The Roaring 90s, Part II: The Rebaddening of Music
In the last installment of "The Roaring 90s," I talked almost exclusively about The Wallflowers, but their story is the story of the 90s: an alternative band releases a multi-platinum album, maybe a mildly successful single off of their next one, then finds themselves trapped in the limbo that is the Adult Contemporary charts (ugh... Adult Contemporary,) falling off the face of the planet, or worse: selling out. The Wallflowers, Counting Crows, Spin Doctors, Live, Blind Melon, The Black Crowes, Pearl Jam, Sublime, and the list goes on. Actually, it’s a fun rainy day game to try and list all of the bands that couldn’t quite release that second album up to the standards of their first.
Of course, I’m being unfair, as the albums weren’t bad (in the case of The Wallflowers, the later releases are amazing.) The standards that their follow-up albums didn’t meet were more sales than quality. These bands suffered from the fact that when they finally released their next album, the times had changed so much that the popular music environment became much friendlier to boy bands and teen idols than real rock groups. Most of the aforementioned bands shot themselves in the foot as they took four to five years to release follow-ups to their successful records (compare to The Beatles, who, from 1962-1966 released seven LPs, one EP, two movies, and over a dozen non-album tracks.) Of course, at the end of the day, a lot of these guys are still releasing new records in the same vein as their greatest works, the difference being if you don’t listen to AAA radio, you probably won’t hear them on the airwaves.
Adult Album Alternative (AAA) and Adult Contemporary Charts are such a dubious term with such terrible connotations. Conventional wisdom holds music that rocks is a young person’s game, and adults aren’t supposed to like it; adults are supposed to throw KISS albums into bonfires and listen to Pat Boone. The phrase "Adult Contemporary" (or "Adult Contempo") conjures up images of very safe, sanitary music with no risk of offending anyone (read: "Smooth Jazz.") Of course, when the Rolling Stones are called adult alternative (their 2005 single "Rough Justice" showed up on the Adult Contemporary charts,) we realize that the term does not mean music oriented toward adults or sanitary, just music that the young crowd isn’t buying.
But for those of you who are like me, that is, believe it’s still 1996, Clinton is in the White House, Seinfeld is still on NBC’s Thursday night, and Hootie And The Blowfish are a shoe-in the for the Best New Artist Grammy, we can cherish the releases of all of our favourite bands from days past, and try not to focus on the fact that according to Billboard, we are listening to Adult Contemporary.
To be continued... maybe. I don't know. If I don't have a better idea for my blog, I might do a part III.