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Economy

How Heavy Metal Tracks the Wealth of Nations

This music of disillusion and despair is, strangely, biggest in countries with very high quality of life. 
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AP Photo/Alik Keplicz

Popular music styles are often closely connected to the social situations where they first began. Rock 'n' roll grew out of the heady culture of American cities following the Great Migration and World War II, as formerly rural blacks brought rapidly evolving jazz and rhythm and blues into cities. Decades later, the disinvested inner cities of 1980s America helped foster the rap and hip hop that we listen to today.

Heavy metal is a strange case, then. The music sprouted originally from working-class kids in economically ravaged, deindustrialized places like Birmingham, England. Even today, it seems to be most popular among disadvantaged, alienated, working-class kids.