Press J to jump to the feed. Press question mark to learn the rest of the keyboard shortcuts
Found the internet!
Posted by2 months ago

What is the difference between a genre and a sub-genre, and what makes a distinction between sub-genres worth making?

This is stems from a discussion about metal with a friend but really extends to all genres. We both like metal, but I am woefully under-educated when it comes to sub-genres within metal, which came up when the metal background playlist I'd put on jumped from Trivium to The Hü to Metallica to Powerwolf to Sundrowned. My friend argued it was tonal whiplash to jump between so many different types of metal, whereas in my brain it's all just metal - I can obviously see there are differences between the music, in the style of vocals, the other instruments in play and the general tone, but I hadn't really considered that they were separated areas of metal, or that individual genre names really exist.

I was introduced to a lot of labels here (I have been informed that the bands above are metalcore, folk metal, thrash metal, power metal and post-metal respectively, though I obviously don't know for certain if that's right) but I was most confused with the distinctions for early Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden, where they were described as "just metal" and more of a sub-genre to rock at that point. This brings up my main question for you guys - Where does the distinction between a sub-genre and a new genre in it's own right begin? In a similar vein, Are there certain criteria that a sub-genre has to reach before it is classed as it's own full genre?

Our own discussion on this was... Varied, to say the least. We had pretty solidly agreed that metal was distinct enough from rock to be it's own genre, and the wide array of sub-genres of metal itself seems to back this up, until we opened our discussion up to a couple of other friends who them brought up that apparently there is a dilemma within the genres of rock and metal when it comes to bands like AC/DC and Guns n Roses, where they can be seen as either genre, which then blurs the line separating them. The discussion them spilled over into other genres - is Trap a district genre of its own, or is it a sub-genre of Hip-hop? Within the wide umbrella term of electronic music, it's easy to see that (for example) House and Drum & Bass are very different, but are they sub-genres of Electronic music as a genre, or are they distinct enough to be their own genres?

The biggest confusion came when asking how does pop music fit into this? When everything from The Beatles to Katy Perry is classed as pop music, what does that make the genre as a whole? A theory was posited that whatever is popular at the time is "pop" music, but a genre then gets retroactively applied once their style of pop is no longer the popular style, though I'm not quite certain of it's validity.

Finally, a question of my own - How necessary is sub-genre specificity to the music itself, and the enjoyment of it? I feel it is obviously possible to enjoy music without giving it a specific label, but learning to classify music seems to simultaneously lead to ease of exploration and gatekeeping between genres.

As an aside, I'd like to make it very clear that I know next to nothing about how to classify different metal sub-genres, so if I've mislabeled anything I can only apologise. I am more than happy to be educated on mistakes and/or recommended better examples of any genre I've listed or any others.

88% Upvoted
level 1

Well, of course the distinction between what is a sub genre and what is its own genre, is absolutely vague, and not defined at all. Cause like, for example, as you said, that distinction between Metal and rock, I think that's already a great arguing point. Cause, you might also be able to consider rock a subgenre of metal or vice versa. Now however, as you said, there probably is big enough of a stylistic change to justify them being their own big genres, however, where do you draw that line?

And subgenres are useful to that extent, that they just describe the sound of a band in one or few words. And how many you need, depends on how much you and the person talking to are into that genre.
Let's stay in metal as an example: To someone who is really not into metal, sure metal is metal. To someone who's way more into that, it definitely makes sense to make a distinction between like Death metal, Metalcore, Thrash Metal, and whatever else. And if you are talking about Black metal with someone who's into Black Metal, it makes sense to say Atmoblack, Symphoblack, Meloblack, and whatever else.
Mainly because the more you are into a certain genre, the more you actually recognize the differences. cause people who aren't into metal just hear distortion basically. Someone more generally into that just hears fast guitars, drums and screechy vocals in Black Metal. Someone, into Black Metal hears the approach of it, what it atmospheric, hears the guitar melodies, yada yada.

And I mean, you will always have certain artists treading inbetween 2 or more genres. That is almost inevitable. I mean, you said like AC/DC as an example of verging between rock and metal, and that is true. However that is absolutely not an argument for these two genres not being distinct enough to be their own big genres.
Cause similarly I can also bring up I See Stars or Sullivan King and then ask the question, are they EDM or Metal? And just because they incorporate elements from both and are not clearly put into one, it doesn't make any sense to use this an argument as to why these two genres are not different enough. Cause I think we can all agree that EDM and metal are different enough.

And, as you said already, pop is in a little bit of a weird position here, however you didn't account for one massive thing: That genres develop. That genres change.
I mean, like as an example, Black Sabbath is often credited as like the first Metal band, and for this one here we just gonna roll with this. Do you think, back at that time when black Sabbath first came up with their sound that everyone was like "Oh yes, that's a completely new genre and they are the only artists in that genre"? No, that was seen as Rock subgenre and definitely sure, some did see the potential in them potentially inspiring a new genre. However, back at that time, they only played a unique brand of rock. And well, now we just take them as metal.
And similarly The Beatles. Sure, back at that time they might have had their own kinda unique style of rock. However, that eventually became so overused and... well, popular that this style honestly just became the new pop in some way. Again, back when they played, they probably had a different genre classification. but, once again, genres change and thus include artist that may have not been in there before, or the opposite that it removes artists from a certain genre.

And sub-genre specification is absolutely not necessary for the enjoyment. If you just wanna listen to something without paying any regards to what else this sounds like, feel free to. But, I personally, also really enjoy just finding similarities to other artists and kinda grouping them together in general sound. Now however, that does not mean that every artist just has to completely fit into one sub-genre and that's it. Like, I said, it's really more so descriptors of their sound. You mentioned Trivium. And while yes, they are basically Metalcore, they do also incorporate a shit ton of Thrash Elements. So again, they are inbetween some genres.

It's just dumb to view genres as this super rigid form of grouping music together. Because music itself also isn't rigid. It's super dynamic and constantly changing, just like the genres describing it.

level 1

Categories only matter if they are useful.

I used to maintain a decent sized mp3 library back in the day. When it came to selecting a genre, my first instinct was to try to label them with specific sub-genres (so instead of metal, I’d choose thrash metal). Maybe this was more accurate, but my real goal was to be able to use genres to filter albums into playlists. I had maybe two thrash metal albums, not enough to bother distinguishing them from the other metal albums. If I just labeled them all as metal, I had a good amount of songs for my genre playlist.

In this example the extra distinction wasn’t useful. This goes beyond music - if you are a marine biologist then the taxonomic naming of a specific species of fish you are researching really matters. If you are a child at the beach, “fish” will do.

Genre conversations can be fun to have, but to your third question, they don’t (or shouldn’t) matter at all to the enjoyment of music. Labels are tools that can help us framework and understand relationships between similar things, but just like any tool, they can be imperfect or useful in one context but not another. Besides, so much of music relies on subversion of expectations to excite us, so it’s not surprising that artists would naturally want to continually challenge the labels being put on them, so to me it’s tough to take labels too seriously.

level 2

Well said.

level 1
· 2 mo. ago · edited 2 mo. ago

I like these questions. I don't have the time to go into every one of them right now, but broadly I would say that (as an example), a genre is art comprised of similar elements. Now, all or some of those elements would also be present in individual sub-genres, but each sub-genre would add its own elements, or convert/subvert those overarching common elements.

As an analogy, architecture. So, all buildings are forms of architecture, but buildings from a particular time and place, that use specific and particular elements, decorations, and styles have their own terms (sub-genres of architecture, if you will).

Where do sub-genres turn into their own genres? That's difficult to say, because of the 'criteria' of genre. To go back to the analogy: if Baroque architecture was able to transform the fundamental aspects of architecture as a form (ie. if Baroque architecture could convince people that its use of roof antefixes, for example, is essential for building and construction), then it might be able to change what we consider architecture to be. But that is a big ask, and it is only one criteria. Other criteria might be time (how long something remains popular), place (there is a global understanding of what comprises an artform)...I'm sure there are others...

level 2
Op · 2 mo. ago

a genre is art comprised of similar elements. Now, all or some of those elements would also be individual sub-genres, but each sub-genre would add its own elements, or convert/subvert those overarching common elements.

Okay, so pushing this a bit, a genre has to have certain set elements, but everything that isn't set can be altered, with the specific alterations making up the sub-genre? Would that work with what you're saying?

level 1
· 2 mo. ago · edited 2 mo. ago

"sub genre" denotes a relationship with another genre. You can have sub genres of many many layers. Something might be a sub genre to one thing but a parent genre of something else. What is and isn't a sub genre of what thus depends on the contex/relationship.

I don't have the mental capacity right now to give a proper response to this and really take in the post. But ehm, music is heavily tied to culture. Think of how certain styles of music were actually named after dance styles, like bachatta. Think of how gospel is its own genre due to the context of where and why it's played. Sea shanty music is another one of those.

I think genres are more a sort of culturally/historically significant categories kinda like a family tree's lineage of main influences and roles rather than being based on how similar something is. To me, genres are inherently relative, they're not accurate taxonomies, but instead general cultural concepts, contexts and templates. Some may seem to be under the impression they're based on similarity but if you take a look at "alternative " genres like "post-punk" or "Indie Rock" you'll see that they have wildly different sounds, but have a common origin of musical scenes, base influences, movements/waves, asssociations, audiences, time periods, places and general philosophies. First person shooters have changed wildly in tropes over the years even when inside the same sub genre.

Metal is seen as a type of rock not because of the way it sounds, but the fact that it was mainly derived from forms of Rock music, and initially came out of the same Cultural space/scene and shares a relation in audience. Rock itself may or may not change as well, especially when you take into account styles based on location, but it will occupy the modern equivalent of that cultural lineage. You will notice "genetic" simialarities in genres, but the thing that makes something a gente is more memetic than anything, and so often hearing a genre description and hearing a single song often doesn't really tell you much about what sets it apart because it's relative and people take influences from multiple genres anyway.

Completely new genres are unlikely to occur these days because most base sounds have already been made and people have full access to all types of music (unlike old folk/world music which would develop separately kinda like languages), so most genres are going to be derived from others, like how metal came from rock which came from blues/R&B.

Sub genres can be formed for different reasons. But they rarely really come to be just because something is qualitively different on its own. If you take videogames, there are several types of shooters and fighters that have never gotten their own sub genres even though they fit all the criterea we usually use for a new genre. On top of that, tiny categories like "games with double jumps" are not "genres" (which at this point have taken on a new meaning) but merely "categories". As such the strict lines are always subjective and to a degree, arbitrary, but some interprétations are much more culturally accurate than others. Genres will always have things that are clearly right, overlapping areas, and grey areas that are debatable. It's not meant to be an exact science, but it gives us an overview of different types of music and musical movements.

The sub genre has to be culturally and or historically significant. Maybe the fan audience was simply looking for that type of thing and gave it a name. Maybe a certain part of the culture surrounding the music tried to set itself apart from others. Typically what happens is that something significantly splits or alters the audience or culture, which can happen due to sound changes. If the cultural, role and sound changes become separate enough, and a lot of different subsounds start to emerge for that sub genre specifically, it starts to be seen as its own thing as it occupied a different cultural space, while the early stuff will always naturally overlap. Once the later culture starts to not really be influenced by its parent genre anymore.

Take post-punk. Initially, anything with a post-punk sound was simply considered punk rock. They were from the same scene but simply emphasized different elements of their influences (like taking the in your face aspects od the stooges vs taking the experimental elements from the Velvet Underground). But post-punk moved further and further away in sound and culture (often in ways the punk culture just really didn't like) until it became a separate thing, which then birthed "alternative rock" family of of genres like alternative rock, indie rock, shoegaze, jangle pop, etc. Meanwhile if we look at the opposite direction, hardcore punk, it evolved into its own scenes and sub genres, but the thing is that it was similar enough that it never really lost its ties to punk's culture and overall audience.

Same goes for more underground styles of pop punk/melodic hardcore/skate punk. It didn't culturally separate itself from the punk family like post-punk did despite the fact that some melodic hardcore bands sound very different from what any older bands were doing. Even hardcore itself has different standards and a different subculture now due to the dominance of new york style hardcore and metalcore, yet that is still just called "hardcore" despite sounding so different. While metalcore fundamentally changes the riffing style, it still has a similar appeal of loud, aggressive music. Post-punk does not. Basically post punk moved on to new things, but hardcore had different takes on old things. Hence post punk became culturally split, but modern hardcore didn't. It's like someone starting a new family instead of making more kids with the same person.

One exception I can think of is that commercionalized styles tend to go under the same genre name despite having complete different genres and sounds, even if they're very much separate. This has more to do with the general separation of underground and mainstream, but people co-opting the same terms because it is simply the commercial take on an older genre, such as pop punk. The commercial and underground interpretations of the genres tend to differ, but they're often both put under the same umbrella.

Another thing that can happen is a different separate subculture simply using the same name, even though the two subcultures have separated. This happened with "scene kid" takes on genres like emo, metalcore, pop punk, etc. They have the same name simply because they still wanted to use it, and as a response some people have used terms to differentiate it from the old sounds like the older culture calling their pop punk "mall screamo" "scene emo" or calling their own versions of screamo "skramz" as a joke.

level 1

There is no objective markers of any particular genre. It is defined by primacy.

Punk is a sub-genre of rock. Yet, if punk came first, there is no reason why rock couldn’t develop as a sub-genre of punk.

It is all about nomenclature and pedigree. Nothing more.

level 2

It should be said there’s no required size for a genre or subgenre. These terms are not discrete categories. They exist on a continuous spectrum.

The biggest distinct blocks are ones where music is created in fundamentally different ways. For example, improvised vs composed. Or folk tradition vs the emphasis on the songwriter.

Another big block would be how it’s supposed to make the listener feel. So for example, ambient music or noise rock aren’t supposed to be fun to listen to in the way a Britney Spears song is. They’re meant to provoke other feelings.

Generally, I’d say music that is designed to make listeners feel a set of common things (sadness, fun, or to dance) would be pop, although the meaning of pop also relates to commerciality, label size, etc so it’s more complicated than that.

Beyond that, you have musical composition, and the type of instruments used.

If the only differences between two bands is the instrumentation or other similar factors I’d say it’s a sub genre. But again, these aren’t discrete terms. Like I said, the bigger blocks change more about the way we understand and consume music. Smaller blocks are more cosmetic. But there’s no clear line between the two.

level 1
· 2 mo. ago
Just Say No to Brogaze

The biggest confusion came when asking how does pop music fit into this? When everything from The Beatles to Katy Perry is classed as pop music, what does that make the genre as a whole? A theory was posited that whatever is popular at the time is "pop" music, but a genre then gets retroactively applied once their style of pop is no longer the popular style, though I'm not quite certain of it's validity.

Yeah this is all a bit overly simplified. The idea isn't that All Things Popular = Pop Music so much as what is in those popular things that makes them popular. Usually 4/4 time signature, verse chorus verse structure, melodic hooks, etc. The disconnect here is that this often describes other forms of music too and people have difficultly connecting this to modern dance pop trends, but this ignores that the music is question is often derived from other Pop trends (namely Rock'n'Roll). So other styles of music exist, but the most popular ones tend to stick with that Pop format.

I think it's best to think of Pop as a much larger umbrella genre like Classical (sometimes called Art Music) or Folk, which also have their specific subsets of genres (and occasional crossover).

While I think we generally get the general differences a genre and subgenre, at least in closely related terms, where one considers another genre separate from another is difficult. For example, I get Metal being considered separate from Rock if we're talking Black Metal and such... but Black Metal certainly isn't the only form of Metal. And there's a lot of prominent Metal that isn't too far off from Rock (which is pretty much all the mainstream foundational acts). All I can really suggest here is that it's a matter of degree (i.e. black metal is far away from rock) and how common the other style is (black metal is common, but there's still plenty of Sabbath-like bands too).

level 1

Subgenre isn't important IMO unless you're constructing a playlist with a specific theme and even then it may not matter. Keep up the tonal whiplash.

level 2
Op · 2 mo. ago

Keep up the tonal whiplash

It only just clicked with me, but my taste in music is very broad, so most genre playlists I make are probably very mixed because of that. For example my rap playlist has A Tribe Called Quest, Future, Nas, Megan Thee Stallion, MF DOOM, Denzel Curry, Mos Def, N.W.A. and Travis Scott mixed together with dozens of others, and now that I'm thinking of sub-genre rather than an overall genre, that's a pretty odd playlist... I just have a very varied taste!

level 1
· 2 mo. ago · edited 2 mo. ago

I've never liked electronic dance music, and one reason for that is I'm old enough to recall a time when every time the same electronic 4/4 beat was played a couple BPM faster or slower, in the eyes of the British music press, it has suddenly become its own new genre

Back in the 90s every week there was a new "genre" of electronic dance music, and its "new"-ness was predicated on this weird assumption that no one had ever played electronic drum beats at a specific BPM before

I dunno, it just seemed like there should be more "there" there if you're gonna suddenly declare a tiny, fractional change to a simple, machine-generated 4/4/ drumbeat is a whole new genre

By that criteria, every time the Beatles played a ballad that was slower than "I Want to Hold Your Hand," they invented a new "genre"

But to address a point in your post, pop and rock are two separate approaches to making music. Rock is a small-band music made when guitars, bass, drums (and sometimes keyboards) are played expressively, and are not merely the back-up music to a singer. Pop music is a broad term that really more defines a marketplace than a genre

All commercial music competes in the pop marketplace. In short, "pop" is what sells. Before the 90s, "pop" wasn't a sound, it was just an umbrella term that took in every genre that sold (SINCE the 90s, "pop" has become a sound: mid-tempo electronic dance music with vocals on top, sometimes with rapping). In previous decades, rock music sold a lot more than it does now, so for about 45 years (roughly 1955-2000) it was the dominant genre in the pop marketplace. This has meant that people have confused pop and rock ever since

Rock music isn't simply "an attitude" or "music your parents don't like" or "music that is popular with teenagers," which are all misguided attempts at defining what rock is and how it differs from pop music. Rock music is a process by which music is created using a specific way of playing (specifically) guitars, bass, and drums

Rock artists can create pop music - they do this every time they stray from the guitars-bass-drums (and sometimes keyboards) formula

For instance, the Butthole Surfers play rock music. But when a Butthole Surfer teams up with the electronic band Ministry (who uses electronic percussion in the studio) to record a song, he has made pop music. Because the drums on the track are electronically generated and not organic. Rock music played with electronic percussion is pop music. Rock music requires a living drummer playing an actual kit; if the percussion sounds are generated electronically then it's not rock. Yes, even if the guitars are distorted: still not rock

Pop music is usually producer-driven. It typically is centered around a central solo figure, usually a singer (often a songwriter who also sings). The music created for pop is usually a product of the studio process, and it need not involve live players. Before electronic pop took over everything, studio musicians were employed. Studio/house bands making pop music sometimes even became famous themselves for having played on so many pop songs (i.e. the Wrecking Crew)

But the focus in pop music is almost never about the music itself, which is why so much pop resists formalist analysis: the instrumental music is there to serve as a backdrop for the pop singer's pop song concerns and for the producer to then shape and play with to best serve the needs of the song. Instrumental prowess and expressiveness is rarely a part of pop music and really hasn't been since the 1980s. Instead, the important signifiers in pop are extra-musical: how you look in your video, how you dance, your political stances, which fashion designer's clothes you wear, your troubled history growing up in the ghetto, etc. The concerns in pop are sociological; the concerns in rock are aesthetic

Since the early 80s, the divide between rock and pop has grown a LOT starker, precisely because of the emphasis on electronic percussion, electronic textures, and the constant demand to keep up with the latest technologies and fads within pop music. Rock music, on the other hand, can be played very casually, with just three-four people with guitar-bass-drums. The trade-off is that rock music is a raw music and the products of the guitar-bass-drums aesthetic produces a much rawer, much less polished sound than a pop producer can create

Over time, mass audiences have found that they prefer the more slick, sophisticated sound one gets from pop music over the raw, mistake-filled, unpolished sound one gets from rock music, which has meant that rock's popularity has suffered a sharp decline in recent years. Even relatively "rough" genres like hip-hop feature backing tracks which are producer-driven and slick and polished even if the vocal delivery on top is not

But at one time - basically about 45 years - rock was THE dominant force in the pop marketplace. The Beatles played rock music (usually), and they competed alongside Louis Armstrong, Doris Day, Mitch Miller, etc., ie. the pop stars of their day. Pop and rock seemed interchangeable for a lot of people because rock was so popular it edged out a lot of other forms of pop until pop had to adapt to its sound. So for most of the late 60s and 70s pop sounded a lot like rock, and therefore it was easy to think they were the same genre

But as the 80s dawned and new technologies started transforming the sound of music in general, pop music based in electronic percussion and electronic textures began to stand out a lot more against a backdrop of pop music which used rock instrumentation. It sounded so drastically different from what came before that the cleft between rock and pop widened signifcantly. Lots of commentors and critics (and the pressure of the marketplace) started urging more and more rock bands to "get with the times" and adopt electronic textures and percussion into what they did

While this approach worked for a handful of rock acts (ZZ Top, Rush), for many others, they suddenly found that they weren't even making rock music anymore the more they adopted to the demands of the pop marketplace. So counter-movements began forming, based in punk rock

Bands like Black Flag and the Minutemen now began shaping the sound that rock music would become in the 90s, well away from the pop marketplace of the 80s. They built rock back into a sturdy, non-commercial genre that was much more conscious of what made rock music rock music while completely abjuring the "marketplace" altogether. The did a lot of hard work and heavy lifting far, far away from radio, MTV, and the media. Of course this was happening while up aboveground in the pop marketplace metal bands were suddenly (circa 1984-85) becoming huge in pop terms, with a sound that catered to pop audiences

The last rock music to really break the pop marketplace was grunge, and specifically Nirvana. That such a raw-sounding rock music could compete and succeed wildly in the pop marketplace of the 90s, when almost ALL pop music was electronically generated, was a true mind-blower. The rock bands who had been shaping rock in isolation through the 80s had helped create an approach to creating rock music that, it was thought, had little commercial potential. But somehow, against all odds, grunge connected with pop audiences; no rock music has done this ever since

The reason why there's such a broad spectrum in pop (The BEatles to Katy Perry like you said) is because, like I said earlier, rock music was once the dominant force in the pop music marketplace, but barely ANY rock even tries to compete any more on pop's terms. It's given up. (does anyone under 40 even like rock music anymore?) I mean, you provided an example of a rock band who became popular in pop terms (The Beatles), but they broke up in 1970. Katy Perry has been having hits solely within the window where ONLY electronic dance-based music was able to compete in the pop marketplace. That means that if you remove the BEatles from your formulation, then almost all of Katy Perry's contemporaries sound just like her, so there's not as much of a spectrum. Pop music really only seems like this massive, broad spectrum if you go back and include every previous decade before the 2000s; but if you only look at pop music since the 2000s..."spectrum" might be too kind a word

I urge everyone reading this to go dig up and read a copy of the book "Rock and the Pop Narcotic" by Joe Carducci if they can find one

level 1
· 2 mo. ago · edited 2 mo. ago

Most of the sub genre classifications feel just like tags/labels, but not all! I'm interested in an explanation from a musical expert too about it.

level 1
· 2 mo. ago · edited 2 mo. ago

Music is music. Genres are useful only to group similar sounds to easier find things that you will like. I don't put much value in gatekeeping genres, unless it's just blatantly wrong and unhelpful (Katy Perry is not metal). But I'll answer your questions.

Genres come about when there is enough music that is unique enough to differentiate itself from other music. If there was just one band ever who played rock music, rock wouldn't be a genre. This is why Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden are "just metal". Sabbath didn't set out to invent a new genre, they thought of themselves as a rock band at until they finally accepted the label of metal, but they were trail blazers and it's difficult to argue they are anything but metal even after 50+ years of the genre being around.

Still, since it came from rock, there are many times when the sound of rock and metal cross over. Not just in the 70s when it first started and what was "metal" wasn't defined, but the grunge scene had roots in sludge metal too. Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, and The Melvins toe the line between both a lot.

Subgenres come about the same way as major genres, but there is a smaller quantity of music than a major genre, or there isn't as much of a strong differentiation from the base genre. As you say, metal is metal to most people. But then most people wouldn't even touch the truly different extreme metal, like black, death, or grindcore. Metal is notorious for the overuse of subgenres though, even, I'd say, subgenres of subgenres. You have Doom metal, which has slower, heavy riffs than base metal (although some argue some Sabbath music is Doom metal). But you also have epic Doom, stoner doom, and funeral Doom. Yet you can count the amount of "well known" (in the community) funeral Doom bands on your fingers. Even if there were a lot, it's just never going to be a considered major genre just because they play EVEN SLOWER than Doom metal.

Pop music is the most confusing term of all, because it's really 4 different terms that people rarely bother to differentiate.

1: It's one of the 3 major genres of music: pop, art, and avant-garde. Some add traditional folk as a 4th genre, but traditionally that's basically what pop is.

Avant-garde is doing your absolute best to push the boundaries of what is considered "music". The quintessential example is John Cage's "4'33", which is just silence. According to Cage, it's an ever changing song because what you hear is different every time due to the background noise of where you are.

Art music is more or less classical music. Symphonies, opera, and the like. Music that is made with purely artistic merit in mind, and with a strong grasp on musical theory. There are similar Non-Western-centric examples but I don't know enough to list what's included.

And by this definition, pop music is quite literally the entirety of all music most people have ever heard. It's music that is created for mass appeal, usually 2-15 minutes long and marketed in some way. Even jazz, which is often longer and more avant-garde, is sometimes placed here, depending on who you ask.

2: "Pop" in the 2nd sense is just whatever music is popular that people listen to. No one has been as popular as the Beatles were (and are), so it's hard to say they're not pop in this sense.

3: In that vast genre that is the 1st meaning of pop, there are certainly some genres that are considered more artistically valuable than others. And some genres have a subgenre to denote an even higher dedication to artistic integrity. For example, rock is seen as pretty artistically respected, but there is also an "art rock" subgenre. Also "experimental rock", "progressive rock", and "Krautrock" which have a similar dedication to more complex arrangements. So in this 3rd sense, pop is what is specifically made to make money, not because an artist has a specific vision. Usually made with multiple writers and producers, repetitive hooks, simpler lyrics, overly smooth production, and put out quickly to ride trends. Aka: sellouts. For this 3rd meaning, you can even add "pop" as a subgenre for versions of a genre that are made to be more marketable, are better funded so have better production, or are less artistically viable (pop punk, pop rock, pop rap)

4: And finally, I think pop has become something of its own genre at this point. Especially since synths and electronic music became a thing. Sure, electronic music is a different beast, but I feel like most of who we consider as pop stars today are still following the blueprint of synthpop artists of the 80s to some extent. Eurythmics, for example, I wouldn't consider to be electronic, they're "just pop". Same with Britney Spears, Kesha, etc. Even R&B and Neo-Soul inspired pop artists like Beyoncé fall into this category. Similar to how hip hop largely came out of the electronic scene and upcoming digital age in many ways, but they're not a subgenre of electronic to me. And then you have "art pop" too, like Fiona Apple. She takes inspiration from many places and has a lot of artistic value, but I don't know what else I can classify here as but pop as a genre.

level 1
· 2 mo. ago · edited 2 mo. ago

Think of sub-genres of movements within a genre. Like Film movements. You have stuff like Italian Neo-Realism, French New Wave, Hollywood, New Hollywood, etc. They’re not exactly genres, but stylistic movements happening in the scene at various points in time (and place).

Or a better example are horror movies. Horror movies share common elements that make them a distinctly different genre from say a comedy or documentary. Different types of horror movies exist (slashers, paranormal, monster movies) and those different types evolve and rise and fall in popularity but they are all still Horror movies.

Rock music is still rock music even as it evolves over the decades, but like horror movies there are different types and movements that get their own labels.

Comparable to my first example of film movements is Grunge Music. Grunge does have some sonic signifiers of genre, sure, but it was more of a movement emerging from the Seattle rock scene. So you have Rock music as a genre. Then sub genres emerged from movements. Psychedelic rock emerged from a bunch of hippies in the 60’s playing rock a certain way. Punk was a movement emerging in the 70’s. etc. There were a wave of British Heavy Metal bands in the late 70’s and early 80’s, A bunch of dudes in Seattle making Grunge music, etc. Nirvana and Soundgarden sound very different, they share a sub genre more due to reasons of culture than sound.

Garage Rock Revival is one such music. Bands like The White Stripes. It’s rock music. There isn’t really much distinguishing it from classic rock besides the time it came out. A lot of bands of this ilk emerged around the same time, playing traditional rock music, but a label was made for them which could be considered a sub genre, or a movement.

A lot of sub-genres are derivatives. Punk was derived from Rock. Hardcore derived from punk. Thrash derived from Hardcore and Metal. Crossover derived from Thrash. Grindcore derived from hardcore. Metal derived from rock. Doom derived from metal. Sludge derived from Doom and Hardcore. Etc. etc. etc.

You could argue about whether a band is death metal, deathcore, slam etc. based on how they sound, but the sonic differences in many cases can be negligible. To casuals they won’t really distinguish between those 3 sub genres. But how they evolved said more. “This band is deathcore because they came after the death metal bands and have some of these sonic nuances that were not really present in death metal that was made previously.”


About Community

A community for people who are passionate about music. Stimulating, in-depth music discussions aren't rare here.
Created Nov 20, 2011




Tuned In