A lonely voice, wailing to the world: why can't you understand me?
Not only does this describe my attitude toward what I hereby dub SNAG (Sensitive New Age Guy) Rock, it pretty much sums up the message of the genre itself.
In my case, I would like to know why SNAG Rock has proliferated kudzu-style all over the sonic landscape. In the SNAG Rockers' case, they would like to know why their girlfriend dumped them/why they screwed up a good thing/what the meaning of it all might be.
Not familiar with SNAG Rock? Oh, sure you are. Picture an overly hirsute dude (shoulder-length hair and/or five o'clock shadow), age 26-42 (not that they'd admit to anything over 27) wearing jeans and a black t-shirt or some other ensemble that says: my publicist made me wear this outfit; in real life, I am too obsessed with living a life that is true to my deepest self to care. You know the look.
The lead singer is the heart and imaginary soul of the SNAG Rock band. His voice would not exist had Eddie Vedder not been born a decade before him and cleared a path. Oh, Eddie; I'm not blaming you. Do we blame Nick Drake for the career of Duncan Sheik? No. Do we blame Tiffany for the career of Ashlee Simpson? No, we blame Jessica Simpson. And her creepy dad. But I digress.
SNAG Rockers are well-meaning dudes who sing about love and beautiful girls and lost opportunities and all the usual mess, but they insist on doing it at top vocal throttle at all times so we can hear the unchecked emotion fueling this song that is more than a song, it is an expression of internal loss that must find its audience somehow...
The big question is: how is this ClearChannel's fault? I think we can blame it on the Death Star by linking SNAG Rock to the radio format going by the self-canceling name of Hot AC (Adult Contemporary). Hot AC basically means rock music for adults and absolutely no hip-hop. [Question from the audience: Are any black artists allowed on Hot AC? Answer: Yes, Alicia Keys and that guy in the Dave Matthews Band]. Clear Channel and, to be fair, many other radio conglomerates, long ago devised a variety of music formats with which they program their stations. And on Hot AC (and AAA: Adult Album Alternative, a close sibling of Hot AC), you can only play Shawn Colvin's Dawson's Creek song so many times. Cue SNAG Rock. It mitigates the Colvin Effect by applying a little bit of an edge to the playlist. Not much of an edge. Not a razor's edge, for example. More like the edge of a phone book.
SNAG Rock appeals because it looks like it might rock, but it doesn't. It uses a lot of the rock tricks -- loud guitars, crashing drums, big choruses, even a little feedback here and there. In fact, SNAG Rock is to real rock as Veggie Booty is to the produce section at the Berkeley Bowl. It can make you sad.
You may have noticed that I have not mentioned any SNAG Rock bands by name. Nor will I. (Okay, Nickelback. But that's it.) If you have to ask, you'll never know. And what a happy state of affairs that would be... for you. As for me, I will continue to mourn the demise of unformatted radio. And wail, at full lung capacity, to anyone who will listen: why and wherefore SNAG Rock?