Do we really need genres?
I had a great conversation the other day and I wanted to add the topic to the list of music discussions. The conversation was about whether genres are really necessary. Merriam-Webster defines genre as “a category of artistic, musical or literary composition characterized by a particular style, form or content”. I’ll keep the focus of this discussion on music and start by asking the question, “What about music that spans multiple genres?” I can think of several artists who don’t just sing one type of music. We see soul artists singing gospel and gospel artists making jazz albums. So, do we really need genres after all?
In the conversation, we posed the idea of categorizing music by the actual sound rather than what it appears to be. For instance, what if we could go into a music store (assuming there will be any left in the coming years, but that’s another story) and we could search for an artist with strong vocals? That way, we may find albums from Luther Vandross, Nina Simone and Shirley Caesar all in the same section of the store, rather than on separate aisles. Does it matter that they all sing a different type of music if what you’re really looking for is a strong vocalist? I’m not saying I agree; I’m just putting the question out there.
I have to pause for a second to address the obvious question that you may have, “Why does Finding the B-Side have a heading for genres? Although I think genres sometime add unnecessary boundaries to music, I think people simply prefer to have them. I certainly wouldn’t want to lose any valuable readers by not explaining what this website offers. So, I use genres to steer your clicking as you read about the music. But, in the future, Finding the B-Side may try to shake things up a bit and use categories like vocalists, guitarists and uptempo to describe the music rather than the genre categories that we see all too often. I wonder what that might really be like. In the meantime, I’d like to hear your thoughts.
Do you think we really need genres in music today?