In the 1960s and 1970s, songs that were emotional, energetic, and loud dominated the airwaves. In the 1960s, Aretha Franklin’s raspy vocals and impassioned demands for better treatment from her lover in “Respect” got a great deal of airplay.
So too did The Rolling Stones’ hit “Satisfaction”, in which lead singer Mick Jagger gradually worked his way from smooth, almost whisper-like singing into screaming, as he and the Stones sang about their problems with society. The Kinks perfected the same sort of energetic screaming in “You Really Got Me Now”, in which they combined distorted electronic guitars and keyboards with gritty vocals that became louder and faster with each refrain.
Toward the latter half of the 1960s, dark themes and sounds began to get a lot of airplay. Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love,” for instance, featured dark, psychedelic-sounding guitar riffs from Eric Clapton, along with strained, almost warped sounding vocals from Clapton and Jack Bruce.
These Dark themes remained popular in the 1970s. Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”, for instance featured a soft plucked guitar intro with a sad quality to it. Lead Singer Robert Plant’s piercing vocals added a haunting quality to the already dismal lyrics, “There’s a feeling I get when I look to the west – and my spirit is crying for leaving.”
Fast rhythms and singing were also pervasive in the radio tunes of the 1970s. The Ramones delighted fans with their fast-paced 1976 hit Blitzkrieg Bop, in which they chanted lyrics like, “They’re forming in straight line – They’re going through a tight wind – The kids are losing their minds – The Blitzkrieg Bop.”
Another trait shared by tunes played on the radio in the 1960s and 1970s was their experimental quality. Artists during these decades were not afraid to try new things. Queen, for instance, pulled off a “rock opera” with their hit Bohemian Rhapsody. In Bohemian Rhapsody, singer Freddie Mercury alternates between sweet, smooth vocals over classical-style keyboarding and harsher, rock vocals over Brian May’s screaming guitar playing.
Much of today’s music lacks this experimental quality. Fans of Pink or groups like Maroon 5 generally expect to hear one style at concerts – pop. Some groups, however, are more willing to experiment and to vary their styles. Fans who buy Linkin Park tickets, for instance, can expect some variation. Linkin Park, perhaps influenced by groups like Queen, is not afraid to mix styles. In their hit “Crawling,” Linkin Park alternates between poppy electronic melodies and harsh, screaming, soul-penetrating vocals. Like Led Zeppelin, Linkin Park’s songs often feature beautiful, haunting lyrics with raspy vocals and highly distorted guitar riffs.
Linkin Park’s “Paper-Cut,” in which singer Mike Shinoda raps, “Why does it feel like night today? Something in here’s not right today. Why am I so uptight today? Paranoia’s all I’ve got left,” combines the high-energy, fast-paced style of The Ramones with dark, emotionally charged themes reminiscent of Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love”.