I wonder how many different genres and sub-genres of music I've listened to in the 25 years I've been on earth. I started with Calypso, Soca & Reggae on Saturday mornings because my parents are from the Caribbean. Then I remember Whitney Houston's belt "And I will always love you!" Michael Jackson's Dangerous was my introduction to the electric guitar. Middle was school, and the early 2000's in general, was a strange time. Green Day, Megadeth, Ja Rule, 50 Cent, Avril Lavigne, Snoop Dogg, Fall Out Boy, and a few Broadway musicals littered my Limewire downloads. (That computer didn't make it to the late 2000's) Freshman and Sophomore year of high school consisted of whatever was on the radio. 07-08 was all Hyphy. The Carter 3 marked my senior year. College started the day with Vampire Weekend and Bloc Party, transitioned to Club Bangers, and ended the nights with The Weeknd and Frank Ocean. John Legend has always had a place on any playlist of mine, and recently Prince's catalogue has emerged. It's been quite the game of musical chairs when it comes to what's #NowPlaying.
Now that I write my own music I find influence and inspiration in almost everything. The quandary I've found myself in is the concept of continuity. How left is too left of center? How many genres can one artist exist in? Do you release everything you write and hope a pattern appears or figure out what you like and release only the gems from that lane? If you like all of it can you do all of it? Is that confusing to the listener? What's the difference between a one trick pony and a niche artist? How did Drake give us Hotline Bling and F*ck Up Some Commas? Did Beyoncé truly have the best album of 2009? Well we know the answer to that last one, but whatever.
I decided to ask two friends what they thought about continuity.
One of my best friends since 9th grade, Matt, is more or less tone deaf. Can't sing a note to save his life. Don't feel bad for him though - he's prepping for med school so he'll be fine. Even though he can't sing for anything Matt can pick out good music. I trust his taste. He's the perfect test group because he lives outside of the creative process but can spot an L when he hears one.
"I think you walk a fine line if you start releasing in different genres. On one hand some people will appreciate the talent it takes to exist and produce good music in different genres. But I think that number is smaller than the amount of people you could attract by staying true to one genre. Especially as you are starting out. Further down the road when you are famous and have millions of people who love you, you have much more freedom to switch things up ... I think genre and the tone of a song are very different. You're allowed to have happy and sad songs."
My other friend, James The Mormon, is completely involved in the creative process and has the most entrepreneurial mind I've ever met. He can form a viable business plan in a matter of minutes and knows what works.
"I think that now a days that doesn't matter. It keeps people guessing. Genres are dead. Make stuff that sounds good."
What do you think? I don't know if there is a right answer, but I'd love to hear yours.