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 Are rap-rock and nü-metal over? ...

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 "That's why I left Limp Bizkit.
I smelled it then." ...

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 Crazy Town tank, Kid Rock goes country and Bizkit get ready to pull a Madonna ...

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The mainstream appears to tire of trends every three or four years. Rap-rock and nü-metal's grip on the masses lasted for about as long as that of grunge, alternative, teen pop and boy bands. The novelty wears off when the music reaches a saturation point.

"Nothing lasts forever," Fischer said. "Mainstream business is geared toward moving units. [Labels] jump from trend to trend looking for where the sales are. They're thinking, 'Oh, let's imitate that band that sold well for another label last year, so we can have one too.' And they'll beat it to death."

Music made during the peak of a trend can also tend to sound dated. People who thought Crazy Town's mega-hit "Butterfly" was the soundtrack to their summer of 2001 didn't want the band back around the following year. Without a hit single, Crazy Town's Darkhorse has sold less than 60,000 copies, or four percent of The Gift of Game's 1.5 million in sales.

Wes Borland says that if his old band doesn't move forward, it'll suffer the same fate. "A lot of the Limp Bizkit stuff is great, but it had its time period and now it's time to let it go," Borland said. "Just like you can't race the same horse over and over again. It's going to get tired and die."

Kid Rock is one versatile jockey, then. He helped ignite the rap-rock genre with 1998's Devil Without a Cause and pimped it through 2000 with the retrospective The History of Rock. He returned in late 2001 with Cocky, whose first single, "Forever," was quintessential Kid Rock in the vain of "Bawitdaba" and "American Bad Ass." But it wasn't the hit his previous singles had been.

  Kid Rock
featuring Sheryl Crow

So Kid Rock adapted. Grounded in the country music strain displayed on Devil's "Only God Knows Why," Cocky's fourth single, "Picture," a duet with Allison Moorer (Sheryl Crow on the album and video), has become a crossover hit at radio and significantly boosted Cocky's sales in the last few weeks.

Kid Rock wasn't the only artist to break during the peak of rap-rock and nü-metal and find further success by changing things up. On their 2001 LP, Every Six Seconds, Saliva were the epitome of rap-rock. The 2002 follow-up, Back Into Your System, is far less rap-oriented, and it's all-rock single "Always" is among the first rock-radio hits of 2003. In 10 weeks, the album has averaged sales of 30,000 copies per week.

Another cause for nü-metal and rap-rock's slip from the spotlight could be a diluted talent pool caused by so many similar-sounding bands. American Head Charge, Primer 55, Adema, Cold, the Union Underground, Dope, Apartment 26, Hed (Planet Earth) and Skrape — all of whom released albums between 2000-2001 — left more of a collective impression than individual ones.

"What was innovative and sounded different a year and a half or two years ago is suddenly everywhere, because all the major labels have jumped on the bandwagon," musicologist Fischer said. "Once it gets to the point where every third record pushed to radio stations sounds similar, the labels make an effort to be different because [the musical style has run its course]. That's one of the things that can put the brakes on a trend."

  System of a Down
While mainstream audiences may have lost interest in sound-alike nü-metal acts, distinctive bands such as System of a Down found a place at radio in 2002 and have the album sales of both Toxicity and Steal This Album! to show for it. Being able to sustain a career means being able to keep the music moving forward for the fans, and that might be easier without the pressure to fit in.

"In some cases, not being the trend of the day gives those musicians more freedom to stretch," Fischer said. "The artist can express themselves a little bit more, and the fans who weren't just the trendy fans, those who really like the music, will pay attention to it."

Maintaining the balance of being innovative while not overstepping the audience is an issue that Limp Bizkit face as they prep their new album. The first LP the group is recording without founding guitarist Wes Borland, it's seen by some as the make-or-break album for the band. For Less Is More to pass the test, it needs to transcend the past and set a direction for the future. And if frontman Fred Durst's predictions are to be taken literally, get ready for a Limp Bizkit the likes of which we've never seen.

"The fact that I am sick of this new rock inspired me to reinvent it and be one of the pioneers," Durst said. "[This is] a stepping stone for our genre, [and we want] to really help contribute to it in a positive way, the same way we contributed to it back in the day. It's time to reinvent and pull a Madonna on everybody."

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