In the past few months, there has been plenty of controversy surrounding the release of Lil Nas X’s song Old Town Road. This part country part rap song made it onto the Billboard Country Charts before being unceremoniously kicked off for not being country enough. This struck people as strange, as the only thing that seemed to not be “country” was the artist and not the song. In other words, some believe that there was a hint of racism at play.
Now, if most singers on the country charts would look into their ancestry, they’d probably find some surprises about themselves – and if you want to know more about your ancestry, find a good DNA test kit according to BestOnlineReviews.com.
However, if we put ethnicity, culture, and nationality aside, what really defines a genre of music?
The times they are a’changing
This question was a lot easier to answer in the past. A few decades ago, music genres remained quite insular for a number of reasons, one of which was the separation of different cultures. Another reason, though, is that music wasn’t nearly as accessible as it is today. The entire history of recorded music is relatively recent and for a long time people only listened to what they knew they would like.
Think about it. If you had to buy a vinyl record in order just to listen to an album, you would be careful about it. Over the last few years, everything has changed. All you need is a streaming subscription (or even just YouTube) and you can listen to anything that piques your interest.
While you may know that you love rock, you can listen to Kendrick Lamar to see if you like him or give Katy Perry a shot. Alternatively, you can listen to playlists curated to discover artists you might like.
Musicians are therefore starting to make music that is influenced by a number of genres, which leads to a world in which the separation isn’t as black and white as it was before.
It’s all about intention
That said, genres still very much exist and many bands will tell you exactly which genre they identify as. The reality is that this is what tends to matter. The intention can make more difference than the music itself. In other words, if Slipknot release an album with a few lighter, more pop-based songs, they do not suddenly become a pop band.
Intention matters so much because genre is often defined by a shared feeling. Metal fans and musicians have something in common, as do pop fans, and rap fans, and country fans. So when Slipknot release a poppy song, there’s more than a hint of cynicism, even if the uninitiated may not hear it. And when a pop artist releases a track in which they rap better than an actual rapper, there is a novelty to the fact that they’re rapping.
The topic of genre is more complex than it used to be. Ultimately, the truth is that what matters is how musicians and fans see the music.