Editorial: Is the Frontman Dead?

It’s 1977. You’re at a rock show, one person among 9,999 others. The house lights in the arena go down. The crowd goes wild. A kickdrum booms rhythmically out of the blackness. The stage lights shine brightly at an instant. A flamboyant figure hustles to the microphone. It’s Robert Plant. It’s Freddie Mercury. It’s Steven Tyler.* The 3 hours that follow will be one of the best memories of your life.

It’s 2013. You’re at a post-experimental electrofolk show,** one person of 999 others. The house lights in the theatre dim. The crowd takes out their smartphones. The band creeps onto the stage and fiddles with their synthesizers and effects pedals. It’s “so-and-so with the guitar” on vocals. It’s “whatshername” on synth and vocals. It’s “dude from that other thing” on bass and vocals. The 45 minutes that follow will be remembered in a Facebook photo album forever.

Okay, maybe that second scenario was a little dramatic, but where has the standard frontman been for the last decade or two? Where’s that guy or gal that snags the mic, belts it, dances around the stage, and hypes the crowd in between songs? I like when that person lies to the crowd and tells us that [current city] is their favorite. There’s a particular charm to that schmooze. It seems that the only true frontmen left are performers from a bygone era, like Anthony Kiedis, David Lee Roth, and shudder Bono. Hell, I’d settle for Morrissey at this point.

I’d love to impose a totally subjective yet unflinchingly rigid list of modern frontmen on you a la Buzzfeed, but it’s pretty difficult. In modern music, there simply isn’t that figure that stands at the foot of the stage like a golden sun god, soaking in the worship of a pious crowd.

Sure, there are contemporaries like Matt Bellamy, Dan Auerbach, Trent Reznor, and Jack White, but they lack that particular confidence and swagger that their predecessors possessed–although Jack White’s ego might refute. Plus, they’re on some other instrument while singing. Yeah, I’m aware that a frontman can also play an instrument, but you don’t have Bon Scott swinging the mic around devilishly or Mick Jagger strutting across the stage anymore (sorry, Adam Levine). Yes, there are a few cases of lead singers like Lauren Mayberry, Karen O, and Thomas Mars alone at the helm, but I guess all I’m really asking is, in 2033, when we’re checking Rolling Stone in our flying cars on our morning commute to the Moon colony, who will top their list of Best Frontmen of the 2010s?

What do you think? Is the frontman as we knew it dead? Has it just evolved? Contribute to the discussion in the comments below and make me look like an idiot!

*Can’t forget legendary ladies like Chrissie Hynde, Debbie Harry, and Siouxsie Sioux, it’s just that they had yet to tour arenas in 1977.
**No offense to post-experimental electrofolk fans
†In the pirate sense, not the rapper sense.

Written by Kevin Glide

Photo Credit: www.morrisonhotelgallery.com

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