Last week I talked about Cow Punk and it got me thinking, there are a lot of sub genres under the Rock and Roll moniker. Ranker.com has a pretty extensive list of sub genres ranked by top 100. On that list I see a lot of variety, but in an effort to keep things brief, let’s review the top 5 subgenres, alternative, blues, heavy metal, grunge, and punk rock.
Also known as alternative or alt rock, Alternative rock can trace its roots back to the 1960s, although the term itself was not coined until the 1979 by Rockpool Newsletter journalist Terry Tolin. He used the term “Alternative Music” to describe the music he wrote about, highlighting the post-punk musicians he wrote about. The subgenre eventually gained national attention as alternative bands such as R.E.M, and The Smashing Pumpkins began to sign with major record labels.
A fusion of blues and rock and roll, Blues Rock is heavily influenced by hard, southern, and heavy metal rock. The subgenre began as rock musicians started to perform traditional blues songs, such as the Rolling Stones who put multiple blues songs on the pop charts. While Blues Rock is believed to have started sometime within the 1960s, it’s popularity drifted away until a resurgence in the 1990s thanks to the likes of popular artists like the White Stripes, John Mayer, and Blues Traveler.
Also developed during the 1960s, Heavy Metal shares roots with blues, psychedelic, and acid rock. It’s known for it’s heavy sound and frequent use of sound distortion, loud volume, and extended guitar solos. Despite the subgenre’s aggressive sound, the music is strongly linked to listeners with a strong sense of self and community. Infamous heavy metal artists include Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Metallica.
Sometimes referred to as the Seattle Sound, Grunge Rock began in the 1980s in the musical subculture of the Seattle area. Mixing punk rock and heavy metal, Grunge Rock is known for its association with angst, and common themes like trauma, social isolation, and self-doubt. While the subgenre was a marketing strategy of Seattle based independent record label Sub Pop, the music grew in popularity in the early 1990s thanks to the efforts of bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden.
Characterized by its fast-paced rhythms and anti-establishment sentiments, Punk Rock began in the 1970s in rejection of mainstream rock. The term itself was coined in the 1970s by American rock critics and was used to describe popular acts like MC5 and Iggy and the Stooges. The UK’s acceptance of the subgenre in the late 1970s birthed a punk subculture glorifying rebellion while setting new fashion trends.
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