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An Introduction to the Post-Genre Era: The Future of Popular Music

We are living in a post-genre era. Or at least living in a nearly post-genre era. An era where Daft Punk is making disco albums, and where traditional arrangement and instrumentation are making an appearance alongside typical electronic music. "Alternative rock" has basically no meaning (and hasn’t had it for about 25 years). Trends are becoming less and less identifiable through genre terms and more identifiable through musical and stylistic terms. This is freeing for musicians, and especially results in a renaissance of music production . With use of technology rapidly becoming one of the things differentiating musical styles from one another, we see a coup in the musical world shifting from the traditional rock stars, to the producers and experimenters. Post-genre can rely on a range of variables, but it is liberating for the audience as well as the artist. It has been a long time coming.

My marketing professor, Brian Kitts, suggested that a revolution in music technology and production occurs roughly every 25 years. Les Paul moving from traditional country music to pioneering multitrack dubbing, especially with the use of his iconic and innovative electric guitar. He becomes one of the first to revolutionize pop-music through the means of engineering.

Another 25, and we have the Stones and Beatles borrowing influences from black artists and Motown groups. And even more so after Elvis had done the same. 

Then we have the Disco movement occurring slightly after the height of The Beatles. A point Kitts brought up was:

Without Giorgio Moroder’s production of Donna Summer's “I Feel Love,” it's hard to imagine disco, the punk reaction, EDM and the producer/DJ culture that permeates pop culture today.

Then rap and hip hop happen. Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight" comes along and finds mainstream success, sparking a huge surge in the rise of hip hop in most popular genres. Blondie's (a punk band's) Rapture hits the #1 spot in the Billboard Hot 100. The first rap record in history to do so.

That leads me to the notion of the Post-Genre. A mashup of cultural/musical elements from different genres. A unique voice for each artist. With the height of the Internet came cultural borders becoming less and less impenetrable. What can inspire me about Mongolian throat singing? What can I take away from an obscure blues record that I stumble upon on YouTube? The digital connection that comes with the online world is prominent in modern and future music.

Credit where credit is due. The post-genre moniker was heavily inspired by the artist Mobley's self-defined category of "Post-genre pop". I think that is mostly an ironic use of  the term, but it still stands as a reliable metric for defining a category lacking definition.

Here are a few examples of post-genre artists: 

 Lewis Del Mar's Danny Miller face to face with an audience member at their first Denver show.

Lewis Del Mar's Danny Miller face to face with an audience member at their first Denver show.

We have Lewis Del Mar (Max Harwood and Danny Miller), who just one year after releasing their first single, went on a world tour, and some time along then played Conan (I can’t find a functional link to the clip, sadly). Consequence of Sound calls them an experimental pop duo. An indication of their ushering in a new era of music production is the gritty, seemingly flawed recording and production style, while incorporating elements of electronic music, Latin percussion, hip hop, and rock. We call this post-rock. A genre in which rock is fused with basically whatever the hell the artist wants to fuse it with to create a unique sound. We see a prime example of post-genre and post-rock in their music. The most commercially acceptable song on the album is unlike any other song they’ve done. They are pioneers in their own sound, and are unapologetic about it. The most important mixing ideology for an album today is to mix for headphones. We are in a stage of sound consumption where it is a very personal experience. Music is listened to on headphones on your morning commute. It is listened to on headphones while you’re waiting for your doctor’s appointment. Their song Malt Liquor is mixed specifically to surround you with headphones.

 Image Credit: Affinity Magazine, BROCKHAMPTON

Image Credit: Affinity Magazine, BROCKHAMPTON

Some groups are even finding the post-genre through ironic use of traditionally used terms. For instance, BROCKHAMPTON are calling themselves “America's boyband.” This is a use of irony as they are usually known as a rap group, however they really are post-genre rap, as they incorporate a variety of different genres in their music. In their 2017 album Saturation, the first song “HEAT” incorporates elements of dub toasting and even some elements similar to an angsty ~2004 screaming pop-punk sound with one of the members screaming “I’ll break your neck so you can watch your back!” over and over. The instrumental is a hard electronic sound with a distorted bassline.

 Image Credit: Mushroom Productions, Nick Murphy looking into the camera.

Image Credit: Mushroom Productions, Nick Murphy looking into the camera.

Chet Faker (now known as Nick Murphy) is another incredible example. He incorporates elements of jazzy keyboard in his usually proclaimed electronic music. His live sessions version of his cover of “No Diggity” by Blackstreet is a perfect representation of a jazz adaptation for a traditionally ambient electronic cover of a rap song. He recorded his vocals on the studio album using a cheap camcorder microphone. Then he makes an EP with Flume called Lockjaw in 2013 and goes almost full electronic with atmospheric influences. This is especially true in their song Drop the Game. Murphy is also not afraid to use cheap hardware and equipment to get his signature sound. He is probably the most well-known artist on the list, but still a goodie.

 NoMBe opening for alt-J

NoMBe opening for alt-J

Now, NoMBe (real name Noah McBeth) started as a bedroom producer in his hometown in rural Germany. His godmother Chaka Khan was a major inspiration for him to get into music, and from a young age he just produced for his friends for fun. I got lunch with him when he came into town and I photographed him, and we talked music and things about his next album that I can't dive into quite yet. He now resides in LA. Can’t Catch Me and Sex are on the same album titled They Might've Even Loved Me, which goes to show that post-genre applies to album set-lists as well. The whole album is a tribute to the women who have changed his life (from ex’s, to his mother, to his godmother). That is important, because sonic elements are important to post-genre, but so too is the conceptual element.

 Credit: Unknown, Stephen also looking into the camera.

Credit: Unknown, Stephen also looking into the camera.

Stephen is another example of a lesser-known post-genre musical talent. He makes post-rock electronic pop hybrid music. That’s about as good of a description as I can provide. He is working his way up in popularity, slowly but surely. He incorporates elements EDM in his post-rock music. Guitar is heavy in his music, as well as hard hitting synths.

Grandson. Where to begin with grandson? He brings together bluesy guitar licks and vocals with a heavy dose of hip hop drums and electronic synth lines. His song "Best Friends" is a testament to how hard hitting a post-genre song can be. He, among others, define his music as alt-rock. As we have established early on in this post: alternative rock means nothing. He has has been in the activist culture establishing a firm stance on gun-control. Activism is nothing new in music, but his blatant use of references in "Thoughts and Prayers" is something that feels special. He tackles the corrupt bureaucracy in our government. He is especially responsive on social media (especially @grandsonsucks on IG). He's one of my favorite artists now.

 Credit: Ryan Millier, Grandson looking like a badass. "The body count is on your hands."

Credit: Ryan Millier, Grandson looking like a badass. "The body count is on your hands."

Here is a list of other artists that are ushering in a new era of post-genre music:

But all of these artists show that musical division through genre is becoming more and more arbitrary. Soon enough the waters will be so muddied, that it will be nearly impossible to define much of modern music as a specific genre. People will try, but it won’t be necessary. The trend of the post-genre will rapidly expand, and as a result, the listener will have more options for a listening experience.

We aim to review and popularize music for the post-genre era.

Grayton Newman