Musical genres have always been a necessary evil, and the more specific they get, the more annoying they become. You want to label something “folk”? Fine, it’s nice to understand, in a broad sense, what category a band or song or fits into. “Freak folk”? Okay, that’s a little obnoxious, but maybe for people deep into the scene, it’s also useful.
But “ectofolk”? Now you can go straight to hell, genre inventors, because I don’t know what that means, and I bet you don’t, either.
The best thing you can do when confronted with these highly specific classifications that, paradoxically, tell you very little about quality, is to change your perspective. Instead of getting frustrated, recognize the absurdity and laugh at it. Be like the Fuds Menu of the music world.
That’s how we recommend you treat the 50 strangest genre names from our friends at Spotify. Before we get into the good stuff, here’s their methodology for inventing these endless sub-types:
Spotify’s genres react to changes in music as they happen. Our music intelligence platform reads everything written about music on the web and listens to millions of new songs all the time to identify unique acoustic attributes. To create dynamic genres, we identify salient terms used to describe music (e.g., “math rock,” “IDM”, etc.), just as they start to appear. We then model genres as dynamic music clusters – groupings of artists and songs that share common descriptors, and similar acoustic and cultural attributes. When a new genre forms, we know about it, so you can discover it right away, too.
Some of the explanations vaguely make sense, some are totally esoteric, and some, like “gauze pop,” are just hilarious:
gauze pop: A descriptive name for a subtly distinct cluster of indie pop, which needed a name
“Uhhh, it needed a name and my friend Bill had a bunch of gauze on his thumb, so we came up with ‘gauze pop.’”
Here are some other favorites, with Spotify’s interpretation in bold, and ours after:
nerdcore: Nerdcore is hip hop music catered to nerds. Lyrical subject matter may include science fiction and computer games. Most nerdcore features DIY production and uncleared samples.
nerdcore: A desperate attempt by white people to make hip hop lame.
new weird america: New weird America is an indie folk/rock variant descended from the psychedelic folk and rock of the ’60s and ’70s. Its influences are broad and eclectic, including metal, free jazz, electronic music, world music, Latin, noise, and even opera.
new weird america: This can literally be any kind of music. Ideally it’s made in America, but we’re not super strict on that.
solipsynthm: Solo laptop experimentalists.
solipsynthm: We’re very proud of ourselves for this name. Sincerely, English majors who have never listened to a solo laptop experimentalist.
shiver pop: A descriptive name for a subtly distinct cluster of indie pop, which needed a name.
shiver pop: Uh, you remember my buddy Bill? The gauze guy? Yeah, this time he didn’t have gauze, but he did have a fever and was shivering like crazy.
vegan straight edge: Vegan straight edge is hardcore punk that espouses a vegan and drug-free lifestyle. Lyrics feature themes about animal cruelty and clean living.
vegan straight edge: You thought punk was dead, but in reality it’s just very embarrassing now.
wrestling: The sound of wrestling stars.
wrestling: Here’s 40 minutes of Ric Flair screaming at you.
unblack metal: This black metal-style music takes the opposite (anti-satanist) view.
unblack metal: A desperate attempt by white people to make “Christian rock” cool.
Check out all 50 genres here, and laugh (or rage) amongst yourselves.