When did white people stop listening to rock music?
What I mean is, when did black music overtake white music among white audiences themselves? The purpose here is to clarify the shape that white music tastes took after Baby Boomers and even some Gen X-ers stopped paying attention to popular culture. I've read or heard things to the effect of white people these days having their own music, and blacks their own music.
The most recent was the comments at this post at Steve Sailer's about the Ramones, punk, who removed black influences from white music, and what's happened since. The end result being whites with really white-sounding rock music (indie), and blacks with really black-sounding rap music (gangsta / braggadocio).
It's easy to understand why the folks in these discussions tuned out of pop music during the '90s, early 2000s, late 2000s, and this decade -- it's all been downhill since the peak in the '80s. They probably tuned back in for a little bit during the mid-2000s, when there was a brief revival of styles from the late '70s and '80s. But that would leave a mistaken impression that those songs were the dominant ones of the time, or that they'd been around for awhile before and have stuck around since.
That post-punk / new wave revival only left one hit among the top 20 on the Billboard Year-End singles charts -- "Mr. Brightside" by the Killers in 2005. The rest of the mid-2000s is Rihanna, Beyonce, Usher, Nickelback, Evanescence, and other boring 21st-century-sounding junk. That sound wasn't there at all in the '90s, and had already burned out by 2008.
So then -- when did white people switch over to mostly black music? The year-end charts for 1992 show rock music still doing well. In the top 20, we find two power ballads -- the stereotypical '80s sound -- in "To Be with You" and "November Rain". Heartland rock, made famous by John Cougar Mellancamp also in the '80s, is hanging on with "Life Is a Highway". Michael Jackson's representing pop rock with "Black or White". And alternative rock scores its highest hit ever, very early, with "Under the Bridge".
All of a sudden in 1993, rock disappears completely from the top 20. Everything is now R&B, rap, reggae, and new jack swing (a kind of mix between R&B and rap). The sole exception is a pop ballad from the Aladdin soundtrack, "A Whole New World". Things hardly let up in 1994, where "Wild Night" is the only rock song to crack the top 20. In '95, there's one pure rock song ("Always"), with another Latin rock song ("Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?"), and the biggest blues rock hit since rock 'n' roll began -- "Run-Around" by Blues Traveler. The Gin Blossoms barely broke into the top 20 in '96 with the watered-down "Till I Hear It From You".
It's not until 1997 that whiny-dorky rock comes into its own, with "MMMBop" by Hanson and "Semi-Charmed Life" by Third Eye Blind both entering the top 20. That's about where it's stayed ever since -- a couple of dull rock songs at best, and mostly R&B, rap, and pop. And it's not uncommon for the rock songs to have a heavy rap, reggae, or other black influence -- especially in the late '90s and early 2000s with that whole rap-rock fusion phenomenon. Just outside the top 20 in 1999, Everlast scored another blues rock hit with "What It's Like". (To underscore the black influence on the white man's music, the album's title is Whitey Ford Sings the Blues.)
In hindsight, the mid-'90s hegemony of R&B, rap, and new jack swing seems like an overshoot of the "ditch the white music" impulse that whites themselves began to feel. That time in general was a great big divorce period from the New Wave Age and the Eighties in particular. When you're going through a divorce, you exaggerate how much you hate the other side, just to ensure a permanent break with no hesitation. Once you've been separated for awhile, the hostilities die down somewhat, and you can at last occasionally speak to each other, though with the upper-hand party never forgetting to remind the lower-hand party that they're never going to accept them back. Such was the fate of rock music over the past 20 years.
If this painfully awkward trip down memory lane serves to correct the Boomer perception of white kids listening to uber-white music these days (aside from a handful of SWPL indie nerds), it should also correct the misperception that Millennials and perhaps even some Gen Y folks have about this always being the state of affairs. You guys have no idea how culturally assertive and cohesive white America was back in the '80s. And it lasted right up through '92, even if that year represents a grinding-to-a-halt more than a final victory lap.
Let's end with a reminder of how healthy, bouncy, and CATCHY rock music still was in '92: