In 2009, only one rock or alternative record made the Billboard Top 10 list for total album sales: Kings of Leon’s Only by the Night, which barely clocked in at number 10. In 2010? Unless Justin Bieber is the second coming of Mick Jagger, rock charted a hefty zero contributions. Train’s “Hey Soul Sister,” number three on 2010’s Billboard Hot 100, was the only rock single (if you can even call it that) to rank in the Top 10. Or the Top 20. In fact, you have to drop all the way to 27 — occupied by the Script, a poppy trio hailing from Dublin — to find any semblance of a popular rock or alternative track. By all accounts, the writing is on the Billboard wall — rock’s demise is surely in progress.

Call me an optimist, a believer or whatever you want, but I’m not entirely convinced this is the end. In fact, not only do I think rock has still got blood in its veins, I think we’re in the midst of a full-blown resurgence. The questions concerning its vitality seem to arise only when it’s about to blow open the competition, and 2010 was an especially bad year. Aside from the Kings of Leon’s fifth release (which was a marginal letdown), there were none of the big names to draw out purchases. Arcade Fire did manage to win a 2011 Grammy for Album of the Year, but The Suburbs was the first album since 2006 that didn’t make the Top 10 on the Billboard 200 in the weeks following its Grammy victory.

I wouldn’t worry about it. The fact that the Grammy Awards managed to choose an alternative album for that coveted grand prize is a sign that the times are a-changin’. And besides, The Suburbs shot up from number 52 to number 12 — that’s close enough, right? So far this year, the Decemberists’s The King is Dead and Cake’s Showroom of Compassion have both shot up the Billboard totem pole to number one. While Mumford & Sons’s Sigh No More can’t claim the same, it still holds a spot in the Top 10 after being released all the way back in 2009. What’s more, it’s become the 10th most downloaded album of all time (and it’s OK if you read that in Kanye’s voice).

If that’s not comforting enough, 2011 is bound to be an amazing year for rock. Even though some big names have already dropped their latest contributions — say, Radiohead or the Strokes, for example — there’s much more to come. Foo Fighters, Rush, Death Cab For Cutie, Fleet Foxes and My Morning Jacket have already set 2011 release dates. If that’s not tantalizing enough, there are other rock juggernauts that could potentially unleash musical mayhem. Red Hot Chili Peppers and Incubus are both confirmed to be finished with recording. But wait — there’s more! Blink-182, Coldplay, Aerosmith, Jane’s Addiction and Franz Ferdinand all plan to deliver new records at some point this year. Can it get any better? Well, actually, yes — Green Day and Pearl Jam have finished writing material for new albums, and Phoenix has begun recording. Even if half of that “who’s who” of rock groups abandon their projects altogether, there’s still enough left over to make 2011 a standout year for the genre.

There’s a fundamental problem with declaring rock’s death even if we ignore the status of its revival. Rock can’t be dead — it still reigns supreme in one crucial category: touring. The gold, silver and bronze medal in concert revenue in 2010 all belong to rock outfits: Bon Jovi, U2 and AC/DC, respectively. That’s not a fluke — three of the top four touring acts of the decade are rock groups (the Rolling Stones, U2 and Bruce Springsteen). In fact, of the top 25 touring acts, one band managed to sell out every single show they played. With 288 performances, that — of course — would be Bono’s U2. Consider the festivals, too: The biggest are undeniably Coachella, Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo. Aside from the occasional pop appearance — like Wiz Khalifa or Lady Gaga — the events are absolutely dominated by rock and alternative shows, from the headliners to the smaller complementary names.

So don’t despair, rock fans. The genre’s not returning, largely because it never went anywhere in the first place. We’re poised on the precipice of a phenomenal year, so relax — rumors of rock’s death are greatly exaggerated.

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