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Rock/Metal Artists Who Built The Alternative TikTok Culture

Alt/goth content creators are bringing back classic artists in the best way possible

Rolling Stone India Jun 03, 2021

Alice Cooper. Photo: Jenny-Risher

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When we think of Gen Z on TikTok and now Instagram Reels, we are thrown back to dance trends on Doja Cat’s “Say So” and Aurora’s “Runaway.” But there’s more than just mainstream music on these bite-sized video format platforms. Subcultures have formed like never before, and every teenager falls into one or the other – or even many if you like experimenting. Primarily defined by their fashion choices, these subcultures are gradually dividing the world up into a big fictional American High School.

We look at the alt/goth subculture and how it’s bringing back memories from the MySpace era for millennials by revisiting classic rock, metal, and punk artists and bands. To many’s surprise, today’s teens have made these sounds their own, even if only for 30 seconds. Here are a few of Gen Z’s favorites:

Alice Cooper

Spending more than half a century in the industry, Alice Cooper is just being discovered by Gen Z. The American rock artist’s eccentric approach to rock has wooed the bite-sized video creators with his 1971 coming-of-age anthem “I’m Eighteen” and 1989 hard-rock hit “Poison.” 

Ozzy Osbourne 

Ozzy Osbourne. Photo: www.focka.com.br | Daniel Zappe/CC BY-ND 2.0

The Prince of Darkness and Black Sabbath frontman released his twelfth studio album Ordinary Man last year in 2020, but it’s his hits from the Seventies and Eighties that are doing rounds online. Listen to “Crazy Train,” “I Don’t Wanna Stop” and “Let Me Hear You Scream” for a hearty dose of Ozzy Osbourne. 

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Mr. Fingers

Mr. Fingers. Photo: Merlijn Hoek/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Pioneering in the Eighties’ Chicago House music, Larry Heard is an American DJ and musician whose most common alias is Mr. Fingers. His 1989 song “The Juice/Mystery of Love” shot to fame among Gen Z after the TikTok user and Youtuber Johnny Sibilly sampled the melody for his TikTok song “Hit It.” 


Slipknot. Photo: M. Shawn Crahan

One of the most prominent bands in metal over the last two decades, Slipknot is making its way through the playlists of alt TikTokers and Reelers. Although the nine-member juggernaut’s music floods Spotify’s TikTok playlists, “Duality,” “Left Behind” and “All Hope is Gone” are some of the favorites. 

The Clash 

The Clash’s Mick Jones. Photo: John Joe Coffey/CC BY 2.0

This English punk-rock band was one of the most prominent figures of the budding British punk and post-punk wave in the Seventies and were contemporaries to Sex Pistols and The Ramones. “Rock The Casbah,” released in 1982, is one of their most popular punk songs nowadays. 

Billy Joel

Billy Joel. Photo: slgckgc/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

The “Piano Man” gave us pop hits like “We Didn’t Start The Fire,” which sparked a rebellious flame in each of our hearts. But the alternative subculture is currently going gaga over the jazz-rock fusion of “Zanzibar” and the pop-rock flavored tune “My Life,” both from his 1978 album 52nd Street.

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