Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Made in America doesn't have a rock headliner. Is rock and roll dead?

There are no rock headliners to be found on this year's Made in America lineup, or rock bands at the top of the charts. But does that mean the music has lost its vitality?

The first time Budweiser Made in America came to Philadelphia, in 2012, festival curator Jay Z coheadlined his own show. The rapper shared top billing with a heavyweight of similar stature from the rock world: Pearl Jam.

The next year, the fest followed the same blueprint, with one huge star from R&B-hip-hop in Beyoncé and one dude-fronted hard-and-heavy band in Nine Inch Nails. In 2014, Kanye West was paired with Kings of Leon.

While Beyoncé's 2015 headlining partner, the Weeknd, was a pop-R&B singer, there were rock acts near the top of the bill in Modest Mouse and Death Cab for Cutie. And last year, the music genre yin and yang was in full effect, with Rihanna joined by Coldplay, one of the most popular (soft) rock bands in the world.

This year, Jay Z is back on the MIA lineup. But the festival hasn't booked any rock counterweights. The only rock near the top of the bill is Roc Nation, the music business mahoff's label and management company, which counts among its roster North Carolina rapper J. Cole, who will be Jay Z's coheadliner at the Labor Day weekend fest to be held Sept. 2-3 on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

I bring this up not to disrespect J. Cole, an impressive, evolving artist, or the Chainsmokers, the pop-electronic duo who are the big dance-music act on the bill and massively popular at the moment. (Though, on second thought, I do want to disrespect the Chainsmokers, but that's a discussion for another time.)

And evidence of rock-and-roll relevance will be apparent at Made in America, too. It's just on the undercard. You'll have to seek the bands out on the side stages.  There's galvanic, politically minded Providence, R.I., punks Downtown Boys, but most are Philadelphians, with the local 215 scene well represented by Beach Slang, Mannequin Pussy, and Queen of Jeans. The names of bands able to deliver a rock-and-roll transfusion are listed there on the poster. You just have to read the fine print to find them.