I reluctantly pick up a Rolling Stone magazine next to the Cosmos and US Weekly’s plastered across the Walmart checkout aisles. Jack White’s pale, solemn face immediately stands out against the bubblegum pinks of the other mass consumption magazines. I’m reluctant because, since the recent Rolling Stone covers toting the musical “genius” of Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber, it’s no wonder to me that Rolling Stone is now given the privilege of being stocked next to the rest of the hottest tabloids and celebrity gossip. But this is Jack White—when did Rolling Stone start caring about music again? I decide to add it to my cart full of fruits, veggies, and other healthy foods (these are complete lies) in order to find out.
I get home and begin flipping through the pages; I find a few reviews over up-and-coming artists, and maybe they’re good, maybe they’re bad. Who knows. They’re tossed into the magazine with about as much enthusiasm as Republicans have when they go to work every day. The snuff ads with the giant GUM DISEASE warnings have more pizzazz.
The first featured article I come to is a picture of pop princess Ariana Grande with the words “Rock & Roll” set largely behind her, and I immediately notice something’s awry. Okay, she’s a fantastic singer, there’s no doubt. Arguably and agreeably the Mariah Carey of the millenials. But she’s about as rock n’ roll as my ex-best-friend’s stupid sweater-wearing Chihuahua.
Anyway, I read it, and move on. The next article is something I’ve already seen online about how VIPs are ruining music festivals. Interesting for a magazine who continues to sacrifice content in order to attract more teeny boppers. But there’s truth to this article, and as it points out, with music sales declining, venues need a way to recoup their losses. Because, let’s be honest, we all know that real rock music is about making as much money as you can.
I turn a few pages and stumble across an article about an old music obsession of mine: Conor Oberst. A bleeding heart for emotional teenagers, Bright Eyes basically got an entire generation of heartbroken emo kids through high school. As we delve into the tale of this Emo Heartthrob’s descent into his thirties, we learn of his abdication of his emo throne, his complete and utter disconnect from the music we know and love him for, and his disdain for the Internet and society’s addiction to smartphones, as he, somewhat ironically, pulls out his iPhone.
Fast forward through pictures of Lady Gaga wearing weird things and Miley Cyrus straddling a giant dildo, and we get to the Jack White article. I’m on the page for barely half a second when I notice the first giant pull quote “People can’t clap anymore because they’ve got a texting thing in one hand” (the “texting thing” Mr. White is referring to is a cell phone). And thus sparked my epiphany: Rolling Stone doesn’t cover rock n’ roll anymore because rock n’ roll is dead. Officially. Call the press. People have been saying it for years, and now it’s finally true. I can’t even think of all the recent shows I’ve been to where the artist literally has to ask the crowd to put down their phones and share this moment with them. Music used to be about connecting, about feeling, about getting lost in the moment—now you can never get lost in the moment, because you can always remember it with a Facebook album, Twitter post, or snap video. And I’m guilty of this too. I used to try to get one really good picture of the artist to remember the night, but now it’s a constant stream of “hey social media followers, look what I’m doing every second that I’m away from you! Instead of putting my phone down for one fucking second to truly be in the moment, I’m going to take you on a journey of my morbid dependence on technology and oversharing!”
That said, the suspect in custody for the murder of rock n’ roll is none other than you and I. The weapon of choice? Technology. When music sales are declining because people get their instant music fix from iTunes or Pandora, when artists have to ask you to put your phone down at concerts and listen, and when the Rolling Stone can’t put together one fucking decent issue, then we know. It’s happened. Here lies rock n’ roll—the question is, can you stop please stop fucking Instagramming long enough to bring it back to life?