THE BLOG

Is Subculture Dead?

23/05/2014 12:13 BST | Updated 21/07/2014 10:59 BST

At this year's Brit Awards, Alex Turner from the Arctic Monkeys, used his acceptance speech for Best Album of the Year to announce that "rock n roll will never die." He then threw the mic he was using down on the floor and mumbled "invoice me for the mic if you wanna."

But what's changed? Why this arrogance? In a sea of pop and electronic orientated music at this year's Brit Awards, Alex Turner was not behaving like the savior of rock n roll, but seemed to be referencing Spinal Tap.

Brit Awards 2014

Rock n roll, like all subcultures of music, has its own attitude and sense of rebellion. But why does this all feel like a parody of what once was? Alex's microphone stunt feels as outdated as Pete Doherty's trilby.

If the Arctic Monkey's brand of rock n roll rebellion feels stale, where is youth subculture actually happening?

Recently, NYC-based DJ, Venus X, used her twitter account to slam Rihanna, stating: 'I work so hard for some dumb industry sex slave b*tch to come collect all the coins and credit for my brand?' She went on to say that she was quitting DJing and shutting down her night GHE20GOTH1K, which had been running since 2009.

If you've seen any pictures of Rihanna from the past year, you might notice that her stylist has been mixing 80's goth with early 90's hip hop. That is basically the "ghetto gothic" look that Venus X believes she invented - think hip-hop goth. All this is pretty re-hashed. However, notice the speed at which pop stars are picking up on youth subculture and selling it back to people.

Rihanna - Instagram

The internet is amazing in its capacity to democratize information. However, subcultures are not given the time to grow naturally, so before you know it, the new subgenre of music you just discovered on the internet or in a club is on a Sunday Times "going up this week" list and is being sold back to your grandmother.

To give you an example, Trap music caught on in a big way in 2013. However, as quickly as subgenres of music happen, they disappear. Katy Perry's 2013 track 'Dark Horse', which features an element of Trap music, spelt its demise. Music subculture must retain its credibility for young people to be interested.

Subcultures are essential movements for empowering young people and creating change in society, especially in a country where university tuition fees are rising and job prospects are lowering. It is ironic that through their accessibility, subcultures are finding it hard to get off the ground.

So what's actually happening?

In the mid to late 90's the Internet really began to take off. I remember being a kid and waiting ages for the Disney website to load on our dial-up low speed connection. When broadband was introduced to the UK in 2000, if I had a query about how the world worked, I would simply ask Google and my curiosity would be fulfilled in seconds. I would get back from school at the age of 10, and chat on instant messenger with my friends and from the age of fourteen onwards part of my social life existed on Myspace, and eventually Facebook.

Today, the music you like isn't reflected in the way you dress, but represented by the bands you "like" and post to Facebook, the music blogs you read, the channels you follow on Youtube, the artists you follow on Soundcloud, and the club nights you go to. Your Facebook profile is an advertisement of your identity.

What's the point of shaving half your hair off when your mum did it in the 70's anyway? The exciting "shock" factor that our parents had in their youth just isn't there for my generation. Young people have to go to extreme lengths in order to shock older generations, including the "Neknomination" fad where you are filmed downing dangerous amounts of alcohol and then nominating someone else to complete the challenge over Facebook. Young people have died in their attempt at a "punk" action.

Despite this, there are many reports that my generation is the most sensible in a long time, with alcohol consumption statistics for my age group steadily decreasing. BBC News reports that Britons have been drinking less and less every year since 2002. The recession seems to be adding to this mentality: young people are less carefree than previous generations.

Adding to this is the rise of house music (loosely termed "EDM" in the US). House music tends to go hand in hand with MDMA, ecstasy and clubbing - a world that, in general, appeals more to young people. DJ's and producers have become the rock stars of the music world - people young people aspire to be and idolize. However, house music is so broad - less subculture and more fall to the floor beat - you can't spot a house music fan by their haircut.

Does all of this mean that subculture is dead? Is there nothing new to create and will a subculture ever be given enough time and space to grow? Will Britney ever stop making house music? Will Miley shoot porn in order to be subversive? How far are people prepared to go?

However, I believe that all is not lost.

Recently there seems to be the rumblings of a social media backlash. Accounts on Facebook are closing and people are wondering whether they can stand to see another "selfie" on Instagram.

To add to this, club nights are becoming, once more, a lot more genre-specific. New subgenres of house and electronic music are emerging. Youtube playlists are popping up with names of potential sub genres: people are attempting to categorise music and club nights are emerging from these playlists.

Perhaps we will never have another movement like the punks or the mods, but music is now more accessible than ever and is in the hands of you and I - rather than being controlled by media outlets such as the NME - and I think that's a good thing.

At the Brits, Alex Turner slurred "that rock & roll, it seems like it's fading away sometimes, but it will never die. And there's nothing you can do about it."

But rock n roll, like any subculture, isn't just about the music, you've also got to have the right attitude.