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queen britney ushers in the new metal age
by jeff miller (@jmillerboston)
7.26.00
music


Everybody knows that Britney Spears is the reigning queen of pop. Strutting her stuff across the TV screens of the world, she resembles a new Madonna for the Millennium Teen. She dances, she "sings," she even has her own FOX television special. They're calling her The Voice of a Generation.

Sometimes, when I see Britney lip-synching into her headset microphone, I imagine her as a pimply teen working at a drive through window. It helps to quiet the internal rage that has built inside of me as I've witnessed the death of Rock and Roll and the steady ascension of Boy Bands and Pop Princesses.

While I'm always content to whine and complain about the state of the music industry and the legions of mindless automatons that compose the record buying public, a closer examination of the events leading up to Britney's (and her boy-band counterparts) success reveals that there is a bright future ahead for those of us who miss the days of guitar solos, leather, and bad haircuts.

Let's look at the Eighties for a moment - if this scares you as much as it does me, you're probably somewhere between the ages of 26 and 31. Don't be afraid, just slip into your Reebok hi-tops and throw on a couple of rubber bracelets - you will instantly slide into a consciousness dominated by images from movies like Risky Business and The Breakfast Club.

There - doesn't that feel better?

The most obvious unified musical movement of the Eighties was the LA metal phenomenon. We're talking extreme excess - The hair, the volume, the attitude, the car wrecks - they were all BIG. Top-selling magazines like Hit Parader, Circus, Creem, and Metal Edge helped to give hundreds of thousands of people (who were for the most part unpopular in high school) something they could belong to.

As for me, I was more than happy to give up in my efforts to fit in with the Izod and Polo crowd. I swapped khakis for day-glo Chess King parachute pants, and grew my hair out and up. I played in cover bands with high-school pals, and secretly honed my speed-metal chops in my bedroom. I was changing - I knew it was my destiny to play loud, fast guitar. I would be a god.

Then, out of the blue, came boys dressed like lumberjacks, swinging their Danelctro axes at anything that resembled enthusiasm and color, excess and thrill, hairspray and spandex. I'm not suggesting that the Grunge Thang didn't yield some amazing bands - I was kicked right in the ass by Soundgarden and Alice in Chains. In the late Eighties, everything that was great about heavy metal was overshadowed by everything that sucked about it. There's no doubt that Nirvana gave us back an important piece of the puzzle - content rules over the container you put it in.

The overwhelming emotional side effect of Nineties rock, however, was misery. Even Homer Simpson pokes fun at the Smashing Pumpkins: "Your gloomy music keeps my kids from dreaming of a bright future that I can't possibly provide." Let's face it, Alternative Rock, Grunge, whatever you want to call it, it's about complaining. Complaining about your heroin addiction, your parents, your love life, your seven-figure record contract, your luxury SUV, your Supermodel girlfriend...

And now we arrive at Y2K. Everyone wants to feel good again. We are reminded of 50's and 60's sci-fi and its portrait of a future filled with hovercrafts, jet-packs, and Judy Jetson's firm, bouncing little... oops! I did it again!

And here we have Britney. Britney and the boy-bands are happy people. This works very well in the new market - the kids are rebelling against all this doom-and-gloom and whining by scarfing up sugarcoated CDs by the millions. How can this be a positive thing when you prefer your guitars loud and your girls dirty?

All things being cyclical, the same teens that are blowing boy-band bubbles right now are going to be 18 in a few years. They're going to mature and they're going to want to distinguish themselves. They're going to want to be individuals.

In short, they are going to want to ROCK.

Out of the ashes of pop culture, the Rock phoenix will rise to save us all from the saccharine soap-opera that permeates the airwaves, our TVs, and the hearts of our youth. Hair will grow long, jeans will grow tight, new cultural icons will emerge. Young girls will still sport cute little tattoos on their butts, backs and ankles - but this time they'll be in the form of kabuki KISS faces and Spock-like prophets wielding Les Pauls.

Some will be frightened. Some will feel lost in this world - but not me. I've kept my chops up. Who wants to cut heads?


ABOUT JEFF MILLER

Brown eyes, brown hair, bluejeans and a T-shirt. Digs loud guitars and good design. Easily hypnotized by green-eyed blondes, shiny leather, B-movies, and brightly packaged foods. He's got a bustle in his hedgerow - but he is NOT alarmed.

more about jeff miller

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COMMENTS

joe procopio
7.26.00 @ 2:13p

I enjoy and agree with every point - well - except for the metal comeback, but you and I have been having that conversation since 1985. One sad point "content rules over the container you put it in" - unfortunately, NOT NOT NOT in late 20th century popular music. There, let the rant begin...

jack bradley
7.26.00 @ 9:46p

The only thing I want to rant about is the fact that you guys keep mentioning age groups that I've aged out of. Sigh. It's punishment for liking Xanadu, isn't it?

joe procopio
7.26.00 @ 11:43p

Oh, come on Jack, I did say 1985. That makes me at least, uhh... 24? Veering back on topic, C.C. DeVille certainly has lost a lot of weight recently. Maybe Jeff is onto something.

joe procopio
7.26.00 @ 11:45p

One more thing. Wouldn't it be nice if Britney somehow got the Replacements back together? And wouldn't it be even cooler if she managed to do that in time for the release of their movie. I don't know. I just don't see Keanu Reevens as Paul Westerberg. Tommy Stinson... maybe.

jack bradley
7.27.00 @ 8:02a

Um...sorry Joe, but I was also talking about the part of Jeffrey's article where he says that the 80's should scare folks who are between 26 and 31. I was one of the perpetrators of the 80's, and that scares me more than you could possibly imagine. And Paul Westerburg played by Keanu Reeves? No. I only see Keanu as one thing...but you probably don't want to hear about it. (Veering wildly back off-topic again.)

jael mchenry
7.27.00 @ 8:58a

The scary thing about joe's Replacements joke is that I know more about the movie he's referencing (Keanu as scab quarterback) than about the band (I only know Paul Westerberg has a song on the Friends soundtrack CD, and yes, I am ashamed.) Flog me with a jellie shoe or something. In the 80s I was thinking I was cool because I knew the words to "Wild Boys" off Duran Duran's Arena.

joe procopio
7.27.00 @ 10:15a

Jael, I'm just glad someone got the joke. And since Jack admitted the Xanadu thing (snicker) and Jael divulged owning a Friends CD, I will admit that I have four free tickets to Duran Duran on 8/2 and I'm going. Arm-wrestling back on topic... George Lynch could always rock the guitar. Now that Van Halen has imploded maybe George should start a band again.

joe procopio
7.27.00 @ 10:17a

Jael, go buy Pleased to Meet Me. You won't listen to anything else for two weeks.

jael mchenry
7.27.00 @ 1:38p

I'm still listening nonstop to the High Fidelity soundtrack. Do I listen to pop music because I'm miserable, or am I miserable because I listen to pop music? Question for the ages.

jack bradley
7.30.00 @ 8:49p

Sorry Jael, but I don't have the answer. I just wanted to see my message appear in the "sez you" window on the front page. Hi, Mom!

adam kraemer
7.31.00 @ 10:46a

Didn't Westerberg also do a few songs on the "Singles" soundtrack? I used to get the Replacements and the Pretenders confused. Don't ask me why, but it might be because I was 8 in 1982.

As far as a new Metal resurgence, I'm wondering if it is significant that the current lead in the Broadway show "Jeckyl and Hyde" is Sebastian Bach? No, really. He is. That's gotta mean something.


jeff miller
7.31.00 @ 10:58a

Last summer I traveled many miles to Toronto in order to see Paul Stanley perform the lead role in The Phantom of the Opera....needless to say, he was amazing in the role....I hear that when the KISS Farewell Tour is over, he's supposed to hit Broadway as Bach's replacement in Jeckyl and Hyde. After that, he'll do the Broadway production of Phantom. Gene Simmons has 5 movie deals lined up - things really are getting better all the time :>)



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