1996 in Music: A Completely Pointless Analysis of Old Polling Data
Looking back at a time when everyone was mad at Courtney Love.
In the year 2036, Rae Sremmurd will be approaching their 40s and Donald Trump will be dead. We'll all be old enough to tell our children about Kanye West, Twitter, and what life was like before the sky turned green and toxin-riddled human flesh became our only source of sustenance. That album by The 1975 that people keep insisting was good? That'll be a long forgotten relic, friends.
As Noisey's definitive and objectively good list of soundtracks to the first chapter of Revelations goes up, there's no better time to remember our cultural forbears and consider the importance of pop culture past. What was life like back in 1996? Who exactly was considered important? What was a James Taylor?
To answer these important questions, I turned to polling data, the very same thing that has driven our society towards a blood-thirsty dystopia over the past few months. The findings were troubling, sometimes shocking, and really fucking harsh on Courtney Love.
We start off, innocuously enough, with this image, tweeted out yesterday by PEW researcher Mike Barthel. We find that 20 in every 100 Americans, given the choice, would have Garth Brooks play at their party.
There are a number of troubling issues here. First off, Garth Brooks' stage show would fuck your living room up so fast that you'd need a bullish, Bill Clinton-led economy to fund its repairs. Second, neither Hootie and the Blowfish nor James Taylor count as party music. Also, only nine in every 100 Americans would look Frank Sinatra in his gorgeous blue eyes and ask him to headline their function.
The take-away, though, appears to be a disdain for grunge and its aftershocks. Only a year on from the release of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, three percent of Americans would want big bald Billy Corgan at their party; one solitary person in every hundred would want Courtney Love in their home.
The picture becomes bleaker still for Corgan and Love when we pull up the next question from the poll:
Banning artists? How horribly dark. Congratulations to the 22 percent of people who said that they would choose not to straight-up outlaw a musician, but shame upon the 4 percent who wanted to see Cypress Hill disappear. Sure, this era was the peak of Tipper Gore's anti-fun stance on music; she was still the Second Lady. But goddamnit, you literally cannot outlaw The Rolling Stones, it only makes them stronger.
Think, too, about the fact that Hole were on a hiatus when this poll was conducted. 13 percent of people wanted an inactive band to be made illegal purely because Courtney Love was a part of it. Maybe people just really didn't like Courtney Love.
Yeah, people really didn't like Courtney Love. Perhaps this is because 23 percent of people were still reeling:
Either way, Love had unfairly become something of a pariah by 1996. And, with Love, went rock music itself.
Two in every three Americans in 1996 thought that rock music had either a "somewhat negative" or "very negative" impact on "civility." I feel like this wouldn't have been such an issue if the public would have known that The Smashing Pumpkins were two years away from releasing Adore and that, thousands of miles away in South Africa, Seether were about to form. Rock music would do what it could to destroy itself; Tipper Gore needn't have worried.
The reassuring part of all this is our final poll. With people wishing to ban Courtney Love, with Garth Brooks at his popular peak, it's reassuring to know that 33 percent of Americans thought smoking weed made teenage sex "much more likely":
Rock music was dying; America was grappling with itself, hammering out an identity crisis; everyone was turning on Courtney Love. In the midst of a prosperous decade, America saw its musicians as a genuine threat to civility.
But weed still got kids laid. Take heart.
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