I remember 6th grade as a year of reckoning for me as far as music was concerned. Alternative music was very popular, and (despite my hate for anything mainstream, even then) I was completely transfixed by it. It was a lot easier for me to relate to the fiery, youth-oriented, Generation-X music scene than Jon Bon Jovi or rap and R&B or country or the aging Rolling Stones. Singing the Offspring's "Bad Habit" with friends was a lot more rebellious than singing Melissa Ethridge's latest tune. And zoning out to Nirvana or Pearl Jam was much more refreshing and stimulating than trying to listen to "Material Girl" for the bajillionth time.
For most people, the buzz word "alternative" was enough to send them flocking for record stores in droves to buy the latest CD from their flavor-of-the-month "artist." But my interests laid just beyond the monicker of alternative. I wanted my alternative music to be deep. Emotional. Thought-provoking. Rocking out. It was from this particular train of thought that I began to listen to "grunge" music.
Grunge was IT for me. Admittedly, I was a late listener of this genre; Kurt Cobain died months before I got into it. But, despite Cobain's venture into martyrdom, grunge was peaking back then. Such stalwarts as Dinosaur Jr., Hole, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam were constantly in the public eye, whether it be through videos (Dinosaur Jr.'s "Feel the Pain"), overhelming hits (Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun"), or other (Hole's fame from the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the lead singer's husband's death). Even the incredible onslaught of grunge imitators were scoring public acclaim (Stone Temple Pilot's album "Purple"; Bush's grunge-sounding rocker "Everything Zen"), proving that grunge was the music meal ticket at that point in time.
Every trend slows down, though, and this head-banging blend of pop, rock, and punk started its deceleration circa 1995, almost directly following the big Smashing Pumpkins boom. 1996 was the last big year for commercial grunge in general: Soundgarden released what would become their final studio album and Pearl Jam's "No Code" flopped big time. By the time 1997 rolled around and Soundgarden broke up, the general public had lost most of their interest in grunge anyway and it was officially declared dead by the media.
And to that I say, "Thank God!"
In my personal opinion, the media's decleration of grunge's death is great. I'm sure that you are sitting there thinking, "What the hell? That sucks!" I'll admit that, upon first seeing this headline, I was unnerved too. But now it see how the death of grunge in the media's eyes could easily tie in with the return of grunge's credibility in the eyes of those who indulge in the music. When this style of music became popular, it was often homogenized and stripped of its context and attitude, very much becoming a bastardized genre (much like ska is now... a discussion for a later date). Now that it's not "cool" to be grunge, only the true grunge musicians will stick around. And for obsessive grunge-maniacs like me, that's a Godsend. In a time where grunge is considered a dead cause, I'm prouder than ever to say that I listen to it, enjoy it, and will do so for years to come.