By Clara Blankenship
Looking at my 2021 Wrapped Spotify information, I was perplexed when I saw that my top genres didn’t seem to fit the music I listened to, leading me to ponder how they determine the genres of each artist, and what each genre’s defining features are in the first place.
Genre is something often left unquestioned. We continue to add more to compensate for the abundance of innovative projects, but can we truly narrow down all music into distinctive categories?
As I browse through fresh music, I find it more difficult than ever to classify albums into distinct genres. With this in mind, a few recently released projects and their ability to transcend genre has led me to the conclusion that the pressure to define music is antithetical to the creation of abstract, ever-changing art.
Ants From Up There by Black Country, New Road, a currently trending album in music spheres of TikTok, was a completely surprising listen. I had seen videos reviewing the album and labeling the genre before listening, setting an expectation for the album. I honestly didn’t like it at first.
After a few days, I decided to revisit the album, making a point to let go of the genre definitions I had originally seen, and my listening experience completely changed. I was able to appreciate the eclectic combination of country, mid-west emo, rock, and jazz with an open mind. The striking, vulnerable vocals provide a stark contrast to the surrounding strong country-rock sound. The preconceptions I brought to my first listen of this album greatly inhibited my ability to appreciate art for what it was.
Another recent release by the notoriously genre-less Godspeed You, Black Emperor, solidifies their notable place as a band that consistently withstands genre. Their newest release, G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END!, continues to push boundaries by somehow seamlessly combining rock, synth, jazz, and classical sounds to create a cohesive album.
This album is nearly impossible to classify, and that inability makes it truly special. An incredible album no longer needs to be recognized through a rigid lens to hold value and looking at it through a genre definition constricts the listener’s ability to appreciate novelty.
Like the previous bands, Animal Collective’s new album Time Skills shows that, once again, simple genre labels cannot truly express the innovations that go into creating a unique listening experience. The complex rhythms and percussion make its assigned term “indie” seem underwhelming and unrepresentative. The indie genre has grown significantly to encompass so many distinct sounds, leading to a question of if it is still a useful classification.
By far the most underground on this list is LP1 by Godfree. The genre this EP is classified as is far away from my usual taste, so I went into my listen very skeptical. However, this underrated band with less than 100 monthly Spotify listeners delivers a project that is unique at every turn. It features house, techno, Latin, hip hop, synth-pop, and countless other subgenres that merge into a groovy, entrancing sound.
Genre boundaries often constrict our own personal music explorations. If I had never chosen to look past its genre label, LP1 would’ve completely passed me by. With music streaming apps like Spotify relying on genres to formulate individual algorithms, often a listener is suggested music that mirrors their preferences, hindering the ability to discover inventive projects that expand the concept of what music should traditionally be.
The beauty of music is its capacity for uniqueness and attempting to categorize it creates unnecessary boundaries for artists and listeners. As music expands and technology improves, it will become more and more challenging to define it. Moving forward, it is integral for listeners and the music industry to embrace the enigmatic quality of music so artists can be encouraged to continue innovating and creating with freedom.
Written by: ktsw admin