Off the Record: Is 'indie' still viable?
Published: Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 00:04
Recently, the music industry has been littered with Cinderella stories—several folk and Southern rock bands have struck gold in the music business recently, with Mumford & Sons and Kings of Leon as the paragons of this success, while Deadmau5 and Skrillex have escaped the underground to propel electronic dance music to mainstream radio and the club scene. You could even make a case for Taylor Swift, who has revolutionized the country music audience and emerged as a starlet in the eyes of fans and critics worldwide.
Indie rock dominated the last decade in that manner, but has since seemingly faded. Yes, there are artists like M83 or Arcade Fire that have achieved recognition, but traditional indie music has struggled to find its foothold in popular music over the past few years.
Remember the excessively British voices and bombastic hi-hat cymbals of the 2004 hit “Take Me Out?” Yes, I am referring to Franz Ferdinand. That year, I saw them play a show alongside mostly heavy metal acts. Needless to say, the disgruntled Korn fans weren’t pleased to see these artsy folks creating a more lighthearted atmosphere.
With acts such as Kasabian and The Strokes, Franz Ferdinand played sold out shows and received extensive MTV time. The group hasn’t recorded a hit single since 2005, regardless of the fact that they continue to churn out albums every other year. Modest Mouse’s “Float On” was released that same year, garnering so much radio airplay that I heard it at certain high school functions.
Three years later, the band’s album “We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank” reached the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100. Modest Mouse has not recorded an LP since then, so it will be interesting to see what happens following its next release, which was announced last summer.
Some indie rockers who have accumulated a cult following have reached the point at which anything they record will become a hit thanks to a varied demographic of listeners. The Strokes and Death Cab for Cutie are the epitomes of this concept.
Both groups are known for their world-renowned lead vocalists. Julian Casablancas of The Strokes has recorded tracks with prominent comedy troupe The Lonely Island, while Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie was married to actress Zooey Deschanel for a lengthy period. Nevertheless, both bands are ostensibly no longer where they used to be.
Am I saying that indie music is dead? Absolutely not. Do I think that it is becoming increasingly difficult to strictly adhere to the indie genre? Undoubtedly. The Jimmy Eat Worlds and Kaiser Chiefs of the music industry need to drastically change their repertoires to make it big in the business. Unfortunately, this seems to be the grimmest feature of the entertainment industry.
The ’90s were a gold mine for grunge and alternative artists. Ten years later, gangsta rap and indie rock battled it out on the charts. Currently, electronic dance music has invaded the mainstream front. The general public alters its allegiances to certain genres on a decade-by-decade basis, and the indie genre is becoming less and less competitive on the national music stage. There’s always a chance for a powerful comeback—but we may have to wait until 2020.