Billboard: Top 200 Best-Selling Albums of 2021 Included No New Rock or Metal Releases
On the one hand, “rock is dead” and “metal is stagnating” are arguably alarmist assertions, and the quality of a work of art really has nothing to do with its sales.
On the other hand, there’s absolutely no denying that these genres of music are fading in popularity.
Exhibit A: Billboard has released its year-end chart of 2021’s 200 best-selling albums, and there isn’t a new rock or metal release to be found on the list. Which is the first time that’s happened since Nielsen SoundScan launched in 1992.
Noisecreep points out that the year did not want for big rock and metal releases. Iron Maiden’s Senjutsu, Foo Fighters’ Medicine at Midnight, Evanescence’s The Bitter Truth, Andrew W.K.’s God is Partying, Greta Van Fleet’s The Battle at Garden’s Gate… none of ’em made the cut.
That’s not to say that no rock or metal releases made it onto the chart — they were just notably old ones, like Metallica’s Black Album and Nirvana’s Nevermind, both of which celebrated thirtieth anniversaries in 2021, and AC/DC’s Back in Black, which was released in 1980.
But wait! It gets worse!! The year’s highest-selling record was Dangerous: The Double Album, by Morgan Wallen, who, in case you don’t know, is a country singer (I only know who he is because of the controversies surrounding his use of racial slurs and being disinvited from performing on Saturday Night Live for not following COVID-19 safety protocols).
In other words, it’s not like people aren’t buying new music, and it’s not like people aren’t buying new music in old genres. People are not buying new rock music specifically (the next top-four selling albums were Olivia Rodrigo’s Sour, Pop Smoke’s Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon, Taylor Swift’s Evermore, and Drake’s Certified Lover Boy).
So, no, rock and metal are not dead.
But, yeah, rock and metal are retreating back underground.
As to why this is happening… if it’s the air of creative malaise currently hovering over the genres or a sign of our ever-changing cultural sensibilities or the lack of new stars playing these styles of music (I can neither name nor pick out of a line-up a single member of Greta Van Fleet)… I’ll let you debate amongst yourselves in the comments section.
The entire Billboard chart is here.