“Music was never divided by genre in my mind. It’s about singing good music.” -k.d. lang
Since the beginning of music, artists have refused to be labeled as only one particular genre. Where once classical, jazz, rock, and country seemed to describe pretty much every type of music, more and more categories have cropped up to accommodate artists who are pushing back against being stuck in one genre. Now indie, punk, bluegrass, and alternative country, alt rock, and pretty much alt anything else are acceptable categories. The rest of this post will focus on a few unlikely collaborations that may be the beginning of the next new genre.
One of the most popular musical styles today is R&B, or Rhythm and Blues. R&B is actually a subgenre in and of itself, branching out from the broader category of hip-hop. Rihanna has been dominating the genre for five plus years, and her newly released video Princess of China is a collaboration with Coldplay. Coldplay is a British alternative rock group, who has also been labeled as “blue romantic.” Watch what happens when hot and sultry Rihanna mixes with cool and mellow Coldplay in their video. Perhaps they’re onto the next groundbreaking genre. Shall we call it RR&B – Rock, Rhythm, and Blues?
Since hip-hop is so prominent today, hip-hop artists love experimenting with artists from other genres to find that new sound that pushes their music to the top of the charts. Kanye West, who’s been leading the hip-hop scene since 2004, released a song with Bon Iver on his latest album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Bon Iver exploded on the indie folk scene this year, taking home two Grammys in 2012. Kanye West and Bon Iver found an “indie-hop” sound in Lost in the World. The ethereal slow synthesized tones of Bon Iver provide the perfect backdrop for Kanye’s lyrics about trying to find a way through our urban jungle. Recently they released a music video that further enhances the trapped and lost message of the song.
And then there’s the band whose name is also the title of the new genre it created: Gangstagrass. Rap lyrics laid over the sounds of banjo and fiddle, make the ultimate leap in pushing back those genre lines. Founder of the band, Rench’s influences come from listening to hip-hop music at school in southern California and honky-tonk at home with his Oklahoman dad. Rench says, “Hip-hop was music of the streets and country was music of the hills, but it was rooted in these communities that were making music to express the struggles of their daily lives, which has a lot of overlap.” Rench hints at the idea that a collaboration or a mashup will be a success, regardless of the genre, as long as the two styles match in meaning and the feeling.
These collaborations do more than just boost artists to the top of the charts. They remind us to keep listening to music. As one blogger wrote, “Listening to what we know we like keeps us from hearing what we know nothing about.” So break out of your own genre box and put the radio on scan because you may just discover your new favorite song.