While scanning the radio stations this past weekend, about 10 seconds of Creed’s “With Arms Wide Open” fell on my ears, and I thought to myself, “Is this the kind of music I will have to put up with when I listen to classic rock stations 20 years from now?”

Paul Wong
Jeff Phillips

To me, this is musical equivalent of, “20 years from now will an asteroid collide with the Earth and change life as we know it?” The thought of Creed mixed in with the likes of Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones makes my stomach turn.

Right now you are probably asking yourself, “Well, if Creed doesn’t deserve to represent classic rock from the 1990s and 2000s, then what possibly could?” Luckily, I have a theory to present that will shed some light on the confusion.

The rock music of the 1990s and 2000s will be played on the radio in 2020 in one of two ways. Either the classic rock stations of today will add to its current playlists, causing D.J.s to trim the excess, or a new genre of radio stations will emerge, called something like Pre-Millennial rock in order to appease Kid Rock, Staind and Matchbox 20 fans.

But my guess is that this new station will never see the light of day, if for no other reason than because the radio industry is wholly unoriginal. The radio industry makes NBC’s fall lineup look revolutionary.

As soon as a radio station introduces anything remotely inventive, stations across the country immediately gobble it up. I didn’t really realize just how bad it was until I drove across the country this summer.

A few examples: Every fourth station is named “The Fox”; every oldies station has a “Fab Four at Four” or some equivalent; the $100 power hour or get on the payroll promotion; two for Tuesday; the honking horn to indicate the rush hour traffic jam; every Friday a radio station will play a whistle blowing, then “Yabba-Dabba-Do!” followed by Todd Rundgren’s “Bang on the Drum All Day;” the witty banter from DJ-3000 and so on. For a new radio station to surface and be successful would be mind blowing – though not impossible – but nobody is going to put up much of a fuss for Goo Goo Dolls and the like.

This leaves only one viable option: the assimilation of the 1990s rock music with the songs that are currently being played on classic rock stations. This type of action is already being done as Oldies stations have started to play late Beatles material as well as some Rolling Stones and classic rock stations are playing early Van Halen songs.

The majority of the regular rotation should continue to consist of songs from the current nucleus, because as Homer Simpson says, “Everyone knows rock attained perfection in 1974 – it’s a scientific fact.” (A quote that also gets plenty of airtime on any self-respecting classic rock station.)

This means that the bulk of the songs played will still be by Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones, the Who, Grand Funk Railroad and Eric Clapton. And since he was ahead of his time, Jimi Hendrix.

In order to make room, D.J.’s will need to trim the fat, so to speak. This means that Elton John, Electric Light Orchestra and Fleetwood Mac are all cut. The rest can stay, except Styx (at least before this year it made the best album about robots with “Killroy Was Here”), “Love Stinks” (Is there a more overplayed and flat-out terrible song?), Journey and, at long last, Steve Miller Band – you’re all cut.

The cuts leave room for the best music of the 1990s and 2000s, namely Nirvana, early-Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Weezer, Beck, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Guns N’ Roses. Of course, this only means the popular songs will be played.

For example, “November Rain” will get plenty of play, but “Estranged” will not and “Karma Police” will see the air, but unfortunately, we will probably never hear anything from “The Bends.” There will likely be a period when stations will play Aerosmith and U2, but nobody’s perfect, and that’s what trial and error is for.

So there is my fearless prediction (and dream) of what classic rock will be like 2020. And if anyone is thinking of the children, our most precious resource, then there will never be a Creed revival in the future.

– Jeff Phillips would like to thank David Horn and Dan Williams for contributing to this column. Jeff can be reached at jpphilli@umich.edu.

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