The Purists Are Furious

Today, the lines separating music genres are increasingly blurred, and opinions are divided.



CASE STUDY

Now more than ever, artists aren't making music to fit a specific sound or genre, they're just making the kind of music they want to make.


In a recent interview with Complex Magazine, R&B singer Giveon touched on the debates around the current state of the genre and where it is headed. For the past few years, discussions about the way R&B has evolved has led to polarization, with Boyz II Men's Shawn Stockman declaring on Twitter that "R&B has lost their identity." Giveon gave his own take on the topic by saying the following:


"There's R&B purists who are very protective of the genre. So they're governing it, but that could backfire, because you start to limit the genre. I think people also need to realize that making music is a form of expression. People aren’t making music to honor a community or a genre, really." - Giveon

What Giveon is saying here isn't rare, and it doesn't only go for R&B music. Now more than ever, artists aren't making music to fit a specific sound or genre, they're just making

Giveon for Vogue Magazine, 2020

the kind of music they want to make. Some of the most successful and innovative pieces in music have come from eclectic genre-bending and pushing the boundaries of what is expected, but trying to place artists into boxes can give the idea that genres are fixed and rigid. When trying to put a label onto an artist's sound today, you can end up with a jumbled mess of genre titles hyphenated together (popular group Gorillaz has been described as "rap-rock-smooth funk-world-electronica). And if what you're left with still doesn't quite match with what you"re looking at, stapling "new age" onto the beginning of it usually does the trick. These attempts to label today's artists and place them into boxes can hinder them, and are often clumsy at best.



ARTIST PUSHBACK


Criticism of genres and complaints about being categorized from artists aren't rare in the industry by any means. After his acceptance speech for Best Rap Album at the 2020 Grammy awards, Tyler, The Creator revealed backstage that he took the categorization of his album Igor in the rap category as a "backhanded compliment."

"It sucks that whenever we — and I mean guys that look like me — do anything that's genre-bending or that's anything they always put it in a rap or urban category. I don't like that 'urban' word — it's just a politically correct way to say the n-word to me." - Tyler, The Creator

Part of the reason why artists try to resist being categorized more and more is to stay in creative control. As you move from the underground scene into the main

6LACK

stream, things get increasingly structured and bureaucratic, and navigating all of it can end up taking up more and more of your time over actually making music. This is why artists are pushing back in an attempt to break the mold and not give into a formulaic system, something that artist R&B icon 6LACK touches on in his song Alone/EA6. In the intro of this song, a vocal sample plays of 6LACK expressing his desire to stay in control and define his music for himself.


"Cause I've been told a couple times like, 'Hey, do this shit man, do that,' And I'm like man, I don't want, I don't want that for me man. I understand y'all got your vision and y'all got your formula but that shit don't work for me man. Cause if I do it once and it pop, I'ma have to keep doing that shit over and over again." - 6LACK

THE BOTTOM LINE


From hyper-pop to the emergence of Brooklyn drill, new in-between styles and genres are constantly popping up all over the internet and cementing their influence in the music industry. Today, artists frequently complain about being put into boxes, and many of them have expressed that the hardest question that they get asked is simply "what kind of music do you make?" Music is seeing a new generation of artists who aren't concerned with making music to fit a specific sound, and the lines separating genres are increasingly blurred as a result.

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