Saturday, March 19, 2016

a genre-less generation

"Last summer, a survey by “millennial insight agency” Ypulse surveyed 1,000 young adults. When asked about their favourite artists, many respondents couldn’t answer, not through ambivalence but because, it was concluded, “this generation is interested in so many music genres and artists”.

It found that while millennials are passionate about music (76% within the 13- to 17-year-old bracket said they wouldn’t be able to last a week without it), 79% of 13- to 32-year-olds said their tastes didn’t fall into one specific music genre. Just 11% said that they only listened to one genre of music. “It seems,” Ypulse noted when it published its findings, “that millennials are a genre-less generation”

--- from Guardian article by Peter Robinson, "Pop, rock, rap, whatever: who killed the music genre?", March 17 2016

(via Rubberdingyrapids at Dissensus thread on what the generation after millenials are into and whether music matters to them)

Robinson also writes:

"The 1975 have just scored a transatlantic No 1 with an album whose influences range from Yazoo to David Bowie. If you look at and key in, say, Lana Del Rey, you’ll find her listed under “pop, indie R&B, indietronica, chamber pop, synthpop”; she’s all of those, a bit, but at the same time not completely any of those. All are representative of a strain of artists who are post-genre. They now straddle, or exist beyond, genres that seemed set in concrete as little as 10 years ago. They represent a cross-pollination that makes it harder than ever to definitively state that you like or dislike one genre or another."

The founder of the pro-pop blog Popjustice, Robinson concedes:

"Clearly, different styles of music continue to exist. Fleur East’s blood-curdlingly bombastic Sax is clearly not the same thing as Slaves. You cannot argue that grime isn’t a scene, or that Little Mix aren’t a pop band. But the days of pitting one against the other, or dismissing one because it’s not the other, are coming to an end. Different styles of music still exist but, increasingly, nobody cares."

But argues that music, no longer to subject to the costs of financial investment or psychological investment, has become unshackled from identity-formation:

"It’s obvious, but still curious, how much more likely one is to try out a new album if the cost of doing so is zero pence.... in 2016, there is no financial imperative to stick to what you know you like. Perhaps, in the age of endless ways to express yourself, it’s also less necessary to define your identity in your teenage years by clinging to genres."
Missing from the piece is costs-benefits/ costs-downsides analysis of the death of genre and identity-formation through music. 
"What we’ve seen in the past 15 years is that consumption methods have broadened attitudes, music has changed to reflect that, and attitudes have then changed even further."
When you "broaden attitudes" that much, though, what disappears is attitude - the idea of taste-as-stance, choice-as-statement. 
"Music scenes may historically have appeared, disappeared and reappeared in a regular cycle, but it’s hard to imagine music fans moving on from this new sense of freedom."
Poptimism's victory = the End of History.


  1. It's presumably a bit like a "market consolidation" too. Like those recent Hollywood movies with literally every big action star of the past thirty years in them.

  2. Random thoughts: Was listening to the below and thought it fit in with this topic.

    … when you have a surround of instant information which is electric information, you have a situation surely unknown to human beings in any previous age … it means the end for example of subjects, when you have instant access to all information simultaneously you can’t have subjects, children know this instinctively in the schools, you can’t have jobs, you can only have roles … a job is a specialist activity with a fixed boundary and in a resonant simultaneous world auditory space you cannot retain these fixed boundaries so jobs are out, people prefer role-play.

    Marshall McLuhan on Speaking Freely with Edward Newman in 1977

    For ‘subjects’ substitute ‘genres’ and for the roles and roleplay we now have fancy dress parade, a re-enacting, the history of recorded music (and culture) a dressing up box to be accessed willy-nilly a smorgasbord of genres that renders it all meaningless yet becomes a genre in itself, blended styles, cross-pollinated aesthetics, a forever yester-now and an eternal perma-past, the impact of which we still are unsure of (psychically).

    Genres traditionally were (lazy/shorthand) marketing categorisations, a prototype of the now ‘if you like this then …’ algorithm-led) usually defined by ensemble (e.g. drums/bass/guitar)/dress/attitude, but, they also acted as a way to learn and develop, offer(ed) historical context, capturing time and place.

    If these times are genreless, then does that suggest these times are ’time and placeless?’

    Genre like gender is now seemingly a site of subjectivity, not the preserve of the gatekeepers, tastemakers and society.

    The means of consumption are evidently more paramount now, the gadgets more style accessories that carry the art, the medium the message.

    As ever, more questions than answers …

  3. EDIT: Should have said 'more answers than questions' (that Jimmy Cliff!)