November 4, 2015

ALUR | The Spectrum of Genre

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Like most, my tastes in music have shifted dramatically throughout my life. I remember receiving my first CD — the beginning of my navigating through music. I was five at the time and my parents got me Britney Spears’ Baby One More Time, a classic pop album that I’m sure all millenials are more than familiar with.Pg-11-Arts-Brittany-Spears

My dad, a jazz and classic rock aficionado, exposed me to Steely Dan and The Eagles, but I spent most of my early youth situated in the pop sector. I had nearly every NOW CD on the market, and for the most part, I found new music through compilation CDs and movie soundtracks.

I was once a very genre-obsessed person. I appreciated my confines, as they gave me an identity. I could say I was an “Emo kid” because all of the bands I listened to shared a set of conventions that allowed them to fall into that category. They featured singers with flippy hair and somber souls, tracks dominated by power chords and disconsolate screamers. The lyrics were morose and melodramatic, speaking of lost loves and the turmoil of merely existing, and early adolescent me identified strongly with these artists. The genre was more than a music style: It was a way of life. I wanted nothing more than to fit in with its customs, wearing layers of dark eyeliner, band tees and skinny jeans, and trying but failing to get my hair to look like Haley Williams’. I spent hours trying to master Lacey Mosley of Flyleaf’s scream, procuring many sore throats in the process.

Pg-11-Arts-ParamoreAfter Emo, I went indie. This transition began smoothly, as I found artists that dipped their toes in both the Emo and Indie genres. Daphne Loves Derby was one of my favorites, as they toured with many of the traditional Emo bands, but their sound was far softer and more melodic. I found other bands like Deas Vail and Copeland that also filled this niche, and before I knew it, I was in the real Indie Rock territory. Death Cab for Cutie and Coldplay became my go-to’s. I also discovered quainter, quieter artists like Gregory and the Hawk and The Colorful Quiet, who guided me to sleep and offered me momentary serenity. The acoustic guitar became my companion, and I’d routinely fall asleep to the finger picking delicacies and simple harmonies of these indie collectives.Pg-11-Arts-Death-Cab

It’s interesting to imagine a time when genre was my “everything,” and I looked for bands that devotedly adhered to their respective generic conventions. Today, very few of the bands I listen to actually accomplish this. Rather, I specifically look for artists that create distinctive mosaics out of many styles. Most of my playlists are diverse enough to keep me interested, and while my favorite bands have remained constant for something like 6 years, I often discover innovative artists that impress and intrigue me. Musicians like Lianne la Havas, who integrates elements of jazz, rock, R&B and pop, have altered my perception of my own tastes. There’s no genre that fully encapsulates her music, yet she remains one of my newfound favorite artists.

With that, I really don’t believe in generic classification. Genres are designed to make our lives easier in terms of navigating through the ever-expanding universe of music, but in many ways, I see them highly limiting. Back in my days of genre adherence, I missed out on a great assortment of artists, keeping my mind and tastes limited to what I knew I enjoyed. I used to dislike it tremendously when I asked people what kind of music they liked and they’d reply with the resounding “Everything!” While I’m as picky as ever, I can confidently say that the music I listen to is immensely more varied that it used to be. I still have room to grow, and styles that I have yet to explore, but I’m more willing than ever to do so.

Anita Alur is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]. Millenial Musings appears alternate Thursday this semester.