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Grammys Preview: Nirvana's 'Nevermind' and the Death of Guy Rock

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Music's role isn't limited to that of a mood enhancer. Morrissey wouldn't have a career and Bill Withers' Ain't No Sunshine wouldn't exist if that were the case. But neither the stadium-sized posturing of low-grade lechers dreaming of being the next Robert Plant nor the backwards-capped growling of Fred Dursts in training have broad-reaching appeal these days. Even would-be Mick Jaggers tend to sound more like Adam Levine of Maroon 5.

That's ultimately the key lesson from Nirvana and Smells Like Teen Spirit : It changed music and, more specifically, rock music by making "rock" sound nothing like Nirvana. The music industry has long since rid itself of its sour post-grunge aftertaste and made a very poppy world amenable to rock again. According to Nielsen, rock was the leading genre last year, with 324 million tracks sold, more than the 303 million pop tracks sold during the same span.

Adele's 21 may be the closest the digital music world got to a consensus in 2012, but the fact that roots-rock acts such as Mumford & Sons, the Lumineers and Of Monsters And Men accounted for four of the Top 10 downloaded albums last year is proof rock isn't out of the mix. It's just mellowed out a little bit and let more people into the show.

-- Written by Jason Notte in Portland, Ore.

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