I got into baroque pop a little while ago. It’s this obscure little subgenre that blends classical, often violin ensembles with indie pop. After a brief Arcade Fire craze I decided that I wanted more of that style, so I ventured onto Wikipedia and discovered Margot & The Nuclear So & So’s, The Divine Comedy and The Velvet Teen.
These bands turned out to be pretty solid. But as I continued to read the list of technically “baroque pop” bands, it turned out that several artists I already knew existed qualified, from The Decemberists to Sufjan Stevens to Elliott Smith.
Which leads me to believe that Wikipedia, and all its glorious subgenres subdivided by more subgenres, really has no idea what it’s talking about.
But it goes deeper than Wikipedia. Music has become so intricate, so diverse, that music fans have become forced to be equally eclectic. And with fans only becoming more die-hard obsessed, expressive and outlandish, strict lines have to be drawn to divide them. Though they might look the same, shoegazers are not emo kids; speed-metal fans are not the same as black-metal fans; and don’t even go near the Bronx if you dare confuse gangsta rap with crunk rap.
The two biggest absurdities are the fusion genres (funk metal, Christian rap, Aboriginal rock, etc.) and obscurely different genres—for example, noisecore, mathcore, grindcore, hardcore. These are all subgenres of metalcore, which is a fusion of heavy metal and hardcore punk, which is really just derivative of good ol’ rock music when you boil it down.
Don’t even get me started on the indie rock scene, which includes indietronic, twee pop, psych folk and New Weird America. If you’ve never heard of these subgenres, you can look them up if you'd like—but what’s the difference? You won’t enjoy Death From Above 1979 any more if you knew that some people classified the band as “dance-punk.” And even if you did look up dance-punk on Wikipedia, the description you’d find wouldn’t help matters much:
"It is closely related to new wave, electro rock, electroclash, electropop, synthpop and synth rock. It is often seen as interchangeable with new wave and electro rock music."
What the hell does any of that even mean?
I wish I could legitimately say, “I remember a time when rock was rock, and that was that.” But I can’t. I was born in the late '80s, in a time when synthpop and glam rock and classic hip-hop had all been around for a while. The fact is that subgenres have only become more ridiculous with each passing year. Now we’ve come so far that we’ve created widely recognized genres like post-rock.
I mean, come on—post-rock? I didn’t know rock was dead enough to be post.
I’m not saying you can’t argue punk from rock, or even divide rock music by style or influence. Garage rock does sound different from folk rock. But that’s as obscure as I’d get; every band is inevitably going to be unique. Even bands that sound similar have differences. It’s absolutely useless to make a whole new subdivision to distinguish The Arctic Monkeys from The Libertines, and those are the kinds of ridiculous and minute details we’re devolving into in order to segregate music.
And for what? What’s the benefit? Specificity only matters so much. Subgenres may not be hindering our musical experience, but they sure as hell ain’t enhancing it.
So, enough already. I’ll call it “rock” if you call it “rock.” And hopefully, one day, after we boil it all down, we can sit back, relax with it, and comment by simply saying, “Man, this is some good rock music.”
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