As I’ve mentioned before, rock music’s having a real hard time right now. Rock’s fallen well behind country in terms of pop chart representation, and the little of it that’s on there does a bad job of representing the big, electric guitar-driven sound that essentially defines the form. By far the biggest “rock” band of the year is Imagine Dragons, which is basically the EDM version of Coldplay, and rock radio and Billboard‘s rock genre charts have been dominated by white rap, twee folk, and postmodern chanteuses like Lana Del Rey and Lorde who may have a lot of positive qualities but don’t exactly “rock.” Even Fall Out Boy’s smash “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up)” has more in common with Kanye and Drake than with the band’s own past material.
One of the only successful pop songs of the year that I’d file under “rock” without hesitation is Paramore’s “Still Into You.” Over the past 18 weeks it’s made a slow, patient climb from the bottom of the Hot 100 all the way up to number 24, one spot higher than where it stands right now. It’s as straightforward a rock song as these parts have seen in a while. In an era of exuberant hybridization, “Still Into You” is an almost shockingly uncomplicated hybrid of nervy power pop and bubblegummy pop punk with a little new wave sprinkled on top, and zero in the way of dubstep drops or rappers.
I have yet to see many people acknowledge “Still Into You” as one of rock’s few contemporary successes, despite its stylistic purity. Maybe it’s because the song’s slickly produced and its peppy mood doesn’t necessarily read as “rock.” Or maybe it’s because while the style has obviously gotten over its longstanding anti-keyboard bias, not many people are going to hold up a song fronted by a young woman—especially one who can appeal to the average Taylor Swift fan—as rock’s potential savior. But interestingly enough, Paramore’s achievement with “Still Into You” mirrors something similar happening in the underground, where most of the edgy, interesting rock music that actually sounds like it’s being made in 2013—as opposed to either the 90s or some mythology-soaked mashup of the 60s and 70s—is being made by women like Sky Ferreira and female-fronted bands like Perfect Pussy. As more rocker dudes get caught up in navel-gazing obsessive retro or bail for other genres, the responsibility for holding rock up and pushing it forward is increasingly being turned over to girls. And it seems like they’re doing a way better job of it.