The Worst Genre Titles


Chick Rock

Despite the fact that term chick isn’t progressive or politically correct this genre title is also horribly generalizing. Chick rock is the title of both a Last FM channel and very recently the name of a Songza playlist. This term applies to Alanis Morissette, Fiona Apple, Ani Difranco, Liz Phair, Hole, Patti Smith, P.J Harvey and Blondie. If we were to compare and contrast the music of all the women in this category we would find more differences than similarities. Although the initial intention of this genre title was possibly meant to empower women it has certainly lost that objective. The term Chick Rock was generally created in the 80’s and became more prevalent in the 90’s, it essentially refers to women who write their own songs, play their own instruments and contain something of an “edge”. It is  clearly not necessary to put all women who are not typical pop stars into one bananas simplifying category. If we did the same for men then we would put G G Allen in the same category as Chris Martin.

Conscious Rap

Conscious rap refers to a sub genre of rap and hip hop that challenges dominant political, economic, philosophical and cultural issues. This genre is meant to separate the plethora of rappers who refrain from making offensive statements and pertain to the general outdated themes within rap such as the abundance of money and objectifying  women. It is certainly important to differentiate the various forms of rap, especially to educate people who assume all rap sounds the same and is about the same thing because if you love hip hop you know that’s not the case. The problem with this term is that it no longer applies to contemporary rap and is often misused thus generalizing a group of people who are far too often discriminated against. Conscious rap originally applied to artists such Public Enemy (who were also some of the pioneers of hip hop), Immortal Technique and Mos Def to differentiate from “Gangster Rap” such as Dr.Dre, Wu-Tang Clan and Biggy. However,now we have artists such as Chance the Rapper, Kendrick Lamar and M. F Doom who sort of fit into the category of conscious rap given its description yet don’t choose to identify this way. Additionally, Macklemore is widely understood as conscious rap mostly because there isn’t really an alternative term to accurately describe his music. In his latest single “ White Privilege” Macklemore states “now I don’t rap about guns, so they label me conscious but I don’t rap about guns cause I wasn’t forced into the projects”. The state of hip hop is so multifaceted and diverse that merely separating conscious rap from the rest of hip hop is not enough. We now have contemporary terms in our society to describe gender, race and sexual orientation; hip hop deserves the same.

Coffee House

Coffee house is an extremely common term in modern music; it’s the name of several satellite radio stations, on air radio stations and online music channels. That stated it’s a relatively new term and is meant to describe music that makes you feel warm and safe inside. Although, that’s all fine and good it is a genre very few musicians strive for and is once again horribly generalizing. Musicians in this category bounce from Van Morrison to Jack Johnson; one wrote Astral Weeks and Into the Mystic, stole the show at the Last Waltz and redefined the use of the organ the other wrote Banana Pancakes. Beck, David Rawlings and Ryan Adams are also featured on these channels alongside Nora Jones, John Mayer and Adele. Let’s truly reflect on this variety of musicians for a moment to really grasp how astounding it is they are categorized in the same genre for a massive international audience everyday.I rest my case.

World Music

World Music has got to take the cake on the most generalizing genre title yet it is still hugely prevalent in North America and the name of several radio channels, album themes and even gets it’s own section at record stores. The idea that music from any foreign country should be stamped simply as “world music” is both vague and racist. In fact, the original description of the term is “non- western musical traditions” which can easily translate to “ music we don’t know how to define”. Secondly, this genre title wasn’t a conclusive decision of any of the musicians contributing to it; one white male in Connecticut named it in the sixties (true story). However, it remains to be a heavily promoted as common musical term. World music is essentially a huge blanket title over a diverse range of music that already has it’s own genre titles such as Bossa Nova, Afrobeat or Klezmer,just to name a few. So, please let’s give this one a rest and people in the future will be amazed we still used this term in 2016.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Meghan says:

    I 💙 You. As a person, a friend, a woman, a friend, a mover and a shaker, and as a true lover of music and arts. I appreciate that you are so eloquently unpacking the social normative ways we categorize people, gender, race, age in terms of music genres. I appreciate that you are raising questions and inviting people to think, discuss and debate things we take for granted as just ‘being the way they are’ when our social reality is not what it once was, if in fact it ever even was the way we tend to perceive it. I’m rambling but basically I just want to say thank you and keep on keeping on! Love Meghan

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