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Spiritual Antithesis / Music

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  • While similar in principles, "Rock & Roll" and "Rock" are actually quite different. Rock & roll first emerged in North America as a mix of jazz (being basically an evolution of the "combos" popular during the late '40s), blues, R&B, and country & western, with pianos and horns being common instruments alongside guitars and drums. The latter, meanwhile, surged when British artists in The '60s, emulating both American rock & roll artists and home-grown skiffle artists, began to take their cues from the rising "Motown sound" (forming the "beat" genre) and established the standard guitar-bass-drums setup, with pianos being increasingly uncommon and horns going largely unused.
  • Punk Rock emerged out of a growing backlash among amateur musicians and music critics in The '70s towards the increasingly dominant culture of celebrity and musical complexity in mainstream rock, especially in Progressive Rock. Whereas prog revolved around lengthy, elaborate compositions that took influence from the likes of jazz and classical music to break traditional boundaries and explore what rock was capable of, punk rock could best be described as "burn it down and start over," featuring terse, simplistic melodies and instrumentals without prog's high level of regard for professionalism. The primary mindset of the two genres were vastly different as well, with every prog band not named Pink Floyd being based more around idealistic philosophy, introspection, and metaphysics and punk basing itself on abrasively cynical, countercultural social commentary and a general "fuck you" attitude. It should be noted, though, that the perceived rivalry between the two genres was never anywhere near as harsh back in the day as most modern examinations of punk would have you believe, with John Lydon being a Big Name Fan of Pink Floyd (his infamous "I hate Pink Floyd" shirt simply being a means of getting a rise out of people) and some prog artists even embracing one of punk's offshoot genres when prog fell from mainstream popularity.
  • For a double-whammy, we have Post-Punk and New Wave Music in relation not only to each other, but also their parent genre, punk. Both genres mainly emerged out of fatigue towards the rapidly-increasing cookie-cutter nature of punk rock (an inevitability given the genre's emphasis on simplicity) in favor of attempting to warm back up to the exact kinds of rock that punk rejected (though not to the same degree that fueled its emergence in the first place). However, while post-punk was based more in musical innovation with a noticeably dark aesthetic, new wave gradually moved further into the style of pop rock with a much Lighter and Softer aesthetic than its sister genre. Moreover, post-punk more or less fizzled out in the first half of the 1980s with the emergence of Goth Rock, Synth-Pop, and especially Alternative Rock (which was, for all intents and purposes, the direct daughter genre to post-punk), while synth-pop itself emerged as a direct evolution from the increasingly synth-driven nature of new wave, to the point where synthpop songs frequently tend to be mislabeled under their own parent genre. Additionally, while post-punk was an almost entirely British-dominated movement (with groups like Talking Heads and Devo being rare exceptions), new wave encompassed artists on both sides of the Atlantic.
  • Grunge was this to Hair Metal, especially once it got big in the early '90s. Hair metal was big, boisterous, and fun-loving, associated with the glamorous and decadent Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, and its musicians wore flamboyant outfits, played face-melting guitar solos, and sang about how awesome it was to be a rock star. Grunge, by contrast, was angsty, moody, stripped-down, and born in the rainy Rust Belt dump that was late '80s Seattle (a city still in the middle of a painful transition from Boeing to Microsoft), with its musicians playing Three Chords and the Truth while wearing street/work clothes (flannel shirts came to be the stereotypical "grunge look") as a reaction to the self-indulgence of the late '80s metal scene. The differences were most pronounced when they sang about drugs and alcohol; hair metal was all about the good times that came from the Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll lifestyle, the musicians often bragging about their Crazy Awesome drug-fueled exploits, while in grunge, it was something that at best took the pain away and at worst destroyed the people who followed it. Hair metal fans saw grunge (and Alternative Rock in general) as music for dour killjoys and felt that its rise would eventually destroy rock music in the long run, while grunge fans saw hair metal as music for mindless hedonists that rock had to be saved from.
  • And in turn, Post-Grunge was this to the original grunge. While it used a superficially similar music structure, it tended to be less experimental, more polished, and overall Lighter and Softer both lyrically and musically, allowing it to pick up fans who had grown disillusioned with the Darker and Edgier subject matter of grunge after Kurt Cobain's suicide but still liked the sound of the music. Unfortunately, while grunge revitalized the rock genre, post-grunge ended up bringing down the genre by Turn of the Millennium.
  • Across The Pond, Britpop was fed by a similar impulse, born in reaction to the angst and depression of grunge. While both had streaks of Three Chords and the Truth and Revisiting the Roots to them, seeking to get rock music back to what it was in the past before the rise of the sounds that they were reacting to, the influences they drew from were diametrically opposed; grunge was rooted in Punk Rock and Heavy Metal, while Britpop hearkened back to the sorts of '60s and '70s British rock bands that punk and metal repudiated. Damon Albarn of Blur described Britpop as "getting rid of grunge" the same way that the rise of punk got rid of the hippies, while Noel Gallagher of Oasis specifically wrote the song "Live Forever" because he heard that Nirvana had written a song called "I Hate Myself and Want to Die" (a title that was actually tongue-in-cheek) and decided that he wanted none of that. Patriotic Fervor also played into it, as Britpop bands played up a very working-class, "laddish" sense of Britishness in reaction to perceived American dominance of popular music.
  • What grunge was to hair metal, adult alternative was to adult contemporary. It emerged around the same time, and for many of the same reasons, as a backlash against the adult pop and soft rock artists of the '80s like Amy Grant, Linda Ronstadt, and Michael Bolton (whose career imploded in a plagiarism scandal), who were seen as overly saccharine and artificial and increasingly came off as relics in the music video era. Adult alternative acts like Counting Crows, Sheryl Crow, and Fiona Apple offered, well, an alternative for people who wanted a more organic and guitar-driven sound in their music but felt that the more hard-edged rock music of the era was a bridge too far. The rivalry, however, is a lot friendlier than it was with grunge and hair metal, with songs and artists from both genres often coexisting on the same radio stations.
  • Emo Music grew out of Hardcore Punk, but spurned virtually all of its stylistic trappings apart from a superficially similar sound. Instead of aggression and anger, emo was built around melody, and wasn't afraid to get quiet. Instead of hyper-masculinity, emo musicians came to embrace a more androgynous fashion sense. The lyrics focused less on political agitation in favor of more personal and confessional material. Many early emo bands were started by punk fans and musicians (including Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat, who founded the pioneering band Embrace) who were fed up with the growing violence of the hardcore scene, and wanted an alternative. (A similar impulse also motivated the contemporaneous rise of Straight Edge, which became a tendency within both punk and emo.)
  • Much of the music of the 2000s came as a backlash against the industry-led "anti-alternative response" of the late 1990s, but the jazz-pop movement became the most notorious example, seeing itself as more authentic than the bands of the "swing revival".

    Musicians, albums, and songs 
  • Pretty common with a New Sound Album.
    • U2 described Achtung Baby as "Chopping down The Joshua Tree" — instead of straight rock with political and social themes, rock with electronica and dance scoring introspective lyrics.
    • John Frusciante said that his album The Will To Death was essentially the opposite of his previous one, Shadows Collide With People. Whereas Shadows had much time put into its recording (a response to critics saying his previous solo efforts sounded unprofessional) and layered, lush harmonies, The Will To Death had songs recorded in as few takes as possible, and minimal backing vocals.
    • In a way, Weezer's second Self-Titled Album (more commonly known as the Green Album) was this to their sophomore album, Pinkerton. Whereas Pinkerton was very dark and personal, and possibly their most complex album musically, Green was light, simple, poppy, and safe. Very few of the songs were personal, and the whole album carried an extremely happy vibe to it. Rivers Cuomo had suffered a Creator Breakdown over the (at the time) poor reception for Pinkerton, and so for the band's comeback he sought to get as far away from it as possible.
    • The Cure's Disintegration was intended to be one to the previous two albums, The Head on the Door and Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me. The album was a return to the band's earlier darker sound rather than the poppier sound they'd pursued with their previous albums.
  • Miles Davis' Kind of Blue and Ornette Coleman's The Shape of Jazz to Come are frequently considered this. Both albums came out in 1959, when the jazz world was overrun with complex Bebop compositions, and both set out to do something different. The similarities end there, though. Kind of Blue is ambient, harmonically complex, and rhythmically laid-back. The Shape of Jazz to Come, on the other hand, is chaotic, aggressive, mostly does away with traditional harmony and rhythms, and focuses on collective improvisation rather than individual solos.
  • Macklemore's "Thrift Shop" and Justin Timberlake's "Suit & Tie". Both are hit singles from 2012-13 about clothing and style, but while "Suit & Tie" talks about how the elegant and classy look of an expensive suit and tie is all Timberlake needs to impress, "Thrift Shop" talks about how we spent way too much on clothes and how one's self-confidence can make even ugly clothes from the thrift shop look cool.
  • Woody Guthrie wrote "This Land Is Your Land" as a response to Irving Berlin's "God Bless America", originally naming his song "God Blessed America for Me" before settling on the final title. It soon came to be popularized as an "alternative" national anthem among left-wing activists, especially from The '60s onward. While "God Bless America" was rooted in Manifest Destiny, with God personally standing beside and guiding the United States, "This Land Is Your Land" carried a socialist message of America belonging to everybody, especially in two verses protesting income inequality that weren't included in the final version of the song.
  • When she first hit it big in the early 2000s, Avril Lavigne was dubbed by the media as the "anti-Britney Spears" due to her rejection of the heavy sexualization and "manufactured" Teen Idol image Britney was known for, in favor of a Pop Punk singer-songwriter image and plainer, baggier clothes.
  • The Dixie Chicks and Toby Keith were bitter rivals in Country Music in the early '00s, largely on account of how their approaches to the genre, on top of their politics, were so diametrically opposed. The Chicks were a traditional-sounding group with a heavy bluegrass influence, playing 'classic' country instruments like the banjo, the fiddle, the mandolin, and the guitar, while also fusing their old-fashioned sound with a very modern 'girl power' attitude and liberal politics that caused many people to dub them "country's Spice Girls". Keith, meanwhile, took the Arena Rock approach to country, playing loud electric instruments with production to match, while his politics were big on down-home Patriotic Fervor and saluting the troops. Notably, after the Chicks' careers imploded when Natalie Maines made comments criticizing President George W. Bush and the Iraq War, Keith's career skyrocketed.
  • Transviolet's "Girls Your Age" depicts dating someone several years your senior in a bittersweet manner. It's an artificial romance without little basis. Hey Violet's coincidentally similar song "Guys My Age" is the opposite. The singer hates men her age and thinks that older guys are better lovers.
  • Talking Heads and Joy Division, two of the main pioneers of Post-Punk, each represented different mainstay facets of the post-punk movement in a manner that would come off as Flanderization had they been formed much later. Both Talking Heads and Joy Division did indeed share some similar traits (a frontman known for his Marionette Motion dance style, a clean-cut image that differentiated them from their punk peers, and an initial start as a standard Punk Rock act), but other than that, the two are virtual opposites.
    • Talking Heads best represented the "innovation" part of post-punk, being highly acclaimed for their musical inventiveness and experimentation without excess (the end result of having Brian Eno as their producer for three of their albums) and the huge impact their work had on the music of the 1980s. Their image, however, was unusually upbeat for a post-punk band, and indeed, this is a big part of why they eventually ditched post-punk altogether in favor of New Wave Music by 1985.
    • Joy Division, meanwhile, best represented the "darkness" part of post-punk, being known for their immensely gloomy, ethereal songs and proto-goth aesthetic (try finding a photograph of the band that isn't in heavy-contrast black and white), with the former being the result of lead singer Ian Curtis's massive Creator Breakdown from a combination of depression, epilepsy (at a time when the disorder wasn't widely understood), and marital problems, to the point where he hanged himself in 1980. Their musicianship, meanwhile, leaned more towards the minimalistic side, with sparse instrumentals and Curtis's yarling singing voice making their music sound noticeably less dense compared to Talking Heads.note  And while Talking Heads eventually abandoned post-punk, Joy Division's successor New Order (formed from the remaining members of Joy Division after Curtis' death) held on to the stylistic hallmarks of post-punk throughout their career, combining it with the then-emerging synth-pop scene to form a sound within which one could still find conspicuous traces of their predecessor.
  • Eminem's song "'97 Bonnie & Clyde" from The Slim Shady LP is a Black Comedy song about him killing his wife and then driving with his young daughter Hailie to dump her body in a lake, done as a parody of Will Smith's "Just the Two of Us". On his following album The Marshall Mathers LP, he wrote the prequel to that song, "Kim", which ends where "'97 Bonnie & Clyde" began: with Eminem putting his dead wife's body in the trunk of his car. Whereas "'97 Bonnie & Clyde" was Played for Laughs, "Kim" very much wasn't, painting a horrifying portrait of a domestic dispute that spirals out of control and ends with him slitting his wife's throat while screaming "bleed, bitch, bleed!".
  • Bruce Springsteen is arguably the yin to Frank Sinatra's yang. They're both frequently cited as two of the quintessential artists of American popular music, they're probably the two most famous residents of New Jersey in the state's history, and they're both known for their close association with Americana—with many of their songs being devoted to eulogizing the American experience. But Sinatra (whose career began in 1935) is most closely associated with the Greatest Generation and the World War II era, and he was best known for jazz, swing, and traditional pop, since he became popular during the last window of time before Rock & Roll went truly mainstream; lyrically, he was best known for orchestral music that often evoked the hustle and bustle of life in the big city. By contrast, Springsteen (whose career began in 1964) is closely associated with the Baby Boomer generation and the post-War era, and he's famous for freely dabbling in contemporary genres like rock, folk, and R&B; lyrically, his songs are famous for eulogizing humble ordinary people from America's small towns and suburbs, who long to escape their humdrum lives.


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