one and only new-rock radio. I hardly ever tune in because I can satisfy myself with enough distaste at the nu-metal, pop-punk; white-rapper-only crap they play that makes me cringe (even though I can usually recite all the lyrics with a shameful face). But I have invested time and interest in the radio as they have begun to cater to a more enlightened audience. Mainly the entire lot of us grunge-rockers of the early nineties. The chalk lines of mainstream have been erased and we are united once again. The trend-grunger’s, grunge-gone-indie’s, and mainstream-drop-out’s are back together.
Here’s the deal: radio stations across the country have been mixing in a lot of decent new rock with a good portion of stuff that hasn’t seen much air-time since the early ’90’s. Why? well we grunge-rockers have reached the age of ad-campaign glory! The drinking age. With the radio stations pulling most of their listeners from an underage audience, they cannot find the backing from alcohol companies who have suddenly grown morals (well, legal morals anyway). So to bring back the twenty-something’s to the airwaves, they are employing a strategy not used for as long as any of us young-adults can remember. With a movement like this, maybe we can break out of the teeny-bopper mentality that has plagued even the most hard-core of anti-establishment movements since the turn of the 20th century. So maybe all mainstream isn’t badonly the mentality and motives of the big business world that surround it.
Case and point: the squirming part mentioned above comes in at my frustration at the Howard Stern situation. Clear Channel and the FCC have concocted yet another evil plot to silence a voice that threatens the world of politics and business. Motivated and supported by the political silencing of the Bush era, Howard Stern is being forced off the radio after many years of pleasing listeners with his one of a kind brutality in the business of shock-jocking. Now, I never listened to Howard Stern all that much, and sometimes I whole-heartedly disagree with what he does and says on the radio. But I like his vibe, what he stands for and I defend his freedom of speech that is being stripped from him on a technicality. Even K-Rock, his home station, is supporting him in his battle and is proudly proclaiming their role in his rise to fame and glory. This whole fiasco has reaffirmed why I dropped out of the business of radio patronage and sought to defeat the beast with a pubescent fire in my heart like so many of us back in “the good ol’ days.”
Radio, admittedly for monetary reasons, has finally heard the call of their would be listeners. Catering to an older audience while appeasing the younger crowd and exposing them to music that was popular only a decade ago is a huge step for mainstream airwaves. The possiblity of defeating the short time in which a good song or band can be popular (with more music to play, songs stand a better chance of not being played out) and reviving Generation X (and the younger ones) to acknowledge that the lack of definition is definition in and of itself. Radio has the power of the people on it side, and unlike the moderate success of pop-punk’s anti-establishment gone mainstream, this new mix and ‘customer relations’ policy might actually revive musical society; a group who have either dropped out or given up, both with little results to show for themselves. I now realize that it’s not the music that we hate, it’s the people behind the marketing scams and ad-campaigns and the shock-jock silencers that we loathe. While their motives may not be pure, I will support K-Rock and the new breed of radio, if only to let them know that in my mind, and the mind of thousands of other twenty-something’s, they are on the road to redemption. VIVA LA RADIO!