For the First Time Ever, No New Rock Albums Made Billboard’s Year-End 200 Chart

People have been declaring rock dead for decades now, but should fans actually be worried?

A shopper flipping through vinyl records at a record store
2021 was a rough year for new rock albums.
Getty Images

Billboard just released its annual year-end 200 chart, which reflects the most purchased and streamed albums of the year. For the first time in its history, not a single new rock or metal album cracked the Top 200.

The Billboard 200 (which dates back to 1992) is calculated by combining the year’s physical and digital sales for an album, as well as its streaming numbers. As Loudwire points out, the newest rock album on the 2021 edition of the chart is Machine Gun Kelly’s 2020 album Tickets to My Downfall, which is ranked at No. 24 on the chart, just one notch below Queen’s 1981 Greatest Hits. (At No. 23, that Queen compilation is the highest-ranking rock record on the chart.)

Other rock entries on this year’s chart include Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 album Rumours (No. 34), Journey’s 1988 Greatest Hits compilation (No. 66), AC/DC’s 1980 album Back in Black (No. 68), Nirvana’s 1991 classic Nevermind (No. 97) and Metallica’s Black Album (No. 99).

While not a single 2021 rock album making the year-end chart is perhaps a little alarming, it shouldn’t be too surprising. Last year, just two new rock records made the cut, the aforementioned Machine Gun Kelly album and Ozzy Osbourne’s Ordinary Man, which barely snuck in at No. 199. Rock music has steadily been slipping out of the mainstream for decades now, but should fans of the genre be worried?

Probably not. Rock isn’t dead — it’s just evolving. It’s become more of a niche genre of late, but that hardly means there aren’t still countless bands making interesting, engaging rock music worth your attention. You just have to try a little harder to seek them out. And the continued presence of artists like Queen and Fleetwood Mac on the year-end 200 chart show that there’s still clearly a market for this kind of music as new generations get acquainted with it. (Perhaps instead of wondering whether rock is dead, we should be impressed by the fact that 30 years after Freddie Mercury’s death, only 22 other albums — rock, pop or otherwise — outsold Queen’s Greatest Hits.)

Far more alarming than the lack of new rock records on the chart is what album topped it: that’d be Dangerous: The Double Album by Morgan Wallen, of “saying the n-word on camera” fame.

The InsideHook Newsletter.

News, advice and insights for the most interesting person in the room.