Genre Blending

If someone were to take a peek at my Spotify Discover Weekly playlist, they would find a very wide variety of music genres, styles, and timestamps. My tastes run from American rock and roll to Swedish Indie-pop, and even something classified as art school punk rock. I am drawn to a wide variety of entertainment. This means that somewhere out there, musicians, artists, and even brands have to constantly evolve to reach me and my fellow new audiences, as we, too, are ever-changing.

Thankfully, music is one platform that is always experiencing innovation. Artists draw inspiration from the past and present, blending old with new influences while trying to create the next big hit. One such hit came seemingly out of nowhere to take the music charts by storm.

The song “Old Town Road,” by American rapper Lil Nas X, recently made history, at 17-weeks, as the longest-running No. 1 track on the Billboard Hot 100. This cross-genre track initially sparked conversation by charting on both the Hot Hip Hop and Hot Country Songs charts at the same time. In response to this, Little Nas X debuted a remix featuring prominent Country singer Billy Ray Cyrus. Several “genre-blending” remixes of the song now exist, including one with Korean K-Pop band BTS retitled “Seoul Town Road.”

Success from the track “Old Town Road” can also be attributed to its appeal with children, thanks, in part, to the repetitive lyrics and melody. A recent video from Ohio’s Lander Elementary School, where Lil Nas X performed for the kids, is propelling shares of the song and its remixes. The YouTube channel KIDZ BOP Kids even created a child-friendly version of the song.

Mariah Carey, previously held the Hot 100 record for her 1995 duet with Boys II Men, “One Sweet Day,” and then shared it when “Despacito” hit the 16-week mark. Carey tweeted out her congratulations, using the opportunity for a little fan engagement herself.

In fact, musicians are constantly changing not only their tunes, but also how they engage with fans. We’re now seeing the creation of original short films that coincide with album releases, effectively putting music artists into the film business. These differ from music videos by incorporating more complex themes and recognized film directors. For example, English rock band Radiohead’s front man, Thom Yoke, collaborated with director Paul Thomas Anderson and Netflix for ANIMA, a “one-reeler” that featured three new songs.

Another example of “genre-blending” is Country Western artist Sturgill Simpson’s next album and companion anime film, titled Sound & Fury. The use of Japanese-style animation as a visual coincides with a new sound from the recording artist. Simpson took part in a panel discussion at the San Diego Comic-Con 2019 about the collaboration, along with director Takashi Okazaki, and talked about and how Simpson’s music will accompany the dystopian samurai film.

Having so many choices in music—and entertainment in general—can have its advantages and disadvantages. The challenge for musicians creating content is how to remain relevant and keep up with change, while keeping in mind that not everyone accepts change willingly.

Crossover, and cross-genre music is a formula that requires skilled collaboration between artists, and styles. Sometimes the stars align, and that formula opens up new opportunities for innovation and recognition of up-and-coming artists.

See more about “genre-blending” and more, in our Quarterly Report. If you’d like to see the Q2 Report, you can view our current newsletter here.

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