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Let’s Talk Genres and Why They Don’t Matter

| March 14, 2017

As humans, we have this inexplicable need to categorize, classify and quantify things. One of my favorite examples of this is the obsession with genres in the EDM scene.

I was talking to someone at a bar and they told me "I only listen to real EDM. Like riddim and hardstep. None of that fake stuff like trance."

I politely told the gentleman that trance was also real EDM. And that genre snobbery was highly unattractive. He looked me dead in the eye and said in what he thought was a winning jocular fashion: "If you like trap and not hardstep, I'll have to judge you." Okay. 

It’s no wonder that for those outside of the EDM scene, the absolute plethora of genres can seem a bit intimidating, if not downright superfluous. And every day there are more and more genres being added to the mix. Just for giggles (or maybe I’m a masochist) I googled “list of EDM genres” and the Wikipedia entry is downright terrifying.

If you look here, you’ll see that there are more than 30 subcategories of house music. Just house. Not counting trap, dubstep, hardstyle and every other forgotten genre cousin out there.

For classification purposes, genres are useful. I agree that differentiating between trap and trance is important. But when it comes to genre snobbery based on hundreds of little subcategories that vary by as little as 5 bpm, I think it goes a little overboard. 

EDM by nature is a type of music that contains a lot of overlap. Characteristics of genres like bpm, basslines, percussive patterns and synth patterns are homogeneous to EDM in general. Genres incorporate sounds and patterns from other genres. Trance borrows from house. Trap borrows from dubstep. So why the need to break up genres into smaller and smaller categories? Maybe humans are just pedantic. 

I understand being more attracted to one type of music more than another. But there's no need for genre snobbery. The most successful producers (in my humble opinion) are the ones who don't box themselves into one particular genre. 

My champion in this narrative about why genres don’t matter is DJ Tiësto. The man has been producing music for longer than I’ve been alive and he has still managed to remain one of the most relevant EDM producers on the scene. Especially in a genre like EDM where the music is constantly changing and shifting, it is almost impossible to keep abreast of the trends. I credit Tiësto’s continued success to two things: his talent, and his flexibility.

DJ Tiesto

Tiësto is a fantastically talented producer. I don’t think I need to expand on that. His flexibility however is not to be forgotten in the story of his success. Tiësto had his roots in bass-y music (before he even had his stage name of Tiësto) but became popular through trance. As the years went on, Tiësto transitioned from trance to house. He even makes a reference to his genre flexibility in a track called "I love Tiësto" that he plays in almost all of his sets, a spoof of Kanye West’s "I Love Kanye."

"I miss the old Tiësto, straight from the go Tiësto, chop up the soul Tiësto, playing the trance Tiësto.”

I know that some people are very attached to their genre classifications. And that's fine. But at the end of the day, EDM is a genre that is constantly in flux, that is always borrowing and pulling from different categories. Are labels really necessary? I don't think so, but I'll leave that up to you. And to the gentleman from the bar: deuces. 


about the writer

Lindsay Moriyama

Lindsey Moriyama

Read More...Lindsey was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii but now she lives, writes, bartends and stretches paychecks in New York City.

Illenium, Gareth Emery and Porter Robinson are her favorites, but you'll find her at any EDM event in any borough. A lover of every genre from trance to dubstep, you can find her on the fringes of a crowd gloving, dancing and bringing good vibes. A PLURR fairy, basshead, trance child and kandi kid all in one, this scene is her world.

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