Pop/rock is, without a doubt, one of the most ambiguous terms in the modern music industry. Popular artists who incorporate elements of rock into their music is a good way to generally describe it, though at the same time, it is so much more than that, essentially because “rock” is such an ambiguous term in the 21st century all the same. What began as rollicking rock-and-roll has evolved into something with more sub-genres than you could count if you had twenty hands and twenty feet, and artists categorized into the pop-rock genre tend to incorporate all sorts of elements from all sorts of different types of rock, not to mention R&B, hip-hop, electronica, and whatever else they can pull from to create a musical master-craft. You have The Lumineers and Mumford & Sons who have both succeeded on the pop/rock charts before whilst incorporating rootsy folk rock elements into their works, and on the other hand, you have such bands as Maroon 5 who clearly pull primarily from the world of straight pop that made such names as Michael Jackson and JT famous while infusing some healthy elements of straight rock into the mix for a hearty fusion.
In short, pop/rock is an ever-expanding genre under which many different types of acts may thrive. This list, henceforth, was created in honor of those who are paving the way for the continuance of dominance for the broad genre by not only topping the charts but by proving to be an inspiration for those who are just starting in the industry. With that said, just sit back, relax, and enjoy the read!
5. “Native” – OneRepublic
It didn’t take long for the Ryan Tedder-fronted pop/rock group OneRepublic to come famous with the steady hand of masterclass producer and recording artist Timbaland backing them up with their debut single, “Apologize”, back in 2003. That song in particular proved to be a megalith of modern music history, ultimately turning in 3 million sales total and setting the band on the map for years upon years of continued dominance. “Native” is the third album released by the group, and what it proves is that the group really hasn’t missed a beat. With their latest hits, “Feel Again”, “Counting Stars”, and “If I Lose Myself”, being featured on such shows on “American Idol”, “Good Morning America” and the recently resurrected “One Life to Live”, it is clear that the group still appeals to a broad spectrum of fans both young and old, and it doesn’t seem like they’re going to stop selling anytime soon.
By all means, OneRepublic is a group who has earned their spot in the business as one of the most notable bands of our lifetime. “Native” helps accentuate this perhaps even more than ever, with its unbearably catchy hooks, clever middle eights, and masterful production pulling people in for a consistently great listen from beginning to end. Up-and-coming pop/rock artists can learn a lot from OneRepublic- just taking a risk right from the get-go can kick-start an immense success story. Tedder has proven himself to be a great producer in his own right as well, having co-produced ten of the album’s twelve tracks, as well as having co-writing credits on all twelve of the songs. This proves for an impressive pedigree, indeed, and one that all artists should aspire to shoot for themselves.
4. “The Hurry and the Harm” – City and Colour
When Alexisonfire frontman Dallas Green began his solo career, he stated that he was taking on the moniker City and Colour for his release because he just wasn’t comfortable releasing a work under his actual name. He’s humble, so that’s one point for the guy, but on top of that, he really is an excellent artist who is able to convey the story of his life through his songs, and that is a very special trait to have indeed. Three platinum lo-fi indie album releases later, it is clear that with “The Hurry and the Harm”, it would do no harm to change things up a bit in terms of sound production, and Green did just that with his fourth album release, which has currently gone gold in his home country of Canada. Trading in the trademark sound of his first few works as a solo artist, Green instead opts for a something of a fuller production here, with a swooping electric, sweet bass line, and steady percussion backing him and his acoustic guitar through twelve tracks.
The major thing that Green hasn’t traded in though has got to be his ability to wear his heart on his sleeve and express his real emotions, experiences, and lessons learned throughout the entirety of an album, and he does so here just as impressively as he had in the past. The result is a rich and unique sound that is different from the normal City and Colour affair in some ways, but not in any way that is offensive to the artist that Green has painted himself as thus far. No, he is just as honest a writer, composer, and singer as he was before expanding his sound and recording in Nashville, and for that reason, the story of his success is an exceedingly heartwarming one. Anyone who can stay as true to themselves despite any ounce of fame they may receive as Green does deserves a great ol’ pat on the back, and as such, it’s that which he has achieved for the fourth consecutive time in a row that gets his latest release a mention on this list.
3. “Paramore” – Paramore
Paramore’s self-titled comeback album somehow created a major blitz when it finally made its debut, reaching #1 on multiple Billboard charts during its first week. This proves that, despite the adversity a band like Paramore might face, if they can somehow grow beyond that, even if it means a major change in its line-up, they can succeed. Paramore’s greatest success story thus far came hot off the heels of the announcement that instrumentalist brothers Josh and Zac Farro were leaving the alternative group, in a nutshell, after a dispute with frontwoman Hayley Williams. As a result, Taylor York came on-board full-time to join Williams and bassist Jeremy Davis as their guitarist and percussionist. The trio clearly were a match made in Heaven if their recent acclaims proves anything.
What Paramore represents as a band with the above-mentioned story in tow is an ability and willingness to adapt all whilst staying true to who you are. With the major change in their line-up, their sound has certainly changed in some ways, though at the same time, it maintains the particular element that has always made Paramore, Paramore. This proves to be impressive on York’s part; it proves that he “gets” the band he has worked part-time with in the past and respects the particular vibe in a way that he can faithfully apply his own talents to wholeheartedly. Paramore rose, fell, and then rose again, even brighter than before, like a phoenix from the ashes as they say, and that much should be admired by any aspiring artist. The band’s dramatic back-story, with their rebound in mind, provides a good sketch of what a real role model would be in the modern rock industry.
2. “Night Visions” – Imagine Dragons
Yes, “Night Visions” is technically an album released in 2012, but I recognize it as an album that is just now gaining its highest ground in 2013, and the band Imagine Dragons themselves certainly have a lot of “inspiration ammo” in regards to their debut release. Just mention the song “Radioactive”, or maybe sing a verse or two in your best attempt at karaoke, and you’ll likely get heads turning- “Oh, I know that song!” Without a doubt, “Radioactive” in itself has been an immense success story for the band, what with its constant commercial spots even before its official release as a single this past May. “It’s Time” and “Hear Me” proved to not be any necessary slacks as far as sales and airplay go either, and all in all, Imagine Dragons, much like OneRepublic during their debut with “Apologize”, have proven already that they will be forces to be reckoned with for at least the entire rest of this decade.
They’re an international craze, having taken smooth and sophisticated synthetic sounds and somehow mixing it successfully with hard-cutting vocals to produce a unique and immensely impressive sound. The amount of exposure which they are seeing right now as a collective entity paired with the fact that they arguably deserve it is surely something everyone who is pushing to become a viable artist in the industry should shoot for, right? They represent the sound of an entire generation of pop/rock bands and listeners, and that is something very special to say you are able to maintain.
1. “Save Rock and Roll” – Fall Out Boy
At a time, Fall Out Boy were the face of the entire pop/rock industry. With their boyish mentality, poetic lyrics, and their ability to always push a little bit further towards cutting edge whilst still being an active part of the pop music industry, it was easy to see why, in a way, they were worshiped by millions across the globe. Five years and one reformation later, it was questionable whether or not their supposed comeback album would really be much of a comeback at all. Had they lost their steam? Were the boys all out of charm, being one romantically complex lyric and one heartfelt wail too late with the rise and fall of the supposed emocore market which they had originally appealed to?
In all actuality, “Save Rock and Roll” became one of their greatest successes yet and, just like that, the boys were back at the top of the charts. They had managed to accumulate such names as Courtney Love of Hole, Big Sean, Foxes, and even Sir Elton John himself on the record and, in between the impressive montage of featured artists and their ability to cleverly take any number of inspirations and fuse them together into a collective, all-new sound while staying true to the hardcore guys they actually are, it was established that Fall Out Boy had never really broken up- they were just trying their hand at creating something that they could really get behind and be proud of, and in “Save Rock and Roll”, they had managed to do that and much, much more. It’s a well-known fact at this point that the band isn’t going anywhere, and their constantly re-established relevance is something to look up to indeed, especially given the fact they’re back and bigger than ever before, all whilst still maintaining the fact that they are still and forever will remain those four punks from Wilmette, Illinois.
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