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When trying to describe the music you listen to, it would be nice if genre-labels were specific enough to get the job done. Some are pretty good – if you say you listen to drum ‘n bass, power metal, or country, people will know what you’re talking about. Others are not so useful.

Punk is the first one I have a problem with. Punk has been around for a long time, and what I hear called “punk” today sounds nothing like the punk rock of the 70’s or 80’s. It’s a genre that really needs to be labelled by decade. I don’t really have much to say on the matter, because I am not a big punk fan, but if you can put The Clash, Antiflag, Blink-182 and Rise Against under the same tag, it clearly needs to be diversified. They don’t sound the same. Saying “I listen to 90’s punk” means more.

Emo is another weird one. Not only has it been around for a while, it has gone through an even more dramatic change than punk has. An example of what emo was originally is Rites of Spring (which is a pretty interesting band, by the way). Today, emo is defined by bands like My Chemical Romance and Hawthorne Heights. If you take the word emo out of the equation, we’ve gone from hardcore 80’s punk to pop-punk. You can’t call them the same thing without insulting one or the other (hint, you would be insulting 80’s punk). Pop punk bands make it so that people who like old emo have to justify their taste. You can thank the mainstream media for that.

Dubstep is one that has been driving me crazy the past few months. In a previous article, I pointed out that there are a lot of artists that are labelled/label themselves as dubstep, but do not employ any of the characteristic sounds that people recognize as dubstep. Future garage/ambient/downtempo seem to me to be better options than pigeonholing yourself with the wobble-idiots. They can call themselves dubstep if they want, but it makes it very hard to describe them via the genre tag – they just don’t fit in. Compare Phaeleh to Skrillex. I’d say Skillrex is dubstep, and Phaeleh isn’t, at this point. Dubstep is too new to bother with things like “90’s dubstep.” It just makes sense for either the wobble dubstep to get a new name, or the “dark” dubstep to do so.

There are, of course, plenty of other overly-broad genres, like “progressive” or “rock,” but these three are the ones that have been pissing me off the most recently. It’s not even a matter of whether the music you like is good. I just want people to be more specific when they say something such as “I like punk,” because it used to mean something, and it’s nice for that to be understood.

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6 thoughts on “Three genres that need a name change

  1. Good article. I think record execs like buzzwords so that when the next big thing comes out they can just group them all into one barrel and use a single word to market them all. They end up making more money that way. They did exactly that with emo. Basically any music rock music that was considered even slightly emotional was branded emo. Hell any pop-punk band, even Tupac Shakur were branded emo. (Not joking about Tupac). The same things happened with dubstep. None of the music branded dubstep today resembles anything of what it formerly was. In fact most dont even fit the definition. Originally the ‘dub’ part was an aestetic influenced by dub reggae much the same way ‘electro’ was an aestetic or flavor that could be applied to house music. Dub reggae basically meant high pass filters, thick reverb and tons of delay (think Burial) to give it an almost gloomy feel.Similarly the ‘step’ part simply referred to a 2 step garage beat. (again think Burial) The half-step thing didnt come till later – and even then it wasnt a genre specific. In fact alot of producers are trying to go back to basics with dubstep in order to distance themselves from it.To be honest the reason why such narrow subbands of a particular genre seem to take off while the rest falter is simply a matter of popular taste and demographics. Todays dubstep simply caters for what every teenage boy and girl wants to listen to – the flavor of the month, electronic music – and the grit and masculinity of good old fashioned rock music, an American staple.And since American tastes tend to influence the entire world we end up having a radio full of shitty music.

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  2. Yeah, I happen to think Americans make a habit of ruining electronic music that we steal from Europe. I actually like all the genres that preceded dubstep, but once they became “brostep,” I can’t like the result.

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  3. I dont mind “brostep” per se, so long as its well produced. But after reading your other comment I am kinda inclined to agree with you that it is the fault of us as listeners. Hell people blame McDonalds for the obesity epidemic but to be honest, McDonalds wouldnt exist if everyone was raised a health nut. McDonalds is just meeting the demands of a well ingrained vice – poor eating habits. Similarly the record execs cater for another well ingrained vice – poor listening habits.I mean I got into dubstep around the beginning of last year when it wasnt nearly as popular. I hated it at first but then started to ‘give it a go’ and diversified by listening to all kinds of dubstep from many kinds of artists. And for a time it was good. There was so much variety. There was still the brostep stuff but it wasnt the only kind of dubstep being produced. The around the beginning of this year all you would hear was brostep: Rusko, Doctor P, Flux Pavillion, Datsik, Excision and Skrillex. And considering the first 3 were English and the second two were Canadian you can guess who became the heir to the dubstep throne.Good ol’ American Skrillex. The last couple of months hes all I hear. In fact dubstep cant be mentioned without him in the same sentence. For all intensive purposes Dubstep = Skrillex nowadays. Now as a producer this saddens me two reasons. Firstly it further propels dubstep into brostep territory and secondly it doesnt foster new artists with new and original sounds. Whats the point of making dubstep nowadays when it will forever be compared to how ‘Skrillex-like’ it is. All it will foster is a generation of copy-cat producers.Now I dont hate Skrillex, nor his music. Nor do I hate the record execs who are marketing him. I suppose at the end of the day it is us as the individual listener that decides what we do and dont listen to. But we dont live in Soviet Russia. So I dont think our “poor listening habits” are going to improve anytime soon. But we do have a choice and most of just end up getting an ipod and making our own playlists whilst the rest of humanity tune in to Coast FM to listen to LMFAO on repeat.

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  4. Well, there is some degree to which I will blame the artist, while still not blaming the industry. It’s not like the artists really HAVE to make cookie-cutter music – they just have to if they want to have a record deal. If they cared more about making music and less about making money, music would be better. That just isn’t going to happen, though.

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  5. Yeah but only if they’ve intentionally made cookie-cutter music. Alot of artists dont realise the music they are making is cookie-cutter until after the fact. Just look at Nirvana.

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  6. In Nirvana’s case, I feel as though Cobain HAD to know that all of his songs were sounding the same. Alice in Chains was grunge too, and their songs were a lot better.

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