From Bowie to Miley: How Glam Rock Shaped Music Forever

Words by Francesca Ionescu
Image courtesy of Id Pr

Glam Rock has been described by Robert Palmer as ‘rebelling against the rebellion’, taking rock as an outsider’s music genre and making it, well, glam. The genre started in the 70s, when Britain was in a tense political period, with the escalating Northern Ireland conflict and the economic crisis, a general unpleasant time just after the summer of love. Glam Rock served as an evolution not only for the music industry but also as a way to revolutionize the rock subculture with bright intricate costumes and provocative wear and lyrics.

David Bowie was one of the best examples of the subculture in music, with long straight hair, tight, colorful one-pieces and yet a very serious attitude to his music. Glam rock had a certain amount of sexual freedom to it, flamboyant and exaggerated, and it came with intricate stage work and very high energy choreographs. Musically, Glam overlaps with a lot of different genres, such as art pop, Britpop, or pop rock. The sound was influenced by 1950s rock and roll for its rhythm, and by hard rock for its guitar riffs as well as

Evolving into the 80s while also giving space to the up-and-coming punk scene, Glam Rock crossed slightly into Glam Metal, with American bands such as Bon Jovi reaching mainstream success with ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’. Guns ‘n’ Roses was also added to the genre, admittedly with a much ‘grittier’ sound, far away from Bowie’s bubblegum pop influences. Both Glam Rock and Metal stood out because the sound was catchy and ended up becoming popular with the general public rather than just the members of the subculture, but there is still this element of it not being the same as mainstream pop. The genre has been described as ‘sexual’ and ‘emasculating’ which meant while it was popular and sold mainstream there was still a group of people that would feel more powerful every time these bands got on stage.Glam Rock seems to be making a comeback now through no other than Miley Cyrus. The artist has released her new album Plastic Hearts, and it presents an incredibly different image from her previous work. While Miley kept the provocative nature from her earlier work her sound has become a lot raspier and guitar heavy, with synth-pop and classic rock tones. Her look has also changed to a more glam-rock one, with a lot of leather and very provocative outfits such as her now-iconic ‘Heart of Glass’ mesh outfit. Miley must have taken inspiration from the current social media trends, with platforms such as ‘Tik-Tok’ really strong on the point of individuality, and teens now reviving subcultures that seemed a lot more dormant in the past years. It seems as though the long lockdown has given a lot of people time to explore their style and Glam Rock could become the next style, as glitter, leather and platform shoes have all been big trends, and having a huge popular artist such as Miley changing her sound can introduce people to the music genre too.

For more Miley, read our review of Plastic Hearts here.