How many people does it take to create a song? Four? Five? Nine, in the case of Slipknot? Throughout history, ever since our ancestors in caves started banging rocks together and discovered it sounded good, making music has frequently been a communal experience – whether you’re looking at orchestras creating grandiose symphonies, or the traditional four-piece crafting catchy chart-toppers. Back in the day, if rock or metal was your bag, it’s likely that most of your record collection would have been the work of bands rather than soloists. The set-up of the vocalist, guitarist, bassist and drummer – beyond variations featuring rhythm guitarists, keyboardists and unclean vocalists – has long been our bread and butter.
However, in recent years, there’s been something of a sea change. Although the concept of the singular rock star has never been totally alien (Avril Lavigne broke into the mainstream almost 20 years ago with debut Let Go), the dominance that bands have held over the genre perhaps more strongly than any other may be starting to break down. More and more solo artists are bursting onto the scene, often commandeering the kind of notoriety and mainstream-baiting attention that any hungry young band would dream of.
YUNGBLUD headlined London's 5,000-capacity O2 Academy Brixton with only one album to his name. Like him or not, Machine Gun Kelly released one of the most talked-about LPs in 2020 with Tickets To My Downfall, and has hardly remained out of the headlines ever since. grandson has blurred the lines between rock'n'roll and SoundCloud rap. KennyHoopla, WILLOW and NOAHFINNCE are beginning to make tremendous waves. Indeed, the presence of these artists, with their methods of production and fresh new ideas, has informed and altered the shape of rock in 2021 in a genuinely radical fashion.