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Commentary: Rap and pop top the charts, putting R&B and rock on recess

I never listen to the radio anymore.

If I want a varied playlist, with different artists and genres, I look to my iPhone. Meanwhile, the general public has spoken: pop and hip-hop have run rampant on the Billboard charts, while rock and R&B have unnoticeably and slowly slipped away.

Let’s take a look at the Billboard Hot 100, shall we? Battling for No. 1 is Rihanna and Adele, Rihanna wins this week with “We Found Love,” but because Adele is a music anomaly in this era of music (actual singing talent and not traditionally sexy), she’ll be back up to the top in no time.

After that are the men, who have been trailing behind women this year. They include LMFAO’s classy tunes, Maroon 5’s annoying, pop-rock number featuring the whale formerly known as Christina Aguilera, and one of those “indie” bands that get popular for a few weeks and then disappears. After the top, are more LMFAO, more Adam Levine and a slew of hip-hop giants trying to fight for the top 10.

You see what I’m getting at here? Unless you count Rihanna as an R&B artist, which I don’t, the next single that is considered to be in that genre is “Party” by Beyoncé, another cross-over artist.

Someone I talked to about this said that with the presence of hip-hop on the charts, that R&B will never completely disappear. I’m inclined to agree. But where is rock music on the charts? Rock music sales haven’t gone down, in fact. According to the Nielsen SoundScan, rock music outsold rap in 2010. Only 27 million rap albums were sold, in comparison to the 103 million rock albums that were bought last year.

Despite this, rock music is not ruling the radio like other genres.

This drop in radio airplay has been reflected most noticeably at the MTV Video Music Awards and the Billboard Music Awards, where pop and hip-hop songs lord over the lesser categories. Dave Grohl, Foo Fighters lead singer and guitarist, thought along the same lines with his impassioned speech at the VMAs, defending rock music.

“I just want to say: never lose faith in real rock ‘n’ roll music, you know what I mean?” he said. “Never lose faith in that. You might have to look a little harder, but it’s always going to be there.”

I agree with this as well. Rock music isn’t going anywhere, but if you solely looked at the Billboard charts and the songs on KISS FM’s “Top 20 On Demand,” it’s a very homogenous list with rock nowhere to be found.

There’s absolutely no denying that pop music made a big comeback in 2009, with the rise of stars like Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Ke$ha, Justin Bieber and Britney Spears’ rise from the ashes. These artists made pop music “cool” again. And while the male pop star category is desperately lacking, pop music is still dominating in most areas, unfortunately at the expense of rock music.

If an R&B artist wants a huge success in this age of music pirates, they must be malleable and able to cross between genres, almost assimilating into pop music.

I think the turn to dance and electronica music in recent years have left no room for the harder, grittier rock category. Hip-hop will most certainly always be relevant, with new rappers coming out from every corner of every city. It’s an ever-changing genre.

One musical category I haven’t touched on is country, which has never been the most popular category, but with acts like Taylor Swift, another cross-over, it’ll stay present on the Billboard charts.

Where will music go from here? I’m not really an expert, I just love music. I’ve seen the trend toward electronica-infused beats reach hip-hop and R&B and that will continue until the next big thing happens.

Rock music fans have nothing to worry about though. The general public is a fickle bunch with a short attention span. This rock recess won’t last for very long.

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