Machine Gun Kelly might have said rock “looks pretty alive to me” and Dave Grohl might have insisted that the “dial is starting to turn back to guitar-based music”, but you wouldn’t know from looking at Billboard‘s year-end 200 list.
Billboard released their annual list, which compiles the most purchased and streamed albums of the year. For the first time in the yearly list’s history, though, not one new rock or metal album secured a place in the top 200.
The U.S. Billboard 200 in its current form dates back to 1992, when Billboard started using Nielsen SoundScan numbers to track album sales. Year-end charts are now calculated by a cumulative total of physical and digital sales, as well as streaming numbers throughout the year.
2021 was a very lean year for rock and metal music in the list. Despite notable releases from Foo Fighters, Greta Van Fleet, Mammoth WVH, and Evanescence, the genres barely feature in the Year-end 200. Machine Gun Kelly‘s 2020 pop punk debut Tickets to My Downfall made it into the list again, reaching number 24.
Aside from that album, the other rock and metal inclusions were all rather old. Nirvana’s Nevermind, Metallica’s Black Album, and AC/DC’s Back in Black all made the top 200, whether through cover art controversy or a landmark anniversary. Greatest hits albums from Queen and Fleetwood Mac also made the cut.
A similarly worrying trend was also noticeable in the nominations for Best Rock Album at the 2022 Grammy Awards, where albums by legacy rockers such as Paul McCartney, Chris Cornell, AC/DC, and Foo Fighters were chosen over any contemporary artists.
Pop and hip hop unsurprisingly dominated the year-end list but it was a controversial country album that took the top spot: Morgan Wallen’s Dangerous double album was number one, despite his racial slur use at the start of this year. The rest of the top five was rounded out by Olivia Rodrigo (Sour), Pop Smoke (Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon), Taylor Swift (evermore), and Drake (Certified Lover Boy).
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