In a recent interview with Zane Lowe on Apple Music, Adam Levine made a bold statement about the current musical landscape that rubbed a lot of music fans the wrong way. “It’s funny, when the first Maroon 5 album came out there were still other bands. I feel like there aren’t any bands anymore, you know?” he said, expressing his nostalgia and disappointment that bands are facing extinction. But are they, really?
Looking at the singles chart, it might be easy to make that assumption. The biggest stars of our time are all solo acts: Taylor Swift, Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion, Billie Eilish – the list goes on and on. But the alternative music scene is thriving despite the year we’ve all had, and the lifeblood of alternative music is, and always has been, bands. Even without live music, bands aren’t going anywhere.
It’s true that a lot of bands that you do find in the album charts are older bands. The album charts have always followed different trends to the singles charts, and albums are more likely to hang around in the top ten for longer periods of time. You can always find Queen, Fleetwood Mac or the Beatles floating around there. But even if we do just consider older bands that aren’t releasing new music, it proves that these bands have a timeless quality that the majority of modern solo acts will struggle to keep up with. And that’s not even considering the new talent that has blessed our playlists in recent years.
A look at NME’s Albums of the Year for 2020 shows a wealth of bands who are making the music that we love the most. IDLES, Haim and The 1975 are just a few of the bands that are mentioned among the best releases of the year. Fontaines D.C even landed a Grammy nomination with A Hero’s Death, the album that found them in an unexpected chart battle in the UK with Taylor Swift herself. Although bands seem to be more successful in the UK album charts, the great musical acts that released music last year span across countries as well as genres.
If you want a look at the popularity of bands purely from a fan’s perspective, then festivals will give you the best idea of who people really want to see live. Of course, we haven’t had a big festival since 2019, but the lineups we were promised last year show bands galore. At Glastonbury, Metronomy, Khruangbin and Blossoms were all set to perform. On the other side of the Atlantic, Coachella’s first headliner was supposed to be Rage Against the Machine. They were joined on the lineup by newer bands like black midi, The Regrettes and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. Barcelona’s Primavera Sound boasted an even more band-heavy lineup, with Gorillaz, The Strokes and Pavement all holding coveted headliner slots. If there were simply no bands around anymore, then the organisers of the most popular festivals wouldn’t give them such a platform to perform.
In pop music, it’s true that there are fewer groups than solo acts nowadays. But the belief that spanning genres is the only way to succeed in the music industry is not one that is held by Marron 5 alone. Basically, bands haven’t gone anywhere. They’re here, if you look for them, and you really don’t have to look very hard. Despite the fact that Levine performs in a band himself, these views come across as those of an outsider, making declarations about the modern musical landscape that – since they were made – very few people agree with. Ask anyone involved in their local music scene, or anyone involved in organising festivals and you’ll find that bands are still the glue that holds the industry together.