Here's what I note as I look back at the history of the rock era.

Late 50's, ish, we got a new style of music, significantly different from what had come before.  It flowered into different varieties quickly, rockabilly, bebop, folk, protest rock, psychedelic, others.  In the 1970's, more styles flourished:  hard rock, metal, classical rock, Southern rock, light pop, disco.  It took over black music (or else black music took it over) and country.  It ruled the (young) world.

In the 80's, we got the last big new thing, hip-hop, and a couple of other varieties, New Wave and techno.  Late 80's, a revival of psychedelic thanks to R.E.M.

Early 90's, I heard one band that sounded like it was going for a new style -- U2 -- and since then, everything sounds like something I heard before 1990.

A couple of explanations I can't buy for why there's nothing new under the sun to speak of since 1995:

* There are secret new musical styles, big as psychedelic, hip-hop, metal, but not the same as these, that somehow I have never heard of despite them being this big; and

* I actually have heard them but my fuddy-duddy ears think they all sound the same.  Nah, my ears aren't that old

But I don't have a good explanation.

My best guess is it's something like science.  You keep expanding the current paradigm until it doesn't work any more, then you break it and make a new one.  Classical physics gets broken and we get relativity and QM.  The sense in which rock is not "broken" is that the public are still content with it and don't really need a new sound yet.  (Around 1960, were people ready for a new sound? or was it just that rock was good enough it made them ready?)

Or maybe it's just that we're awaiting the next genius.  (But doesn't pop culture derive from movements of people thinking in the same direction, rather than particular geniuses?)

Or maybe the evil corporations are squelching creativity with licensing.  But doesn't innovation happen in dance clubs and concert halls too?

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I assume that a lot of it has to do with the digital era and music becoming overly commercialized; I think that major corporate music industries today are too concerned with profitability rather than creativity and talent, e.x. selling singles on Itunes, etc - so they're just sticking to simplistic formulas that they know will sell.

You did not mention the hair bands in the 80's and the emergence of the grunge scene.  Before the big four grunge bands (Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice-In-Chains, and Soundgarden) changed the whole concept of rock music, the basic premise of the hair band sound was energetic and macho, with the occasional rock ballad, which may had involved a love that was lost (You Don't Know What You've Got Until It's Gone by Cinderella, for example).  This was the few sad or depressing songs we might have experienced (besides the exception of The Cure and The Smiths, among others).  Grunge changed all that.  The subject matter dramatically shifted from the tough, testosterone fuelled, constant party, electric guitar gods to life is horrible and I want to die.  The groove was still there musically, but the lyrics definitely took a dark turn. 

Grunge, yes.  I'm sure we missed some others. 

"* There are secret new musical styles, big as psychedelic, hip-hop, metal, but not the same as these, that somehow I have never heard of despite them being this big; and

* I actually have heard them but my fuddy-duddy ears think they all sound the same.  Nah, my ears aren't that old

But I don't have a good explanation."

Those are exactly the good explanations.

With age, most people are a) less likely to have the time, inclination and curiosity to make the effort and spend time seeking out new stuff and b) they are also less likely to get into whatever new they do encounter, either finding it derivative or not for them.

Cracked.com has a ton of articles explaining that very phenomenon. I can't Google them for you because I'm at work.

"Or maybe the evil corporations are squelching creativity with licensing.  But doesn't innovation happen in dance clubs and concert halls too?"

Of course it does. But the people who owns the means of mass distribution are only interested in what actually sells. That's why it's more likely that there's awesome stuff happening out there that you've simply never heard of and will never encounter.

I always consider U2 as one of the distinctive bands of the 80's along with REM or Depeche Mode.

Plenty of good music out there, you just have to get away from the radio to find it. Even Sirius lacks in finding a lot of the good stuff depending on what you like.

For that matter, I believe a similar trend can be observed with Hollywood movies; a lot of people today complain about the abundance of 'sequels' or 'remakes' rather than original ideas; from what I've heard there were some very prominent box officer bombs a few decades ago, and this sort scared Hollywood into shunning new ideas in favor of just cranking out "tired and true formulas" that they could trust not to flop at the box office.


There have been some exceptions though, such as the original Pirates of the Carribean movie; allegedly Hollywood was scared to give it the greenlight because the last major pirate movie (Cutthroat Island) was a major bomb that bankrupted the company, but it ended up being a huge blockbuster.

Though most of the Pirates sequels seem to lack originality and be more just about special effects and repeating all the "good parts" of the original film; so this is likely an example of Hollywood just repeating a 'tired and true' formula with profit being the primary motive rather than creativity.

The same goes for music.  Godsmack's version of the Beatles' Come Together is cringe-worthy in my book.  Aerosmith's remake was tolerable.  However, Black Stone Cherry's remake of Can't You See by the Marshall Tucker Band is one that I find to enjoy more than the original.  Maybe it is due to the lack of the flute in the remake...

Wife and I listen to a lot of Willie's Roadhouse. Decades worth of old country music. Everyone sang everyone elses songs. Nothing new with people doing it now.

If you want a good laugh, check out Richard Cheese.  He does nothing but remakes - but in Lounge.  I suggest listening to Gin and Juice, Baby Got Back, and Down With The Sickness.

https://youtu.be/owutDdnIMUI

I love that guy. 

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