How has Rock Music changed over the decades?

Written By: Nur Khairunnisa (22-I1)

Designed By: Cheng Zhi Shan (22-U1)

Richard Wayne Penniman, more famously known as Little Richard, is one of the many undisputable founding fathers of ‘rock and roll’. He is widely known as the Architect of Rock and Roll, and he helped to turn the musical styles of rhythm and blues into rock. With Little Richard’s rising influences in the music industry, paired with the creation of the first electric guitars in the 50s, rock music had risen steadily throughout the decades, but had unfortunately fallen as societies progressed. What has caused the decline of rock music? Who contributed to the changes in rock music over the decades? We will explore more about the developments of the rock genre in this article.

A brief history of the term ‘rock n roll’

The origins of the term ‘rock n roll’ is still widely debated. The term was widely used by sailors in the 17th century to describe the rocking movement of ships. Therefore, people used the term due to the rhythmic movements of the ships resembling the rhythm of the music. On the other hand, some say the term ‘rock n roll’ does not have the same connotations as it did in the 50s and is even more different today. Rock n roll was a black slang for sex that had been coined as early as the 20s. As rock n roll was rising,  the term was simply considered as a blues and country music genre, despite causing several outrages with the name.

The 50s to 60s

Alas, rock in the 50s sounded vastly different from any decade. Big names such as Elvis Presley and Lloyd Prince were releasing hits such as Blue Suede Shoes and Lawdy Miss Clawdy. It was not until the creation of the Fender Esquire and Gibson Les Paul that the world started to see the modern classic rock. Classic bands such as Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and The Beatles started to gain popularity.  Additionally, it was also the first instance that British Rock bands were gaining mass popularity globally. More specific genres of rock were created, such as psychedelic rock (Pink Floyd). 

The 70s to 80s, aka the Golden Age of Rock

The 70s and 80s were arguably the best eras of rock music, with hard rock, progressive rock and heavy metal entering the mainstream rock music scene. Aerosmith’s hit song ‘Dream On’ and the classic ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ by Queen were also released. The 70s also saw the loss of rock icon Elvis Presley. At the same time, pop was steadily rising, with the Jackson 5 becoming the biggest pop-music phenomenon of the decade.

The 80s saw a steadiness in the popularity of rock, with bands such as Guns N Roses, ACDC and Aerosmith releasing hit after hit. Guns N Roses had their debut album, ‘Appetite for Destruction’, which reached number 1 on the Billboard 200 within a year of its release. At the same time, the 80s saw a great increase in pop influence in the industry. Artists like the King of Pop, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston were dominating the pop scene. Rock n Roll became a wider umbrella for many new subgenres. This simply shows that people started having different expressions of rock music. People’s opinions and tastes were starting to change.

The 90s – The start of the decline

The 1990s saw a drastic rise in pop music. Yep, the 90s saw the rise of classic boy bands and girl groups. Backstreet Boys’ ‘I Want It That Way’ reached the number one spot in more than 25 countries. Spice Girls’ ‘Wannabe’ topped the UK Singles Chart for seven weeks and received a double Platinum certification by the British Phonographic Industry. At the same time, the rock industry was also thriving, with hit releases from Nirvana and Rage Against The Machine. However, it was very evident that pop was taking over, with the Billboard charts mostly filled with the newest pop songs. 

The 2000s and 2010s – The dominance of Pop Music

Surely not much explanation is needed in this section. Everyone is familiar with the hits of the 2000s and 2010s: Replay by Iyaz, Watcha Say by Jason Derulo, DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love by Usher, Attention by Charlie Puth, Shape of You by Ed Sheeran… you get the point. Pop music and Pop Culture truly defined the 2000s and 2010s. 

The decline of rock music in this era is definitely not just attributed to the fact that the pop genre had dominated the music industry. So, why does rock music look so different today? 

The issue of overt sexism in rock music and the rather masculine nature of rock

As an avid rock music listener, I never really realised the misogyny in the lyrics of many rock songs until I grew much older. Misogynistic lyrics are deeply rooted in many rock songs. The perception of rock music remains skewed today as a result of the lyrics behind countless songs. As time went on, society moved away from writing songs objectifying women and relationships, and especially in today’s ‘woke’ social media culture, we no longer see these issues of sexism in the lyrics of songs, as well as seeing people move away from the rock genre altogether. 

Furthermore, rock music promoted a lot of toxic masculinity. When asked to think of a rockstar, most picture a white man with long hair, with a rather masculine figure. Most times, popular rock icons promoted toxic masculinity by being promiscuous and stoic. This stereotype of an olden-day rockstar is no longer relevant in our world today. A rather popular example is pop icon Harry Styles, who constantly challenges toxic masculinity in the music industry today.

The rise of mainstream rock

And lastly, today we have the rise of mainstream rock. I believe that rock music never really died, it has just changed to fit the tastes and preferences of people today. Groups such as All Time Low, Maneskin and Arctic Monkeys make music that represents today’s rock. Genres such as pop-rock and punk-rock have also garnered more attention as of late.

Despite the controversial nature of rock music, it would truly be a shame to see the rich history and legacies of rock icons fade into the past. Rock music should still be treasured today, even though society’s music preferences have inevitably changed. Who knows? Perhaps rock n roll will eventually make its comeback.

Guns N Roses, posing for their hit debut album, Appetite for Destruction

The Grammys’ Biggest Snubs

Written By: Benedict Keng (22-U3), Brandon Ng (22-E4), Darius Chen (22-E4), Ignatius Lee (22-O5)

Design By: Eris Kek (22-I6)

The Grammy Awards are no stranger to controversy. “Music’s Biggest Night” has been giving out awards since 1959, but people are starting to question if the Recording Academy and its voting members (who decide the nominees and winners), are out of touch with current listeners or simply choose to award huge artists in order to boost the viewership of the ceremony, as recent award ceremonies have culminated in several snubs, where artists and their works have either not been awarded or not been nominated at all. Here are some of (what we think are) the Grammys’ Biggest Snubs: 

1.  The Weeknd, After Hours (63rd Annual Grammy Awards)

Abel Tesafye, better known as The Weeknd, was shut out of the 63rd Grammy Awards in 2021 after his fourth studio album, After Hours, failed to garner any nominations.  After Hours is a R&B themed record that includes synthpop and electropop influences. Lyrically, After Hours explores themes of heartbreak, escapism, loneliness, promiscuity, overindulgence, self-loathing and regret. When asked about the reason behind the album’s title, The Weeknd explained to Variety: “The main reason is these are all emotions and thoughts and feelings that I had late at night, and I’m going through all the emotions, after the club, after the fight and after a long day, it’s like these are my thoughts from 3 a.m. to 5 a.m.”

After Hours was a huge success, with the album spawning three singles that topped the Billboard Hot 100, with the album itself debuting atop the Billboard 200, and staying there for four consecutive weeks. The album also had the biggest first week sales of any album in 2020 at that point in time, representing a huge commercial success. Critically, the album received a Metacritic score of 80, based on 20 reviews from different publications, indicating “generally favourable reviews”, with the album ranking near the top on major publications’ year-end album ranking lists. As such, one can argue that The Weeknd had owned 2020, yet, After Hours failed to garner a single nomination at the Grammy Awards, making for a huge disappointment for both The Weeknd, his fans and the music industry, especially since critics, rightfully so, had expected the artist to sweep major categories in the Grammy Awards. It is therefore questionable that 2020’s biggest album was not nominated at all, representing one of the Grammys’ biggest snubs and putting the Grammy’s nominating criteria in the spotlight. 

2.  Beyoncé, Lemonade-AOTY (59th Annual Grammy Awards)

Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter, also known as Beyoncé, was denied of Album of The Year in the 59th Annual Grammy Awards, losing out to Adele’s 25 which came as a shock to the many millions of “Beys” (nickname for Beyoncé’s fanbase) and to the music world as well. Lemonade is predominantly an R&B album, whilst encompassing a myriad of genres like reggae, blues, rock, hip hop, soul, funk, Americana, country, gospel, electronic, and trap. Straying away from themes of empowering ladies, single or taken, Lemonade delves into newfangled motifs such as black feminism and infidelity, notably her relationship with Jay-Z which remains equivocal in the album. Through tapping into these atypical topics, listeners correlate with Beyoncé on deeper levels.

Many have argued that Beyoncé’s Lemonade should have won the prestigious AOTY award, mainly because of its cultural significance, as well as it being unparalleled in its impact. Beyoncé’s’ ‘Lemonade’ also provides a different angle that we can take when approaching and delving deeper into the impacts of slavery. The main focus of ‘Lemonade’ is infidelity, which is seen by researcher Alma Carten, as the outcome of this internalised, unresolved anger and conflict between men and women that has manifested its way into black culture today.  The way that Beyoncé explores the nature of relationships in general and America’s unresolved issues of racism and police brutality, not only educates but also empowers, making ‘Lemonade’ an album that goes down in history as one of the greatest moments in musical history. Lemonade both explored the struggles of being a wife and/or mother, and while Adele’s album was just as swooping and cinematic as her fans hoped, it didn’t take the same risks with genre, or attempt an evocative narrative arc, like Lemonade did. Add on the fiery political edits of Formation, and the album’s accompanying short film, and you get a work that’s so much more substantial. Even Adele, the winner of that year’s AOTY, acknowledged the chatter and said later on of Beyoncé that: “I thought it was her year. What does she have to do to win Album Of The Year?” 

3. Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp A Butterfly – AOTY (58th Annual Grammy Awards)

Firstly, the actual winner of AOTY went to Taylor Swift’s album 1989. 1989 saw Taylor venturing further from her country roots and into pop stardom. The album was heavily inspired by 80s synth pop and was essentially a modern reinterpretation of that sound. The album was well received by critics and general audiences alike with 1989 becoming the first platinum album in 2014 (platinum albums are albums that have sold more than 1 million copies), despite being released in October, the later half of the year. With 1.287 million copies sold in its first week, as well as spawning five or more US top-10 singles in the 2010s decade, the album was a massive hit. In terms of artistic progression, Taylor’s following albums Reputation (2017) and Lover (2019) would see her venturing further into electronic pop production with 1989 serving as the building block for her artistic growth. Personally, I think 1989 is a great album, most of the singles are great, enjoyable pop pieces with songs like ‘Blank Space’, ‘Style’ and ‘Wildest Dreams’ retaining that classic Taylor Swift magic. The deep cuts are great too, with the closer ‘Clean’ being a great palette cleanser that offers a great thematic resolution to the topics explored in the album. 

Frankly, if it was any other year, I would have been fine with 1989 winning AOTY. Unfortunately it was competing for the award in the same year as To Pimp A Butterfly (TPAB), Kendrick Lamar’s magnum opus. TPAB is an immersive, conceptual masterpiece that serves as a significant milestone in musical history. It is heralded by many as one of the best albums of the 2010s and to me, definitely deserved AOTY.

TPAB, released in 2015, is one of the most culturally important albums in the last decade, a peerless expression of the trials and tribulations of the modern black experience. TPAB is an intense amalgamation of funk, jazz, and poetry; a concept album whose concept was tied around black excellence, culture, success and more. TPAB also proved to be a massive hit with critics and general audiences alike, with first-week sales reaching 324,000 copies. The album was also streamed 9.6 million times on its first day on Spotify, setting the service’s global first-day streaming record. Though not having quite as many initial and final sales as 1989, by March 2016, it would sell 850,000 copies in the US also becoming a certified platinum album.  

Conceptually, TPAB dwarfs 1989 both in scale and messaging. 1989 seems to dabble with themes omnipresent in Taylor’s albums with ballads about love, heartbreak and more. Of course, this is a generalisation but the concepts Taylor Swift tackled at least up till this point would be a rehash of the same old ideas. To be fair, one of the strong points of Taylor Swift is her rather unique songwriting style that keeps tracks interesting even when they dip into familiar territory, however, this point seems rather insignificant when compared to TPAB. TPAB is an album unlike anything Kendrick had ever put out before. Overall, TPAB is structured with each song acting as its own unique vignette on certain black struggles with all the songs coming together to form a cohesive message about the black experience. The narrative of TPAB sees Kendrick reciting a poem at the end of almost every track. Starting the poem at the end of track 3 ‘King Kunta’, Kendrick gets a little further into the poem at the end or beginning of subsequent tracks, each time adding a few stanzas while repeating the bits of the poem he has already mentioned in previous tracks. Amazingly, whatever words he ends the poem off on would go on to dictate the theme of the song that would be about to play such as the misuse of influence on ‘These Walls’ or going back to one’s roots on ‘Momma’. At the end of the final track ‘Mortal Man’, the poem is recited in full by Kendrick to shockingly enough- legendary, deceased rapper Tupac. Kendrick would proceed to make use of excerpts from a previous Tupac interview to create a “mock conversation” with him about the state of Black people in America. Even the album name TPAB was originally meant to be called ‘to pimp a caterpillar’ which cleverly spells out “To p.a.c (tupac)”.

Musically, I would also argue that TPAB is a much more bold, adventurous album than 1989 with TPAB taking sonic risks and deviating far from anything playing at the time. With 1989, though its synth pop sound may be fresh and new in Taylor’s catalogue, when compared to the rest of the music landscape, it is hardly anything unique. There were plenty of Taylor’s pop contemporaries attempting this sound, in fact Beauty Behind The Madness by The Weeknd (also up for AOTY that year) was also a fantastic 80s synth pop inspired album. By contrast, TPAB was heavily inspired by the sound of old school hip hop. It encompasses jazz, funk and neo soul inspired sounds in its production, a far cry from the radio friendly ‘Trap beats’ dominating the radio at the time. TPAB also has a greater degree of experimentation even incorporating elements of spoken word such as in the interlude “For free” which is essentially a poem recited quickly over the backdrop of a jazz cacophony.

In terms of its impact as a whole, TPAB also takes the cake. Songs like ‘Alright’ became adopted as one of the mantras in the ‘Black Lives Matter’ protest while  TPAB would also go on to be studied in schools. Famously, the album was analysed in High Tech High School in North Bergen, N.J., where teacher Brian Mooney used TPAB to draw correlations to Toni Morrison’s novel The Bluest Eye, a novel about a young African-American girl growing up post the Great Depression. With the aid of TPAB, Mooney asked his students to “reflect on the dichotomy of black culture in America — the celebration of itself and its struggle with historic oppression”. Lamar himself was “intrigued that somebody other than [himself] can articulate and break down the concepts of To Pimp a Butterfly almost better than [he] can”.

In conclusion, I would like to reiterate once again that I think 1989 is a fantastic album, unfortunately TPAB is an album that outclasses it in many aspects and is a much more deserving candidate for AOTY. As RnB legend Frank Ocean himself would say in a personal Tumblr post following the 58th Grammys: “1989 getting album of the year over To Pimp A Butterfly. Hands down one of the most ‘faulty’ TV moments I’ve seen. ”


What’s the deal about Gifmaking?

Written by: Sophia Chiang (22-O1)

Designed by: Cheng Zhi Shan (22-U1)

As you scroll through Twitter one day, you come across an animated image of some celebrity at an award show. Or, you see a reply to a tweet with the most hilarious meme possible of some guy blinking and you just have to save it for yourself.

Chances are, what you have just seen is a GIF. Though this form of media is pretty commonplace in today’s world, not many people actually know where these GIFs come from or how they are made.

Thus today, I have the honourable task of informing you on just what the big deal about gifmaking is all about.

What is GIF making?

To understand the art of creating a GIF, one must first understand what a GIF even is. GIF, short for graphics interchange format, is essentially a file format able to store static and moving images, however in the present day it is more often used to store the latter. This is due to its ability to store many images in one file, allowing it to be used to store the frames of an animation sequence, forming the moving image that we can observe.

From this, it becomes quite clear that the act of GIF making is to create these animated images. These animated images are usually derived from sections of video clips, usually two to five seconds long. Though many people might take the easy road and use a GIF generator to do this (which are available for free online), content creators treat the creation of GIFs as something of an art form, and they go about it in a variety of ways.

How do I create a GIF?

Creators usually split their process into two stages – the giffing stage and the colouring stage.

In the giffing stage, the main objective is to obtain a file containing the animated image of one’s choice, no matter the file format. This means processing the video in some way and getting the parts that you need, as well as sizing the gif to the desired dimensions. Some creators also enhance the quality of their GIFs in this stage of the process, by making the images in each frame sharper.

One way creators go about this is by using a GIF making software online to generate their GIFs for them. This is an easy way for new creators to get into the hobby since it is easy to pick up. However, this presents some limitations. For one, these online softwares restrict the size of the video you can upload, which means you might need to edit your video before uploading it. Additionally, these softwares might not produce GIFs of the highest quality, as the way the GIFs are generated is out of the creator’s control. 

Another way to do this is to use a video processing software to extract something that enables you to get a GIF. Some softwares allow you to extract a code that you can paste into another software (e.g. Photoshop) in order to process it into a GIF, while others allow you to extract a GIF file from the video. This allows you to edit the GIF somewhat before the next stage and allows you to obtain GIFs of a higher quality than if you were to rely directly on an online software. 

Though this stage of the creation process is important as it can determine the eventual quality of the GIF obtained, most creators value the next stage – colouring – far more, as it is truly what sets apart a person making a GIF for fun and a content creator making a GIF as a form of art. 

Process focus – colouring a GIF

Colouring a GIF is a long process, and unique to each creator. However, it is first important to know what colouring is, and why creators do it. 

Colouring usually involves increasing the aesthetic value of a GIF. This is due in part to some videos being dull, which necessitates this step in editing, or creators wanting to enhance the colours of a GIF.

As each artist has their own art style, each creator also has their own colouring technique and style. Different creators take different steps in the colouring process, with each creator’s process and technique being unique to them. However, stylistic variations are the most apparent – these come in the way the creator chooses to colour their GIFs. These differences may be so apparent that if you are familiar with a creator’s style, you will know what their GIFs look like!

Though many of these words may sound complex and technical, fret not! Though I cannot represent the myriad of colouring styles and techniques that exist among creators, I will try my best to explain using my own process to convey an overall sense of what creators like us aim to achieve!

Essentially, the process of colouring requires us to edit the GIF the same way a photographer would edit a photograph, which means applying the same skills and techniques. Depending on the GIF, this might mean making it look brighter, making the colours pop more, or editing the GIF in a specific way in order to fit an aesthetic.

This takes many stages, with each stage changing a different aspect of the GIF, hence coming together to form something spectacular. However, this is not a tutorial, and each creator has their own unique process, so I shall mainly highlight how the editing process changes how a GIF can look like.

GIF clipped from, edited by me

Above, you can see one GIF that has been split into three frames, showcasing two different styles of editing as well as a cut of the unedited GIF. Even if the difference in editing styles is not apparent at first glance, what is clear to see is the stark difference between an unedited and edited GIF! This is the indication of a creator’s effort from turning a GIF from an animated clip to a visual design creation.

Going into further detail, we can see that the enhancement editing style is one that makes the colours in the GIF brighter and more vibrant, as well as making the differences in colour more stark. This increases the aesthetic appeal of the GIF, and thus makes it more appealing to the eye. This form of editing is usually a creator’s go-to style, and is used in the majority of situations. 

In contrast, colour-focused editing is usually applied in specific situations and might not be used as often. This style is usually used when the creator wants to highlight a specific colour to a viewer, or change the overall colour scheme of the GIF. In this case, the GIF has been edited to look more green, in contrast to how the background in the last third of the gif is more warm-toned and yellow. The creator might do this if they are trying to make this GIF fit in with a colour scheme, since sometimes GIFs are created in sets that have to be colour-coordinated. 

Beyond the two styles of editing showcased, there are many other different styles of editing, and editors may even combine multiple GIFs and text together to create full-fledged graphic designs. The limits of creativity are meant to be pushed, and this is no different in the world of GIF making, where the limit to what you can create is yourself! 

Colouring a GIF is a large part of what makes GIF making creative and is something that creators put a lot of time and effort into, as these skills develop with practice, so it is especially important that we appreciate their efforts and support these creations!

Why GIF making?

Each creator has their own reasons for starting to create GIFs, but there are some common overarching responses that are common to hear from content creators! 

Firstly, it is an important hobby to many creators! GIF making allows them to relax and unwind, taking their mind off studies or work. Many also find the slightly routine feel of creating GIFs comforting and calming, and may do this as a form of stress relief. 

Additionally, many also use it as a creative outlet. Compared to other forms of visual content, like drawing, GIF making is found by some creators to be a more efficient and less stressful creative outlet that they can turn to when they do not have the time to commit to creating a full-scale drawing, for example. Others have also said it allows them to be creative even though they are unable to do other things, like draw or write, and is an alternate way for them to express themselves. Many also enjoy observing the differences between what they create and what others create, since different creators have very different styles. Some creators like to quip that 10 different creators can GIF the same clip but it will never look the same, and it is this diversity that creators relish!

For many, this form of creation is also a way for them to interact with people who have similar interests as them. For example, creators who are in the same fandoms are able to connect with each other over these GIFs and other creations, allowing them to find a community! Clipping these moments also allows you to see what other fans and creators thought of that moment, since people reblog or retweet these creations with their thoughts! It also allows creators to promote and support the fandoms they create for in their own small way, and allows them to capture moments they enjoy and make them happy.

The work that comes out of creators is their very own labour of love, and it is so massively important to support creators! However, this does not always happen.

Since online creators make their content without getting paid, a lot of their work tends to get stolen by reposters, who take these creations as their own and repost them without crediting the original creators. This is not a problem unique to gifmakers, however it tends to happen more as people tend to see these GIFs as clips that they can take for granted of these moments, without taking into account the effort that has gone into creating them. Reposting can be within the same platforms, or across platforms – for example, within Twitter or from Tumblr to Twitter. Sometimes, these GIFs are even screen-recorded and posted on Instagram as videos, or are posted onto Pinterest where even more people might use them for their own purposes. 

This is extremely frustrating for many creators, especially because they do not have the power to stop their creations from being stolen. Reporting a post is only effective if it has been reposted within the same platform, and contacting the person who reposted it may not work if the person is uncooperative and refuses to take the post down or credit the creator. The problem is worsened if the repost becomes a “hit post”, or a post that blows up online within that community. This usually causes the post to spread even further, and even more people might end up saving and reposting it. Often, creators only find out about their GIFs being reposted when their fellow creators notice it on another platform, and not knowing about their creations being reposted is an often occurrence and this also prevents them from asking people to not steal their creations. The problem has been prevalent for so long that many creators have made watermarking their creations in ways that cannot be cropped out as a part of their routine, in order to try and deter reposters. 

I hope that by explaining how people create their GIFs, I have been able to convey the amount of effort, time and love these creators have put into their work, and that you can learn to appreciate that! I hope that you learn to value these creations, and not to take these GIFs for granted whenever you see them while browsing the internet.