I blame Fall Out Boy. It’s their fault alternative music is no longer what it claims to be – alternative. Okay, maybe it’s a little harsh to place all the responsability on FOB, but their sugar-coated, radio-friendly and undeniably infectious pop hooks placed them at the front of the pack of musicians who grabbed alternative music by the hand and took it to its grave.
But why call Fall Out Boy alternative in the first place? The average radio listener might classify them as just another flash-in-the-mainstream pan band who were great while they lasted, but were quickly overshadowed once that new All-American Rejects single came out. The All-American Rejects. That’s another one of FOB’s contemporaries. But back to the question – why were bands like FOB and the Rejects ever classified as alternative?
Before them, heads were turned in the direction of the rising stars of the screamo wave – Story of the Year, the Used and My Chemical Romance. These bands were taking over the Warped Tour – the alternative/punk summer tour – and filling the hearts and heads of punks everywhere with melodic, yet edgy angst. The popularity of this movement can be credited in part to the success of the Bush/Cheney 2004 relection, to which a majority of liberal, anti-war alternative music fans were against. Thus they were devastated when the reign of terror was allowed to continue.
Alt-music fans plunged into the five-step grief process of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. The denial process was short-lived; Kerry squashed any hopes of denying the legitimacy of Bush’s re-election when he chose not to fight for his right to a recount. The next step, anger, hence the screamo movement.
Then bargaining. Now here’s where everything went sour.
You can’t stay angry forever, so when FOB, Simple Plan and the Rejects come knocking at your door with sweet melodies and chocolate-covered lyrics that perfectly describe your bitterness towards the world, well, who can say no to that? That’s like telling the Girl Scouts, “No, I refuse to buy a box of your delicious cookies!”
So you’re sold. You buy everything they have to offer, and with bated breath you wait for what they’ll bring you next. And why shouldn’t you? You can still be a punk kid and like this music. Punks cry too, you know. Plus, these bands all dress like they belong in the scene with their tight jeans, skinny ties, Converse All-Stars and topped off with a bit of eye-liner. They have credibiliity, citing the Clash, the Ramones, Dead Kennedys and other old-school punk heroes as their major influences. And since you like all these things, too, and you know they’re a part of your world, it must be okay to like them and call them alternative and punk. So what if they’re on the radio? Since you belong to the same outsider scene, you have a deeper appreciation for their music than the average radio listener.
And this brings us to today, where we’re in the midst of this burgeoning brand of alternative. But this isn’t the end of the story – we still have two more stages ahead. The bargaining/pop-punk phase is now an oversaturated market, and many are finding that all this sugar is giving them a stomach ache. Soon we will move into depression, the sugar hangover. Finally, we will reach acceptance, and fans will realize that alternative music was fine the way it was.
There’s always room for creativity and growth – after all, that’s what characterizes alternative. But FOB and the Rejects are pop bands, and that’s fine. They are the new Backstreet Boys and *NSync, and those guys would never be called alternative. Just because they play their own instruments and dress the part of the punk doesn’t make their music alternative.
But since they already have been labeled as such, they have contaminated the alternative scene as it once was. A chain of events is set in motion that will result in pop-punk, pseudo-alternative bands fading away, and eventually alternative music will return to its roots in the underground scene and become as it once was – truly alternative.