To badly paraphrase Douglas Adams, there was once a time where “rock was real rock, pop was real pop, and small furry creatures making EDM were real small furry creatures making EDM.” It is somewhat peculiar to observe the broadening of music in the mainstream. The 1975 blend slick pop with dirty 80s funk in a way many would have historically sneered at, even when both genres were at their peak in the 80s. Biffy Clyro take hardcore roots into catchy radio rock that can be heard playing from your mum’s car.
Blending genres is nothing new. Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory was the top selling album of 2001 with its eclectic mix of metal and hip-hop. Today what has changed is the way genres blend. Where Linkin Park’s debut was oil and water, flipping between two genres in a song, nowadays music is more like vodka and your favourite pre-drinks mixer. When nu-metal was at the height of its power, a time that should remain in the past, you could be sure which part was rap and which part was metal.
On The 1975’s ‘Love Me’, it is hard to tell where the pop ends and the funk begins. There were always bands who seamlessly merged music, The Police come to mind as notable in this field, but they were exceptions. Now pure genres struggle to break the mainstream where once they would gain dominance of the airwaves.
Whether this is good or bad depends on what you like. The new colour in the mainstream means listeners who want to get more flavour without straying far from pop are in luck. For genre snobs, like myself, it puts a ceiling on how far your favourite bands can go without compromising their sound.
With the rise of cheap music streaming it is hard to see this pattern ending. Young bands can access all kinds of music with a single click. Having so much to draw from, the future of mainstream music is bound to be a versatile and exciting one.