Martin Lopez /HIGHLANDER

We might have heard someone claim “I mainly listen to rock” or “I only play rap music” when describing their music preferences. It’s apparent that we think of genres of music as clearly defined categories that artists fall into when producing music. It assumes that the artists make a conscious decision to write songs that follow an exclusive set of rules for a certain genre. While this belief system is simple to understand, it is ineffective in describing your music preferences. 


I do acknowledge that it can be helpful for people to think of music genres as categorical compositions of artists with common sound. Unfortunately, this impractical means of communicating fails to acknowledge that no two artists have the same influences, upbringing or sound for that matter. The truth is that the world of music is seemingly infinite, as every artist has a unique identity. With this logic, it makes less sense to have a set amount of groups that a song, let alone an artist, can fit into. 


Even if we were to all agree to prefer simple groupings for songs to fall into, music tends to evolve over time as performers experiment with new ideas in songwriting. This gives rise to the concept of subgenres. This allows people to more precisely describe what it is they hear. The problem with this, however, is that if one holds to the idea that music is to be exclusively labeled, wouldn’t that give rise to millions of subgenres if you want to accurately portray something you hear in a track? Keeping track of every little small genre of music could work fine if you don’t mind being that person that goes around saying “I like to listen to experimental-hyperpop-jazz-fusion-wave.” 


Rather than separate music into independent categories from each other, one should perhaps use the concept of genres as an adjective. Like physical objects, music can be described using an endless amount of words. This makes it clear that music has such a subjective nature to it based on the listener. Like so many other forms of art, music is not to be kept in such a neat predictable order. More listeners should recognize that certain pieces of music can feel different depending on who is listening.