8 trends that defined rock in 2021

According to the 2022 GRAMMY nominations, rock in 2021 was all about looking back.

There is credit to this idea: AC DC, Foo fighters, Paul McCartney, Wolfgang Van Halen, Weezer, Kings of Leon and the end Chris Cornell had record years. Even the Black Pumas nominated twice Capitol Cups was something another permutation of their eponymous debut in 2019 – to say nothing of their retro-soul sound. But the real story is more complicated than that.

Under the stratum of these patrimonial acts (and, in Black pumas‘case, a newcomer), the rock has spread in a multitude of directions. On the one hand, the idea that it was a game of straight white men was dropped: singers / songwriters from Olivia Rodrigo to Lucy dacus – along with a host of acclaimed LGBTQ + artists – got behind the wheel.


And when it comes to ring of rock in 2021, things got more exciting than inclusion alone. Just below mainstream and big box indie, Turnstile mix of hard-hitting ground hardcore with wavy R&B and electronic textures, thanks in part to a cutting edge guest Dev Hynes, aka Blood Orange. Groups adjacent to hardcore like Fiddlehead and Military firearm have woven 90s indie and angular emo into their strongest songs to date.

Certainly, some cultural currents from previous years have entered the rock realm of 2021 – namely, with classical rock proving stronger than ever, pop-punk and emo rising high and low. Foo fighters saturate all media. But here are some other more or less blunt events in the province of 2021.

The women came forward


Female talent was out of control in 2021 in indie and rock: Julien baker, Lucy Dacus, single, Courtney barnett and Pom Pom Squad all performed well.

More importantly, their perspectives were in the foreground. And while Olivia Rodrigo is Sour was saturated with heterosexual breakup woes, women wrote songs on all this year, from grief to joy to sobriety to loneliness.

If Bechdel’s test – which checks whether a work features at least two women talking to each other about something other than a man – applied to guitar-based music, 2021 would pass with flying colors.

Expanded representation beyond gender


Two-thirds of the rising pop-punk trio Meet Me @ The Altar – who released their debut EP Fueled By Ramen, an EP titled Model citizen, in August – identify yourself as LGBTQ +, but that’s not where the queer portrayal in rock 2021 ended.

Openly gay Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan released acclaimed album Valentine. St. Vincent‘s Annie Clark, who once said “I don’t really identify with anything,” posted daddy’s house to widespread praise.

And Japanese breakfastMichelle Zauner, who is bisexual, has had a huge year with her new album, Jubilee – which contained the single “Be Sweet” – and the hit memoirs, Crying in H Mart.

Additionally, all-female, half-Asian, half-Latinx group Linda Lindas (of “Racist Sexist Boy” fame) signed to Epitaph Records in 2021 – which bodes well for a 2022 first for women. in punk.

The old has become new


At Glow on, Turnstile interpolated the lyrics of Sly and the Family Stone and their aforementioned punk peers created a sound similar to Unwound or Sunny Day Real Estate. But these groups and others didn’t just delve into the music’s past; they made sounds from the past again.

On the other side of the pond, English duo Royal blood‘s Typhoons brought back a bass and drum stand reminiscent of The White Stripes or Death From Above 1979, reminding listeners around the world that rock is rightly dance music.

They aren’t the only ones who are harnessing the past to new ends – a tidal wave of edgy bands in the UK like Squid, Dry Cleaning and Fontaines DC are reminiscent of the sounds of post-punks like Wire and the Fall. .

In addition, Olivia Rodrigo’s interpolation of Paramore“Misery Business” in the “Good 4 U” mega-bit showed the new guard bringing emo back from the Myspace era. (Machine Gun Kelly has done a lot to forge that connection, as evidenced by her hit 2020 album Tickets for my fall.)

Then there is Moneskinthe convocation of Bowie and Queen signifiers – but that’s a whole different story.

International sounds have echoed


Måneskin’s rise in 2021 seemed to come out of nowhere.

Led by conspicuously codpieced singer Damiano David, the Italian rock band has managed to house Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons‘1967 struck “Beggin'” in the imagination of young people via a big win in the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest and, ultimately, the virality of TikTok. This year they released their second album, Teatro d’ira: Vol. I, to critical applause.

And the year-end critics’ polls presented another geographic exception: the new album by Nigerian guitarist Mdou Moctar Africa Victim has left an indelible impression of Tuareg desert blues in the consciousness of rock fans.

Gender has become elastic


Weezer tested the limits of their proven power-pop in 2021 OK Human, and it paid off – especially on the single “All My Favorite Songs”, which traded buzzsaw guitars for chamber orchestration.

There is also a separate discussion to have about how emo – originally a rock subgenre – came to encompass almost everything from hip-hop to pop to trap, WRLD juice at Kid Laroi and beyond. (Pop-punk, its sister style, is found in K-pop groups like ENHYPEN and Tomorrow x Together, too much.)

An entire article could be devoted to the fluidity of the genre of Glass Animals – something they have been known for since their debut in 2014. Zaba. But their psychedelic smash, “Heat Waves,” launched the British indie rock band on pop radio and beyond.

The track made Glass Animals arguably the biggest rock hit of 2021 and marked them their first hit on the Billboard Hot 100, where it reached No.7. (Spin its parent album, 2020’s Dreamland, and the Glass Animals single in 2021, “I don’t want to talk [I Just Wanna Dance]”for several other permutations of their sound styles.)

Finally – to bring up Turnstile’s Glow on once again – has a hardcore album ever veered so close to Arthur Russell or PinkPantheress territory without betraying its roots?

Groups adopted traditional song structures


Is this exactly a 2021 rock phenomenon? Maybe not, but it has arguably hit a new high this year.

After years of indie rock “vibes” – from slacker songwriters like early WAVVES and Best Coast to noise storms of No age and Bass Drum of Death – it looks like songs are back in fashion.

Check out just about all of the 2021 offers listed above – they feature readable verses, choruses, bridges, and / or lyrics. Is it possible that if textures and references are an integral part of memorable songs, listeners are asking for a little more meat to the bone?

Rock veteran mentored the next generation


Travis Barker suddenly becomes much more than Flashing-182the drummer of. These days he’s nurturing young rock talent left and right.

After leading collaborations with Malone substation and Kelly machine gun in 2020, he spent part of 2021 mentoring 24-year-old rocker KennyHoopla (the duo collaborated on THE GUILT OF THE SURVIVOR: THE MIXTAPE) and helping Willow Smith go from alt-R & B to pop-punk by appearing on three tracks on her album lately I feel EVERYTHING.

In addition, he jumped on tracks with MOD SUN and his grandson, and boosted the emo rap craze with features on songs from black bear, Trippie Redd, Sueco, LILHUDDY and Jack Kays, among others.

The rock veteran also helped another longtime punk star start a new chapter: Barker signed Avril Lavigne to her label, DTA Records, in November, also appearing on her first single on the Imprint, “Bite Me.”

These rock heroes saturated everything

Even after decades of making influential rock music with Nirvana and Foo Fighters, how to sum up the year Dave grohl had?

Grohl was pretty much everywhere this year. Not only has Foo Fighters released their 10th studio album, Medicine at midnight; they performed at Biden’s inauguration, entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and received the first-ever world icon award at the 2021 MTV Video Music Awards. (More: a bestselling memoir, comedy by horror to come … the list goes on.)

If it is possible to know a future classical rock artist, Grohl is probably your safest bet. And while Foo Fighters wants to relax after such a hectic year, the overwhelmingly enthusiastic hitmaker is clearly not going anywhere in this decade.

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