Presentation of nu gen, the futuristic alternative movement

The “rock is dead” debate is the conversation that just won’t die. Earlier this year, rapper-turned-punk rocker Machine Gun Kelly suggested that before he hit the scene the genre needed a defibrillator, and Kiss’ Gene Simmons recently reaffirmed his notorious statement from 2014, saying in a interview with Metal Hammer, “I stand by my words: rock is dead.”

If such claims make you want to frisbee Ghost’s latest record out the window of Simmons’ rockstar abode, you’re not alone: ​​few of us would agree that rock music is agony. Yet it’s hard to ignore the fact that in recent years rock music has moved away from the mainstream into a more confined space. According to Billboardthough 2021 has seen a feast of hit rock albums – from Foo Fighters medicine at midnight at Iron Maiden senjutsu — not a single new rock album made the year-end chart of America’s 200 best-selling albums.

Bursting from the cocoon, however, a new generation of artists has torn the conventions of the genre as we once knew it to shreds. Dismantling the best qualities of rock, they formed a new hybrid from its constituent elements, fusing metal with emo, pop, R’n’B… whatever they want. And it’s not groups, but individual singer-songwriters who are pushing the genre into the mainstream, all while sporting a wardrobe warped by the times of the early 2000s Hot Topic. It’s a movement which has been given many names – “alt pop” and “wrot” among others – but one catch-all term seems to be gaining the most traction: nu gen.

“This genre is lewd, unforgiving, and there are no longer any boundaries in lyrical or visual production,” says Mimi Barks, whose self-proclaimed “doom trap” fuses heavy riffs with hip hop hooks. “You can self-publish and you don’t have to please a third party such as a label, publisher or record store to sell your music.”

Nu generation artists like Mimi don’t fit neatly into a single box; they are outwardly different in sound but totally united in attitude. Historically, placing artists into subgenres has helped give them a clear sense of identity, but here there are no restrictions based on genre, image, or even having a band. with which to write. It’s free-for-all and a refreshing approach to songwriting.

Some of the flag-waving favorites of the nu gen scene include Mimi Barks, as well as Cassyette, who fuses rock, emo and pop in a lipstick-stained black variety she calls “grit pop”; Dana Dentata, who writes infernal rap metal with industrial songs; Mothica, who writes beautifully moody emo-inspired pop, and Bambie Thug, whose trap-goth styles might see them as at home on a stage with Nine Inch Nails as Megan Thee Stallion. And the nu gen wave is vast; the likes of Siiickbrain, Lilith Czar, Zand, Lil Lotus, AlienBlaze and Nascar Aloe are just a few of the other artists in the mix.

Nu gen is also doing great and much-needed things for stage representation, opening the doors to rock’s historically misogynistic boys’ club through a cohort of non-binary and LGBTQ+ artists.

“I have the impression that, now, the public feels [better] represented by musicians, because you can always find someone who looks like you, which you couldn’t do before,” suggests Cassyette. “I also see a lot of queer artists coming through, myself being one of them. It’s a really exciting time, because where there’s more diversity, there’s better music and that’s only going to make those sounds more futuristic. Rock is redefining itself.

And it grows, attracting a host of new fans. The scene’s rising stars are filling supporting slots with A-listers (Cassyette is backing My Chemical Romance in stadiums this year), collaborating with traditional heavyweights (Siiickbrain recently teamed up with Willow’s daughter-of-Will ‘ Smith) and are dominating the online sphere (after joining TikTok to promote his music in 2020, Mothica’s song vices reached more than five million views). He pushes alternative music into new spaces to reach millions of ears for the first time.

“From my experience on TikTok, I’d say alternative music is now the norm,” Mothica suggests, “which in the long run is a good thing for the genre to evolve.”

Although nu gen is only reaching the masses, for artists like Cassyette it’s a natural progression for a movement that has been growing under the radar for years, in her case through an education guided by the world of social media and various online spaces. “I think it’s been bubbling under the stage for a very long time,” she confirms. “I know a lot of these musicians have been making music for years, it’s just getting popular.”

Starting out in the club scene as a DJ, Cassyette has always had one foot planted in electronic pop and the other in rock. She grew up listening to Paramore, Korn, Black Sabbath and Mötley Crüe from the age of 13, but quickly found herself drifting away from her teenage heroes once her DJ career took off. Today, she has become one of the main precursors of a new generation of artists and believes that this scene’s approach to mixing styles is the secret to prolonging the life of rock.

“It’s important for me to make two sides of the music, so that we always leave the door open to people,” she explains. “If you can get more people to listen to and like your music on the pop side of things, they’re going to listen to the heavy stuff. That’s how you keep [rock] alive.”

Although the hype surrounding Cassyette and her peers may seem excessive to some – as well as the MCR dates, she landed BBC Radio 1’s Hottest Track Ever with her song Mayhem and performed with Frank Carter on its title at last year’s Download Pilot festival. – she is convinced that she has earned her place at the table. “I worked really hard to be here,” she says.

Another common theme within nu gen is that, like nu metal and emo before it, it’s a scene that encourages people to be more open about their mental health and to be themselves, giving fans an outlet to express oneself without shame.

“I think a lot of kids can relate [to us]suggests Mimi Barks, “because there has never been a time in history when we could talk so openly and shamelessly about depression, anxieties, trauma, drugs and sex.”

“The direct connection between the artists and the fanbase creates a different kind of passion,” adds Dana Dentata. “Being able to say what we want in our songs, kids hear exactly what they feel now. It is extremely important for me to stay in touch with the people who contact me and who are affected by my music.

Mothica, meanwhile, suggests a combination of rock’s natural disposition to emotion and the sheer craziness of the past decade that might have something to do with it.

“I think rock music, heavy music with darker lyrics, has always appealed to fans who are more in touch with their emotions,” she explains. “Maybe with people who have been through traumatic things in their lives. I think the collective trauma we’ve been through over the last few years has brought a lot more people into this style of music, and even the way people dress. I’m older than a lot of my fans, and that style of music wasn’t as popular when I was growing up.

It is certainly adopted now. Nu gen is more than a stage, it’s the sign of a revolution in alternative music. The old ways are coming to an end and a newer, fresher and more inclusive entity is taking over. There are no limits, no barriers, and this might just be the spark that helps rock take over the world again.

“Rock is alive and well,” insists Cassyette. “It’s been very much alive the whole time because the core fan base has always been there and always listened. I just think he has a chance to come back and have his own revival and become something else. It gets really interesting; I actually think that’s going to be what takes him all the way to the top…and it’s going to be all the way up.

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