Listen to Everything, Even Country and Rap

“Electronic music isn’t real music; there’s no skill involved.”

Someone actually said that to me in high school and no, they were not joking. I was learning how to write chiptunes on a Gameboy using relatively complex software on a physical cartridge and had just finished writing one of the few pieces I ever composed with the medium. My friend’s argument relied on an arbitrary point that specifically aimed to sustain their one-dimensional understanding of music. Instead of allowing space to, at the very least, observe what I was doing, their singular aim was to shut me out from all they considered to be “music”.

Thankfully, exposure to sounds and styles across countless different artists had successfully instilled an ideal in me to give most things a chance. I did not heed their discouragement and am still here writing about music.

There are many of compelling viewpoints to find in the developmental history of music genres (thanks, music history class); there’s much to be said for the cultural context music often finds itself in (shout outs to intersectionality). Those topics alone have books written about them; today I want simply want to encourage openness to the possibilities found in music. There are countless perspectives to be communicated, influences to shape sounds and lyrics, opportunities found in unpredictability; music genres should exist to help us dive deeper into what we already appreciate, not serve as a tool for dismissal.

Hopefully if you’re reading a music-oriented blog you’re aware when we talk about music it is often classified into genres. Genres identify commonalities in the music of various artists and provide a more unified language when discussing various musical elements, such as style, physical context, or creative intention. They provide grounding for conversations about music, this mysterious and often abstract thing humans have loved for thousands of years.

Since there are so many things to enjoy about music (sonic quality, social importance, personal connection, etc.) people often take the elements they are most passionate about and construct value hierarchies. While this might help a person or group of like-minded folks better hone in on their appreciation for certain kinds of music, these constructs can sometimes be communicated in a way that suggests entire styles of music are not worthy of consideration.

Here are some common criticisms that people use in rejecting entire styles and cultures of music:

Jazz: “It all sounds like elevator music.”

Country: “I don’t want to hear someone whine about their life.”

Rap: “All rappers talk about is money and ego.”

Metal: “I can’t understand what they’re saying.”

Ska: “Trumpets? No thanks.”

Now imagine that all those excuses to ignore each genre weren’t simply a matter of personal preference, but a learned response resulting from narrow experiences and bad first impressions. Each argument is easily deconstructed when you look closer and find you can hardly compare big band to smooth jazz, deathcore to hard rock, and so on. Humans are hardly ever so easy to write off, why would music be?

Part of the artist roster here at Chroma (cheap self-promotional plug) aims to lead by example when it comes to open-mindedness toward music genres. Currently we have a range including folk, soul, emo, worship, ambient, pop, and hardcore. Then consider how each artist is teeming with their own stylistic nuances, songwriting approach, and artistic intention; these are all elements which transcend information a genre-grouping can convey. Heck, since 2014 I’ve had no clue what to classify Every Day as (cheaper self-promo).

If you love music, then it’s all worth investigating. There are no “guilty-pleasure bands” because, as they say, “you like what you like” and you aren’t required to validate your taste to anyone. You do, however, owe it to yourself to explore the untouched worlds of sound and poetry. It’s a beautiful galaxy populated to infinity with cavernous, expansive, breath-taking planets. Grab some headphones, muster up some courage, and give something new a chance.