Having been an avid music fan for at least 15 years now, I've noticed how the music magazine Rolling Stone has become more and more insignificant over the years. When you read about the music scene in the 60's and 70's, you hear of bands admitting that a review in Rolling Stone could either make or break the band. The magazine was really 'that' powerful. Rolling Stone's focus during that time was strictly on the music scene and on discovering new bands. If we fast forward to Rolling Stone today, it appears that current pop culture and the whole teen beat has taken hold of the magazine. Over the past few years, all you seem to see is cover stories on insignificant artists (insignificant=the artists likely don't write their music, sell massive amounts of albums, and are popular on the radio) such as Justin Timberlake, Christina Aquilera, P-Diddy, and emo bands such as Fall Out Boy. You rarely see Rolling Stone attempt to champion new bands except maybe once or twice a year (and most of the time, these bands are well known to the indie music public). Rolling Stone has also reduced their album review section to the last few pages of the magazine. Reviews are not very detailed and are limited to a paragraph or less. One or two albums are highlighted and are given a page of review (most of the albums highlighted are by well known, established artists).
I'm also amazed at how political Rolling Stone has become. Though I will admit, in the past the magazine was focused on the Vietnam conflict and what the artists thought about it. Lennon and Yoko were featured on many covers protesting the Vietnam conflict, but the focus on the magazine was still heavily music focused. Today, Rolling Stone always dedicates about a quarter of the magazine to bashing the Bush administration and attempting to champion unpopular topics such as gay/lesbian rights, the legalization of a variety of dangerous drugs, and attempting to put Christianity in a negative light. They invite controversial celebs such as JFK Jr., liberal university professors, and Hollywood types to write articles that champion the unpopular topics listed above.
The objectivity of the music reviewers also appears to have been easily influenced over the years. You can almost put your money on the fact that the senior staff reviewers will give albums by high profile senior artists (such as Dylan, Springsteen, Rolling Stones, Green Day, etc) glowing reviews (4 to 5 stars). You can also be sure that if a band is extremely political (e.g. Neil Young) that the review staff will champion the album. When you read the reviews, it's interesting to see that the reviewers typically get on their own soap boxes to express their own political/social views...while totally ignoring the merits or non-merits of the musician's album.
I know that some people may not agree with my analysis of the state of Rolling Stone magazine, but it's obvious that the quality of the magazine has declined over the past two decades. If you want a quality music magazine that embodies the music centered focus and quality that Rolling Stone strove for in the 60's/70's, I would suggest that you turn your attention to the British magazine called Mojo.
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