Archive for April, 2016

Genres. Why do we care so much? A late night rant by Jack Caleb Day

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

Out of all the conversations I have about media, conversations about film and literature are generally the most civil and conversations about music are generally the most hostile and prone to anger in debates

Music tends to be a bigger aspect of ones identity than film or literature culture does, while many people will cherish fictional characters and narratives to the point of making it a major part of their identity as well as the prominence of comic book and anime conventions, I’ve never seen people become martyrs for those things as much as for music genres; I don’t expect on ever seeing a ‘Rom-Com Demolition Night’ for example and I’ve never seen someone adopt SF or Horror or Anime fashion to the same extent as Punk or Hip-Hop Culture.

There is also the fact that not liking the same musical genres as someone seems to create a much bigger rift with them than differing tastes in Film or Literature or Video Games. While I’m normally not bothered some jock or chav or hood-rat or member of a related sub-culture I generally dislike and consider most members of to be rather close minded and unintelligent criticises all Science Fiction or Comic books or Anime or anything else ‘nerdy’ I like as being ‘weird’ or ‘lame’ ,or a more colourful expletive, often without even a surface knowledge of the form just for being outside of their very limited comfort zone generally doesn’t bother me because well, these people are natural conformists and generally moronic at best, hearing someone I know through my stereotypically ‘geeky’ interests or through my fondness or genres such as Rock and Metal make blanket statements like ‘All Hip-Hop is repetitive music about bitches and money’ or ‘All electronic music is soulless music for druggies to rave over’ does bother me because well, they should know better.

These are the people who have spent their time diving into more obscure mediums and defending themselves from judgement over what they enjoy so to hear these people dismiss entire forms of art without any research or digging into makes me annoyed at them both for being similar to the ‘cool kids’ we so despise and because well, they’re missing out on awesome music.

Most of the, predominately white male, people I know from the latter camp could pretty easily become massive Hip-Hop or Electronica fans if they looked into the genre because well, I’ve seen it happen. There’s multiple people I’ve met through that facet of my interests who previously detested Rap that I’ve managed to introduce to artists like MF DOOM, Busdriver, Dr Octagon, New Flesh, Eyedea & Abilities, Aesop Rock, Mos Def, Lupe Fiasco, Jedi Mind Tricks, Deep Puddle Dynamics, Task Force etc who write relatively non ‘Thug’ songs that often use Science Fiction, philosophy and comic book related themes and touch upon social issues with a fairly intelligent vocabulary and pretty much over night converted them into calling Hip-Hop one of their favourite art forms. Most people swayed over to Hip-Hop that way I’ve then seen enjoy Mobb Depp, Nas, Wu-Tang, N.W.A, Freddie Gibbs and other ‘Thug’ rappers they’d have previously called talentless just like they enjoy their white Thrash Metal and Hard Rock bands.

On the other end of the spectrum, I know people through the local Hip-Hop scene who I’ve managed to get to enjoy things they’d previously considered ‘Nerdy’ and/or had no real exposure too. More ‘working class’ and/or minority driven SF films and TV franchises such as Blade Runner, Deep Space Nine, Dark City, Total Recall, Planet Of The Apes etc as opposed to the very middle class and white likes of Star Wars, 2001: A Space Oddesey, Battlestar Galactica etc. Crime and Urban Drama comic books such as Goldfish, Love and Rockets, Sin City, 100 Bullets etc maybe a better introduction to the form for someone raised in a more ‘Ghetto’ environment than an issue of Superman or 2000AD that, much as I love them, might seem bizarre to someone unaccustomed to fiction based on the fantastical.

I think this divide is also a very cultural in the sense that, it’s still seen as much more abnormal for a person of colour to be interested in stereotypically ‘white things’ than it is for a white person to be interested in stereotypically ‘black things.’ While this is 100% culturally imposed and I can think of many black people involved in Science Fiction, Anime, Comic books and Punk Rock who take glee at defying this notion, they would probably agree that they are seen as an abnormality for their involvement in these fields. To make this plain, YouTube a Grime concert and then Youtube a comic book convention and focus on the audience, chances are you’ll see more White and Asian people at the former than Black and Gypsy people at the later. This is largely because the latter two groups are fed a much more limited perception of themselves compared to the former two races and people are generally more surprised at intelligence and non-conformity from the latter groups than by unintelligent and conformity in the former groups.

Even though I consider myself to be post-racial and anti-racism, sexism and homophobia, I admit that when I meet a Black or Gypsy person for the first time, especially if they dress in a fairly ‘urban’ manner I generally make more assumptions about them and their interests than I do to a white or Asian person dressed in the middle class norms, now this is arguably wrong but in many cases my assumption is right due to the things people of colour are generally exposed to growing up from a cultural and media standpoint compared to white people.This really shouldn’t be the case but it often is in my cases.

I think another divergence in genres of Music compared to film genres is that fact that in film there is always general traits that can make a film good or bad, i.e; acting, filmography, special effects, internal continuity, dialogue etc. These transcend genre’s and would be held up as reasons for The Room, Bedtime Stories, Teenagers From Outer Space and The Nativity 3 being sub-par movies without missing a beat. While there are certain things required only for certain cinematic forms, scariness for Horror, sentimentality for Romance, humour for Comedies, the differences in creation are FAR FAR smaller than the difference between making what would generally be considered a good Death Metal song and a good Soul song, or even between making a good Death Metal song and a good Stoner Metal song.

Music genres are often contradictory in their creation methods and general standards for quality, to return to the previous example: Death Metal fans usually like music in the genre to be very aggressive, raw and decidedly unpoppy, while most Soul music fans want Soul songs to be the exact opposite. Even within genres, I could play the Hip-Hop songs I’ve been working on recently to a group of people into the Anticon/Def Jux style of Hip-Hop and expect a more positive reaction than if I played it to a group of people who prefer the Pusha T/Dipset style of Hip-Hop or if I went into Brixton or Dover playing The Smiths and Faith No More I’d get the same confused stares as if I was walking through a suburb in Broadstairs playing Gucci Mane and Chief Keefe at maximum volume, these are both stereotypes and follow the idea of ‘trendiness’ that in an ideal world would not exist, but tragically it does.

Ultimately though people will like and dislike certain genres and art-forms and that is fine, provided they don’t dismiss them out of hand or insist they are inherently bad or that enjoyment of one over the other makes the other thing somehow worse. For example I can say that I find much of the distorted, layered guitar riffs and raw screamed emotion in the vocals many Black and Death Metal albums to be hauntingly beautiful whereas a highly orchestrated, smoothly sung Soul song often leaves me feeling nothing new. Alternatively I can say that many of the turntable scratches and sample drops in classic Hip-Hop can leave my jaw dropped in amazement whereas a guitar solo from AC/DC or Guns & Roses generally does nothing for me.

This does not mean that either statement is fact or that the latter examples are talentless, just that it’s a different form of talent that I often don’t enjoy as much. While I would also say that a generic Dance or Pop Song designed specifically for club use that will disappear completely in less than six months is probably not of the same artistic merit or sincerity as a piece of expertly composed Classical or Progressive Rock or a deeply political Folk or Hip-Hop, that doesn’t somehow require labelling all club based Dance-Pop songs as talentless or worthless.

I read a post on TV Tropes that described two common genre biases as Rockism and Popism. Rockism = Wanting a steak from a fancy restaurant but getting a McDonalds hamburger instead then bitching the hamburger isn’t a steak.  Popism = Getting a steak from a fancy restaurant THEN a McDonalds hamburger and insisting they’re of the same quality. I’d talk about these things further but my brains gone dry.

So in conclusion: Stereotypes are bad but I sometimes indulge in them, racism is now a much more subtle art-form and genre’s can’t be judged through the lens of a different genre. Also Meat is murder

This rant was bought to you by Jack Caleb Day for no real reason