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2010: The Year Rock Hit Rock Bottom


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Only one rock band reached the Top 10 on Billboard's Hot 100 Songs of 2010. It was Train. Technically, Train's "Hey, Soul Sister," the song that charted, isn't even a "rock" song, according to the Billboard criteria (not to mention our ears): It made their year-end lists of Pop Songs, Hot Radio Songs, Hot Digital Songs, and Adult Contemporary Songs. A chart for Rock Songs exists, but more on that later.

Could there be worse news, rock fans? Absolutely. Billboard's roundup of the 100 most popular tracks of 2010, based on Nielsen SoundScan's metric for measuring radio airplay impressions, contains one song by a band the magazine actually classifies as "rock": Neon Trees' "Animal" at 61. That means 1 percent of the Hot 100 Songs of 2010 rocks.

If we broaden the definition of rock and include the other tracks on the list that could reasonably be classified in the genre, we have six tracks from 2009 (the Script's "Breakeven" at 27, Kris Allen's "Live Like We're Dying" at 48, OneRepublic's "All the Right Moves" at 54 and "Secrets" at 76, Kings of Leon's "Use Somebody" at Number 87, and Daughtry's "Life After You" at 96), and one ballad (Paramore's "The Only Exception" at 93). The remaining track is Maroon 5's "Misery" at 62. This generous revision brings rock's representation to a whopping 10 percent -- and most of that is pretty soft rock. If we're talking strictly songs that came out in 2010, though, we're back down to 2 percent. Pop, hip-hop, country, and Michael Bublé take up the rest of the chart. In short: Rock hasn't made much of an impression this year.

Billboard's list of the Top Rock Songs of 2010 based again on radio play demonstrates why rock is struggling: Two songs from Phoenix make the Top 10 ... along with tracks by Rise Against, Breaking Benjamin, Three Days Grace, Muse, Weezer, and Alice in Chains. There's a lot of Shinedown on this chart. And Godsmack. Sound coherent? Or like any of the year-end best-of lists we've been keeping an eye on? While pop, hip-hop, and country keep finding broader and more mainstream audiences, rock continues to splinter, playing to increasingly narrow fanbases while failing to catch fire on a larger scale. These scary year-end stats should be freaking out everybody, from labels to real rock fans. The Amp is pretty spooked.




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