The Rise and Fall of "New Rock"
Prof. Emeritus Butch Walker
Spring Semester 2104
COURSE DESCRIPTION: Examines the cultural impact of the "New Rock" radio format, particularly the hard-rock subgenre of "nu-metal" in the late 1990s and early 21st century. Particular emphasis on its gradual but unmistakable artistic and commercial decline in the mid-2000s. Interested students must first complete Rock Music 1991 (Smells Like Exploitation: The Intertwined Fortunes of Grunge and Modern-Rock Radio), Prof. Ed Roland. All relevant MP3s must be downloaded to each student's neuro-tainment unit no later than Feb. 3, 2104.
The course will be divided into four separate sections, plus one final term paper.
I. Feb. 2-March 12: Out With the Old, In With the Not-So-Nu
Examines nu-metal's origins in the plaintive, self-obsessed howl of grunge, and the visceral, masturbatory catharsis of traditional heavy metal. Will also explore the addition of rapped verses by bands such as Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park, and how this only underscored the musical and lyrical desperation of said acts. By the end of this section, students will be able to draw the genealogical lines running from the morphine-drip anguish of Alice in Chains to the less-focused rage of Korn and Godsmack.
II. March 15-April 2: Corrosive Elements
This arc explores the beginnings of the genre's artistic decline, namely the incestuous cannibalization of already shopworn formulas by newer bands in the early 21st century. By the end of this section, students will be expected to detail the following fallacies: Hoobastank's dilution of the thin musical gruel of Incubus; Evanescence's blatant repackaging of Linkin Park's Rage Against the Machine-derived metallic friction and melodramatic bombast; and the specters of Korn and Creed in the painful Christian-metal wail of P.O.D.
III. May 3-May 21: External Threats
Examines outside forces that capitalized on the genre's self-inflicted wounds (covered above). These include the concurrent rise of "emo" and its offshoot, the raw-throated "screamo." We examine how these punk-derived forms co-opted the cultural cachet of nu-metal among the target audience of teens and young adults looking for more substantive and distinct outlets for their inchoate aggression. By the end of this section, students will have a greater understanding of the effects of the short-lived "garage rock" craze of the early 2000s. Bands including the Strokes and the White Stripes eschewed angst for raw swagger, drawing on a sound popular before most nu-metal fans were born, and sparking renewed interest in razor-sharp rock 'n' roll vs. blunt bludgeoning.
IV. April 19-May 21: Why Are You Running Away?
Final arc of the course concentrates on the genre's final days. Examines how the aforementioned factors fed into the birth of the "Classic Alternative" radio format (as "modern rock" stations backpedaled away from a constant diet of increasingly derivative, sound-alike acts), and its detrimental effects on nu-metal's commercial fortunes. By the end of this section, students will be able to point to Linkin Park's Meteora World Tour of 2004 -- which also included Hoobastank, P.O.D. and Story of the Year -- as a desperate holding action for nu-metal. Near the decline, there was an attempt to rally the genre's rapidly waning core by circling the wagons around fans of these derivative and noncomplementary acts.
V. Term Paper
Throughout the semester, students will be required to keep a journal of Linkin Park, Hoobastank and P.O.D. lyrics. For the term paper, you'll be expected to discuss at length each band's reliance on generic expressions of rage and alienation, sentiments often expressed with more clarity, insight and sincerity in junior high-schoolers' diaries. Place particular emphasis on the unintended but self-fulfilling irony of the pedestrian Linkin Park lyric, "Don't turn your back on me/ I won't be ignored."