Gentrification of Genres (Op -Ed)
Guest writer Realize, gives us his hot take on the directions of genres.
January 22, 2024 at 5:12 PM PT
Article written by guest writer Realize
People argue that music genres are confusing, unnecessary, and should be abolished.
The truth is genres matter. Genres are directions, not coordinates. They can help one person point someone else in the right direction. Sure, one track can frequently be described by multiple genres, but the same goes for destinations; many times there’s more than one route to get to the same address.
Subgenres are more nuanced than genres. A subgenre works when it’s in a “healthy” place. That means when you say you enjoy tech house, I say I enjoy tech house, and we are actually talking about the same thing. Genres like acid house or acid techno, drum and bass, and psytrance have been “healthy” and safe for a long time; it’s hard to apply those terms to the wrong music.
A subgenre is malfunctioning when it’s in an “unhealthy” place. If we agree to share progressive house tracks with each other and you send me this:
and I send you this:
Something is wrong.
Here’s where gentrification comes in. The first track above (which would more accurately be called big room) is more accessible to the masses than the second. That sound blows up and Beatport erroneously labels it progressive house, essentially trying to squeeze a square peg into a round hole. DJs (usually newer and less knowledgeable ones) follow suit and call it progressive house and naturally their listeners take the cue. At the end of this process, the sound of the second track that was true to the history of progressive house is drowned out and displaced. Older purists have no choice but to yell at the top of their lungs and scramble to find a new label for the music (melodic house maybe?) and newer listeners are clueless as to what just took place as they weren’t in the loop on the roots of the style anyways.
A similar gentrification took place with other styles of music.
Newer audiences consider this to be deep house:
Whereas if we dig deeper, this is what we’d find earlier use of “deep house” describing:
Glenn Underground - The Cheribums
Tech house sounded like this in the 90’s:
Circulation - Lemon (Mix 1)
It sounded like this in the 2000s:
Harold Heath - Wish You Were Here
And somewhere along the way, this ended up being called tech house when it shares little resemblance with earlier tech house:
Lebox - La Locura
Odds are if you mention electro and are thinking about a track like:
Plant 43 - Storm Control
Someone else may be in a different ballpark and be thinking of this as electro:
Boys Noize & Erol Alkan - Lemonade
OK, so what’s the big deal here?
If you invited me to your house to watch a sci-fi movie, I came over, and you put on a fantasy movie, I’d have the right to be upset. The same applies if I invite you to a tech house or electro party but the music ends up sounding vastly different than what you expected.
The solution is to read the room and communicate better. A little research goes a long way when it comes to music and partying, especially considering how many branches of dance music exist nowadays and how picky people can be. Skimming a recent set of one of the acts on a lineup can help you decide if a show is right for you or if you’re better off finding a different party (or staying home!).
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