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The Great Genre Shuffle

By Chris Pickett & Tara Maroney
On March 28, 2005

There seems to be a musical genre conspiracy going on. Music stores offer the country, classical and rap section and then they lump together rock, pop and R&B. Clearly no one likes to be a victim of labels, but with purevolume.com and other music web sites offering their musical listeners well over 20 categories of music. Genres have lost their applicability - either these tag names are too vague or too specific.

The ambiguous rock, pop and R&B section also holds all the other genres to, making it the 57 flavors of music, so unless you're looking for the "pure" genres, you're in the rock/pop/R&B section hoping to find your favorite artist.

Anyone who signed on to MSN this week was greeted by an ugly man with a mullet. This is apparently a mutated music genre, "music for mullet lovers." This is also a clear sign that it has gone too far. Honestly, who loves mullets enough to name a musical category after the so-called Mississippi neck-warmer?

The Mullet Lovers mix includes songs from former aficionados of the hairstyle such as Billy Ray Cyrus, Michael Bolton, David Bowie, U2, Kiss, Poison and Foreigner, among others. Apparently if you don't have a mullet you can't join their club, which is terribly unfortunate.

In many ways music genres are becoming more and more about fitting into a secret club or society. Either you're an indie kid or you're not, or you're an emo kid and you're trying to hide your wristbands and thick glasses. Its all okay, it is all about fitting in. Music is where many people find their way. Music is the soundtrack of our lives, so it is no wonder we want to associate with others who are in the same genre, either through dress or through personality.

One of the most revolting newer genre names is "emo." Is it possible to come across any song that does not deal with emotion? Even Creed has some contrived emotion stored up within their God-forsaken music. With this in mind, the question of whether any music exists that does not possess some sort of emotion - the genre of stoicimo, if you will - is asked repeatedly. Saying there is emotion involved with music is analogous to saying there is breathing involved with living.

Pop music is similarly despicable as a genre name. Whatever is popular to the masses - whether it is rap, punk, or alternative - can be labeled as "pop." What a vast category the records have created for the listener.

People are trying so desperately to avoid categories that they're creating new ones, a strange logic, no doubt, but it seems to be the most recent trend.

Genres are now converging from emo and scream to screamo ... creative isn't it? But what does that really mean to musicians and music consumers? Nothing. It is just an overly specific genre with an interesting name that breeds repetitive elements. As the line blurs between hard rock and punk, pop music and punk and whatever genre the music fan can conjure up within his/her head, it appears evident the focus is on the image rather than the music.

Of course this genre convergence is nothing new. Most music fans can recall the nauseating era of rap/metal where Fred Durst and his devilish minions butchered the music scene with whiny lyrics as a side order to their hard image. What an extreme paradox. Good riddance.

This "science" of genre naming is taking a toll on machines as well. All music programs are offering to categorize the listener's music even when a band that applies to more than one genre comes along causing the whole system to fall apart.

What happens when you cannot place a band into a specific genre? You might encounter questions like, "Say, the Smashing Pumpkins sure are emotional!" or "Gosh, the Screaming Trees-are they screamo?" When these come to mind that is when you need to stop reading about the band and listen!

At this point, the music fan's duty as a listener is very frustrating. With radio stations having a limited play list, the fan must pick up music magazines and visit certain websites highlighting music to find something original. The problem appears when bands are mislabeled as, for example, emo. If the reader is anti-emo, this could deter him from the band before having the chance to listen and determine the band's qualities personally.

Good luck in finding your own genre and, if you find/invent the lost genre of stoicimo, spread the word.

Pick's Pick: Creeper Lagoon, "Take Back the Universe and Give Me Yesterday"Tara's Pick: Anberlin, "Never Take Friendship Personal"


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