What's in a genre?
How would you define your favourite musical genre? What makes pop, pop? What makes country, country?
More and more we are seeing a blurring of the lines that used to keep rowdy rockstars separated from just as rowdy rappers, and prevent fisticuffs breaking out over who got cow muck on the soul singers’ suits, as a sheepish Blake Shelton guiltily averts his eyes in the country section.
Nowadays, Hip Hop’s Kanye West can claim from the Glastonbury stage that he is the ‘Greatest rockstar on the planet’. Well, I’m not sure he strictly can claim it, if we’re talking conceptually, but credit to him he went ahead and did it anyway.
And on iTunes (yes, call me old-fashioned, but I’m still standing firm against the streaming revolution), the genre R&B/Soul seems to be far more prominent than R&B or Soul on its own. Even our own music curators can’t seem to figure out this whole genre business. And does Taylor Swift still really make ‘country’ music? I mean, her songs are the closest I can get to finding a pure and simple definition of ‘pop’. Yet her 2014 album, 1989, which was full of rural romances and small-town love stories, such as in the song Welcome to New York, was classified as ‘country.’ It’s as though the editors have forgotten what a Genre even is anymore, taking it to be some little-known French village, or a neo-Americanism meaning ‘Generational Replica.’
But perhaps this is a good thing. Maybe the music execs have realised that fixed genres are an anachronism, a relic in this era of albums continuing to be edited after they’ve been released (Kanye’s TLOP) and playlists instead of albums (Drake’s More Life). Perhaps the agents and managers are worried about upsetting some human rights movement by pigeonholing their musicians into stereotypical categories. Katy Perry, of course, would have every right to call herself a rapper, just as Lil Wayne shouldn’t feel there is anything stopping him from being deemed a classical chorister.
And why stop there? Who should be so narrow-minded as to say that Donald Trump can’t be President of the United States, British Prime Minister and the President of France, as well as fulfilling a side role as King of Thailand? Who says Mo Farah isn’t eligible for America’s Next Top Female Model? How could anyone be so bigoted as to suggest that circles can’t be called squares?
So, it is as I listen to world famous rapper Travis Scott professing ‘I am everything except a rapper’, that I seal the envelope containing my application to be the World’s Best 100-year-old Greek Bison.
You won’t catch me being called a Generational Replica.
Yours sincerely, but not too seriously,
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Hello! I'm currently studying Philosophy & Theology at Oxford University, UK. Having always loved writing and music in equal measure, and having always hated decision-making, I figured hey, why do I need to choose between the two?