Just like you and I, there are rockers, rollers and other assorted musical miscreants out there who need help keeping their declared promises to make the next 12 months better than the dozen prior. It shouldn’t be that hard to improve upon the raging dumpster fire of 2020, but – hey – people thought the new decade was going to bring beautiful things and look how that turned out.
All that said, welcome to this year’s edition of “New Year’s Resolutions for Rockers Who Need Them,” where we assist the often otherwise occupied musicians with setting goals for the coming year. It’s not an easy job, but one that has to be done.
Even in the midst of a pandemic, additions can be made onto the success rate this space has had in making recommendations, with last year’s urging of AC/DC to put out a tribute effort to the late Malcolm Young and return to glory. The Aussies did so in the chart-topping LP Power Up, which was one of the best rock records of the year.
We also told Slayer to stay retired – admittedly not hard to do given the circumstances – and Metallica to not stop, which was a difficult one in retrospect. The latter didn’t disappoint though, crowning themselves “Pandemica” and doing one of the most successful drive-in concert broadcasts of the summer, on top of putting out the well-reviewed S&M2 sequel to 1999’s joint live performance with the San Francisco Symphony.
This year we start off like a trepidatious fawn about to take its first steps on legs not quite strong enough to support the body. No one know what is going to happen and we’re all a bit nervous…so let’s have at it with the suggestions and quietly whisper “Happy New Year!”
WHO: ARTISTS WHO CAN FILL STADIUMS
RECOMMENDED RESOLUTION: STAY HOME UNTIL 2022
How about the Rolling Stay Homes? So, here’s the thing: we all miss concerts. Every music lover out there wishes they could be rocking out at Citizens Bank Park the next time Billy Joel rolls through for a summer show. Well, maybe not everyone, but that’s not the point. Acts like Joel, Taylor Swift (more on her later), the Stones, Kenny Chesney, etc., they all need to stand back once all of this stress on large scale gatherings calms.
The aforementioned have enough money. The artists who need to survive by playing spots like Union Transfer, the TLA, the Fillmore, World Café Live, etc., do not. When some fan of Joel is trying to decide between him on a ballfield and an up and coming performer on the schedule for Franklin Music Hall? The Piano Man always wins. The kids are struggling, much like the coal mining families from Allentown you sang about in the early 80s. Help them out by staying home…they’re already closing all the music venues down.
WHO: MUSIC FESTIVAL ORGANIZERS
RECOMMENDED RESOLUTION: HOLD OFF UNTIL 2022
No matter what happens – even if everyone on the planet gets a vaccination shot for Covid-19 tomorrow morning – nobody wants to be pressed flesh-to-flesh against a bunch of randos at Coachella or Bonnaroo anytime soon. First of all, the PTSD will run too deep. Those who believe in the pandemic are still going to be sketched out with all the mouth breathers who ate too much spicy pizza and funnel cake before seeing the latest electropop act on the Pavilion Stage at Firefly. All the rest will be at the Ted Nugent show at the Bottle and Cork in Dewey Beach. And it’s too close! There may not be a six-foot distance mandate but keep your sweat off my new Ray Bans.
WHO: TAYLOR SWIFT
RECOMMENDED RESOLUTION: WHATEVER YOU’RE DOING – DON’T STOP
It’s very, very hard to feel bad for a girl from Reading, Pa. who made it massive as a country girl from Nashville – replete with an added-for-authenticity thick Southern accent – crying about being churned up and spit out by the big bad machinations of fame. But at the very least, Taylor Swift deserves commendation for completely flipping the script – and the middle finger – at her detractors. She kicked off the year with ‘Miss Americana,’ a documentary that has a surprisingly lo-fi feel for such a superstar and makes even the most “over her” understand the ancillary crap she is going through.
There was a very public battle she got into with the punchable-faced Scooter Braun, who was kind enough (insert sarcasm here) to allow Swift to bid on her back catalog he purchased prior to auctioning off its contents to the highest bidder. That was nothing compared to the singer/songwriter delivering two surprise full-length albums in 2020, ‘Folklore’ in July and ‘Evermore’ in December, both of which defied expectations among the jaded sect because of its artistry while leaving her hardcore fans bewildered. Maybe you’re still a hater. Also maybe you need to listen to both of those new LPs and understand why Swift is in this column right now.
WHO: THE BLACK CROWES
RECOMMENDED RESOLUTION: REUNITE RIGHT
What in the world happened here? At one juncture, your band was the second coming of the Rolling Stones, the new saviors of rock and roll. Then you fell into this weird trapping of brotherly discord that would make those Kinks guys jealous. That 2019 reunion of the brothers Robinson which tanked in ticket sales and left us wondering where the rest of the band was should’ve been a clue: get the old crew back together, reset like the rest of us, and make all those others jealous, again.
WHO: MUSIC FANS
RECOMMENDED RESOLUTION: BE PATIENT It has been a long time – right? Whew…try being a music columnist. What can you do – fight the system? Whether you’re a Trump stan or a Biden boy, there’s one thing we can all agree on; going back to shows is not going to be easy. Let’s be patient, hope for the best and do what matters most in supporting the bands we love by buying the tickets, t-shirts, vinyl and random merch. Then we can start being critical again. And I’ll be right here to lead the way.
A version of this article appears in this week’s print and online editions of my syndicated Rock Music Menu column under the title “New Year’s Resolutions for Rockers Who Need Them.”