When someone asks what kind of music you like people typically answer with a specific genre. Country, pop, rap, indie, alternative, rock, the list goes on. As music has progressed throughout the years, artists have begun to experiment with new sounds and cross genres. But what makes up these genres? Is it the lyrics? The instrumentals? The audience?
Lil Nas X’s just won a Country Music Association Award for “Old Town Road” which has been listed on Billboards Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart, all-genre Hot 100 chart, and was taken off of the country charts for “failing to embrace enough elements of today’s country music.” This song doesn’t fit into any specific genre and it has been controversial on whether or not it belongs in any. It has the southern accent and lyrics that are attributed to country but with instrumentals found in hip-hop and pop songs.
The band Waterparks references this idea in their song “Watch What Happens Next” with the lyrics “Hip hop can do whatever it wants like make country songs and hit number one… We could never do that… they would boo that… It’s a cultural hold-back.” They claim that their fans don’t like it when bands who have been labeled a certain genre start to change their sound. It is a cultural hold back when fans or audiences don’t support artists because music as a whole can’t progress when people are constantly trying to keep it in a box.
Genres are not as black and white as they used to be and it is becoming harder to define exactly what makes each one different from the rest. Traditional genres don’t really apply anymore and putting labels on artists can detract people from good music. If someone already thinks they already have an idea of how the music should sound based on a label that does not really apply to the artist, they might be less likely to listen to it. Christian music often has a stereotype so, calling an artist like Lecrae a Christian rapper would not have the same effect as if he were called a hip-hop artist. Although he is a Christian and he does rap, his music is not what you would typically hear on Christian radio.
Most college-age people grew up listening to their parent’s music which was most likely a mix of rock, classic country, rap, and hip-hop. Now we have any kind of music we want at our fingertips so, it would make sense for us to want music that blends all of these genres together. It’s hard to say what makes a genre a genre today and not trying to put a label on artists will allow them to produce more creative and innovative music.