op-ed: A Great Genre-less Future but Not A Utopia

by Dan O

In no way should we desire a model of making music. Every artist will have to be valued  based on a mixture of criteria that works for them.

–ME

When I was growing up we were born hunters thumbing through sections of the record store. Looking at the people in the other sections and snickering. Everyone said they loved all kinds of music but no one actually did. Everyone had a beating heart whether it was Motorhead or KRS-One. Not saying multi-genre musical ears weren’t there just that they were not the norm.

Things are entirely different now. When I first logged into streaming I was overwhelmed. I can listen to anything? I made special playlists and updated them daily. I kept track of albums from vastly different genres I could just toss together at my whim. At least two waves of musical minds have come up under this reality. For the folks ten years younger or more genres seem ludicrous and lots of old heads (love you Alaska Atoms) have always maintained they were that or worse; Prisons, undernourished project housing for your art.

Drake put out a dance album, Namir Blade says don’t call him anything but an artist. Some rock bands do R &B now or rappers rock and so on and so on. This is very obviously a good thing overall. We are going to get new flavors of music that will grow bright and wonderous for us. I just have some concerns, please see below:

  1. Make sure you are not being manipulated-When an artist dives headfirst into a new genre it could be out of authentic love/respect for that music. It could be a form of music they’ve always loved alongside the one they are known for OR it could be a marketing move. The customer base you’ve built is limited and if your not able to grow it doing what you are doing, leaping over to another more popular style can open things up financially. This has always been a thing. How can you tell the difference? If you care about the art and artist follow them and listen to interviews. Who did they work with? How long have they been doing this? When retired running back Adrian Foster dropped his first rap album in 2018 under the name Bobby Feeno (Flamingo & Koval) I sucked my teeth at it. When I pressed play it was apparent how seriously he took it. It’s a good album. So I listened to him discuss it on his podcast and found out he had secretly been rapping under the name his entire NFL career. The album was a culmination not a tourist snapping photos.
  2. Everybody isn’t good at everything-The false renaissance critic is a tragic player in the modern world. The music reviewer who now reviews pro wrestling, loudly kicking knowledge about cookbooks, and new phones. Just because you are good at something does not make you as good at other things as people who dedicate themselves to it. Some of the brushback against Drake’s Honestly, Nevermind album is simply….I already have better dance music. Not because Drake is bad but because Drake has never made a dance album before which puts his execution below career experts who excel at it. We need it all, we need hardcore specialists who spend their lives defining sounds. We need people comfortable mixing influences but just because your experimenting doesn’t mean the album is better and doesn’t mean you are a double or triple threat. You can’t threaten until you show and prove.
  3. Valuation is key– so let me give you an example: artist A does one kind of music could be hardcore rap could be pop punk but they do nothing but that and do it GREAT. Artist B is good at three very different kinds of music and continually mixes them in unique ways to make albums that are interesting. While artist A is elite at something and B is not, we value the experimentation of B and hope that artist B can become elite at their unique mixture. Artist A and B are equally valuable to my ear. I don’t want a world full of just A or B. In no way should we desire a model of making music. Every artist will have to be valued  based on a mixture of criteria that works for them. Artist A can’t devalued for not experimenting as long as artist B isn’t devalued for not being elite at any specific form. Our critical ear must be like water (BRUCE LEE FOREVER) and take the shape it needs to on each listen. I’m up for it. 

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