Lorde

The singularity is approaching. Not just the dystopian rule of sentient robot overlords as prophesied by every sci-fi movie ever, but sure, that too. (Have you seen what Google wants us to put on our faces? Resistance is futile.) I’m talking about the musical singularity, pop music’s convergence into a single unified style I like to call the monogenre. Coldplay collaborates with Rihanna, and the resulting highly compressed mega-chorus so effectively blurs the line between softhewn alt-rock and pop-R&B that it’s not immediately clear which artist’s wheelhouse the song inhabits. Avicii scores his biggest hit by managing to mash up Mumford-style folk music with digitized dance-club thump. Look at how far apart the young Nashville musical acts Paramore and Taylor Swift started, then look at how close they are now.

Speaking of young Nashville stars undergoing transformations: Miley Cyrus is a perfect example of the monogenre in action. “We Can’t Stop,” one of the year’s truest pop smashes, is steeped in EDM sonics, masterminded by the reigning hip-hop producer of our time and carried along by melodies that could just as easily have easily been sung by Cyrus’ father on country radio. As Stereogum’s Tom Breihan noted on Twitter, the follow-up smash “Wrecking Ball” is the same sort of composite: “New wave verses, blown-out country chorus, Adele bridge, Mike Will synth-bips, all comes together somehow.” This is typical of pop music in 2013. It doesn’t always work, but it’s always coming together.

That’s perhaps a surprising development if you buy the argument that our culture is splintering beyond cohesion into a world where even former bastions of universal experience like network TV and FM radio are reduced to oversized niches. (Who won American Idol last year again?) But maybe the monogenre is happening as a response to all that stratification. On a “pure” artistic level — the follow-your-muse argument — years of overflowing hard drives, the limitless feeding frenzy of online streaming and the death of the guilty pleasure could only result in a generation of music that crossbreeds disparate styles. We’ve been hearing about the internet’s power to forge new connections on par with peanut butter plus chocolate for as long as there’s been an internet. On an “impure” commercial level — the follow-the-money argument — why put all your eggs in one basket and pray that you’ll capture the attention of a small subset of the population when you can hybridize and appeal to many different cliques? Being all things to all people is a dangerous game, but it might be the only viable game going forward for those aspiring to rock stardom as a full-time job. Just look at the No. 1 rock star on the planet: He got to the top in part by insisting on blurred lines rather than settling for “Blurred Lines,” and he certainly didn’t do it without pissing anybody off.

Indie rock is caught in the monogenre’s gravitational pull too, from Vampire Weekend’s Ariel Rechtshaid-assisted flirtation with shimmering pop and R&B to Arcade Fire incorporating James Murphy’s entire record collection into their arena-conquering anthems. Giving in to centrifugal force is an inevitable part of indie’s gentrification, which, as Steven Hyden pointed out at Grantland this week, is also part of its death rattle. Hyden offered up the sisterly pop-rock trio HAIM as evidence that indie has merged so completely with the culture at large that it has ceased to exist as a separate entity. And while there are still plenty of bands campaigning on ear-searing guitar aggression, the fact that HAIM is now considered the forefront of indie rock (they scored our Album Of The Week, Pitchfork’s Best New Music rating, and SPIN’s October cover story, for starters) speaks to the monogenre’s vast reach. These women are so poptimist that when they cover Fleetwood Mac/Sheryl Crow/Miley Cyrus you suspect that not only was it entirely genuine, but the fear of cooler-than-thou judgment never even crossed their minds. And while “It’s all just music, right?” isn’t the same thing as “Let’s combine all music into one genre!” it certainly seems like one thought led to the other for these sisters.

More than any of the music cited so far, HAIM’s debut Days Are Gone, out this week, makes the case that the monogenre doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Their music ties together so many different sounds and styles — Wilson Phillips harmonizing transposed against digital rumble on album opener “Falling”; rootsy Shania Twain balladry on “Honey & I” (or is that Amy Grant?); the howling Dead Weather gurgle-stomp of “My Song 5″;  the Eagles-repurposing brilliance of the year’s finest single, “The Wire” — but you can’t see the seams. The band also pulls off the time-honored trick of coming off like a neat and tidy pop group on record while wilding out rock ’n’ roll style in concert. Days Are Gone is distinctly retro yet undeniably modern. Like the best pop musicians, HAIM is easy to enjoy but impossible to pin down.

So it goes with Lorde, the suddenly-very-famous New Zealand teen whose debut album Pure Heroine is also out this week. The first time I heard her breakout single, the shrugging, celebrity-skewering “Royals,” it was on my local alternative rock station. Last week, New York’s famed hip-hop hub Hot 97 added it to rotation after an informal Twitter poll. Somewhere in between, the song made its way to Top 40 stations as God intended and began its climb to No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100. What’s crazy is you can make a case for why Lorde’s songs, most of which operate in the same sonic territory as “Royals,” belong in all three of those arenas. The synth-heavy production and complex drum programming mirrors current indie production trends (hello, Purity Ring) as much as current rap production trends (hello, Noah “40″ Shebib), and the overlapping hooks and harmonies are built for sing-alongs from Girl Scout camp on up.

Just as much as the music, Pure Heroine’s lyrics suggest Lorde grew up without genre filters, same as HAIM. Sure, she casually mentions listening to a Broken Social Scene song on repeat, but how would she so deftly critique the excesses of pop and rap if she hadn’t regularly immersed herself in such music too? She is, in other words, your average millennial casually kicking out music for her fellow millennials, an obsessive consumer of pop culture whose art can’t help but be multifaceted for that very reason. She’s not just a demographic slice, she’s the whole damn pie chart. And like the Haim sisters, she’s proof that such a confection doesn’t have to be unbearably saccharine — or worse, like throwing every available ingredient into the oven at once, pinching your nose and crossing your fingers. This is the kind of coalition-building that suggests we might be able to take down those robotic overlords after all.

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Comments (110)
  1. I think you hit the nail on the head that today’s kids are growing up without genre filters. Unless you had really cool older siblings or were friends with the right people, chances are that if you’re in your late 20s and older, you had to work to discover different, independent music outside of what was on the Billboard charts. The iTunes millennials, not so much…

    Also, did this image come to anyone else’s mind upon watching Lorde’s performance on Fallon?:

    • Ringcore! I called this earlier…

    • Clarification, since I already see it’s raining downvotes above, but I ain’t making fun of the way Lorde looks but rather how she was reverse-twerking it up there on the Late Night stage (and kind of was wearing a pajama-ish dress.)

      • I’ll upvote you buddy. I think she is into a kind of witch/ringcore thing + they’re trying to play down her extreme youth and protect her from being over-sexually-commodified. Maybe she hasn’t really developed a dance approach to performance yet–wants to establish her vocal bona fides first. And she did a great job.

        • oh which ahole downvoted my comment?!?

          • It was me. I’m sick of being unable to watch a woman sing a song without immediately having to listen to people’s commentary on whether or not she’s too sexy or not sexy enough or she looks like the girl from “The Ring” or whatever.

            Feel free to retaliate. The relative ineffectiveness of downvoting a post makes the whole thing feel like a funny slap fight.

          • thank you for explanation. But on the visual level of the presentation–how can you not have “impressions” of the visual image as you watch and listen to it? That’s what we’re discussing here–not attractiveness. We are discussing the nonsexual, Ringmovie impression. And I was just offering an explanation for the Ringcore look.

            Will you please respond rescinding your downvote, even tho it is too late to take it back?

          • the other thing is I don’t think the performance was embedded in this article, now that I look back. So I don’t get why you say this stuff…

          • isuckhard is right. The intent of the comment wasn’t to start a debate over whether she is attractive or not, but rather an observation of the way she twists and contorts her body language, as scene during her performance on Fallon the other night. The fact that her hair is long and the dress she wore that night was visually similar to The Ring girl character is what connects the dots. Nobody is objectifying Lorde here.

          • Cool, downvoted for making a reasonable explanation.

            Last week in the Shut Up, Dude comments, there was a discussion about how downvotes in response to thoughtful comments that people might disagree with are obnoxious, and right about now, I’m thinking I’m due for another comment section hiatus since it’s been a stupid week on here in relation to all of that.

          • Oh, grow a spine. Nobody is obligated to accept your explanations, and a downvote is an innocuous form of criticism you know you’re risking when you post here.

          • very hurtful

    • Your posting of that gif has cast a gloomy pallor over the entire conversation.

  2. Cross pollination isn’t new and it isn’t leading us to a monogenre. The instant a style of music begins to look monolithic and fixed, a desire for escape manifests in the hearts of a million artists, and they will each run in a different direction. It happens all the time.

    • I think it’s more about the idea that creating music fused with multiple styles is more of a natural and accepted thing these days, as witnessed by HAIM and Lorde. They weren’t thinking to mesh everything together, they just did their thing and that’s how it came out.

      • Sure. I was arguing more with the singularity as end-of-music theme that was introduced in the first paragraph. The article didn’t quite follow through with that idea, but it’s what I got stuck on.

        And if anyone can point me to some hip-hop that incorporates elements of ambient drone, I would be forever in your debt.

        • I don’t know if that’s a joke or not, but Lil B makes a lot of Ambient Drone Rap, and now half of the Rap Internet copies his style. Though if you’re talking without a beat then there’s just his Rain in England tape, which wasn’t great. 6 Kiss is the place to start and a great album/mixtape/whatever.

  3. Good article. The genre mash is definitely not new. But the natural tendency towards it is I suppose. I think technology and the abillity to find and soak in multiple genres at once, and subsequently not be embarrassed by it because everyone else is (including the artists), is obviously the culprit. Like Michael_ mentioned, us 28+ ers weren’t raised with this, but it has been interesting to witness and be a part of. I actually love where it’s going, genre and exposure wise.

    One of my favorite albums of all time could be considered the grand daddy of “something for everyone” perfection: Michael Jackson’s Thriller. I don’t think it’s coincidence that both HAIM and Lorde have obvious influence from MJ. But where Thriller may have been a brilliantly calculated formula, these girls seem to come to it naturally. Makes sense. It’s evolution.

    • I’m not always sold on it as a good thing. Maybe its just the stigma of seeing Rhianna sing on Coldplay ( or maybe the more worse stigma of actually caring about cCodlplay these days) but there are times that artists can collaberate or be infleuced via ozmosis and it works really well. It just depends on said influences. Bush by way of Nickelback by way of Creed should be marketed as some sort of acid trip. I hope I’m making sense and adding to this post. I just took ativan for sleep and and am not sleeping :(

  4. The examples listed in the article are mostly just bland vanilla products that have been created out of a focus-group desperate-to-fit-in mindset so they all kinda sound the same with the same synth presets and drum samples that everyone else is using.

    That’s a lot different from the kind of melting-pot, American monogenre thing that’s happened before like in the late 60′s where everyone was boiling down the rock and the soul and the country until it started to become one thing.

    • You haven’t listened to HAIM at all have you…

      • Yeah, I like Haim, feel like they’re the only good example above. But it’s hardly new or worth remarking about. You haven’t listened to Fleetwood Mac at all, have you? Making middle of the road pop music with influences from a few popular genres is not something the kids just invented, FFS.

        • There isn’t anything in the article that claims they’re inventing anything. In fact, it’s almost the complete opposite. He’s simply saying this is becoming a natural evolution, and the mentioned groups are examples of having done it to positive effect.

          • Exactly – evolution, like this is a degree of cross-pollination we’ve never seen before. Which it’s completely not.

            I like the idea of this article, writing about music evolution and stuff. Just feel that the particular point made is inaccurate and the examples poor.

            And now I’m going to destroy this article’s premise with one word:

            BECK.

            The monogenre ain’t what it used to be, kids.

          • I agree it’s not a new thing, I still don’t think that’s what Chris is getting at though. The idea that kids grow up to naturally process multiple genres and as a bioproduct naturally make music this way is what he’s getting at. He didn’t say genre mashing is new, or that these kids are the first to do it. It’s about the idea that it’s second nature now. It’s less thought out.

            Now, if you want to make the argument that former genre mashes like Michael Jackson, Beck, etc. are much better because they made the concious, creative decision to do this I can see that. Their intention was that of a pioneering spirit, and it was amazing. But it brings us back to the point of the article, kids like HAIM and Lorde aren’t mashing with the same intention. They simply do it, because they gew up in a world where Beck and MJ are normal things. It’s a sociological discussion, not a “who did it first” discusison.

          • I think mashing up all the genres has always been a natural thing. It was natural for Chuck Berry and Elvis. It was natural for the Band and Creedence and Ike and Tina. It was natural for the Clash and Talking Heads. It was natural for MJ and Beck. The only difference is Haim and Lorde do it a lot less well. Sorry.

          • What you are willfully doing here, is ignoring the fact that we live in a world where it is easy and normal to digest multiple types of music at once and that this could possibly and likely have an effect on how music is made. You are ignoring the point of the article to make a point yourself.

          • Don’t misunderstand, miguelito1. If you don’t like HAIM or Lorde or whatever, that’s your thing. I just think you don’t quite get the point of the article.

    • I just called Levon Helm in heaven to ask him about whether people nowadays are following in his and others’ footsteps and boiling down music to its monogenre essence. He said you were right, Coldplay and Rihanna and Lorde and Miley are truly groundbreaking artists.

      • Every genre is monogenre. Demarcate whatever you want but it is always the case because there is no necessary beginning or end so logically speaking, and I rarely disagree with KiDCHAIR, miguelito1 has a point.

        • In a broad sense, I get that. And you are right, everything is a mix of influences from the past if you want to wax that philosophical. But it’s still off base with the topic at hand. The point was never to say these groups are doing something unheard of per se. This article brings up a fair point in dissecting the pop groups today that are assimilating a very wide range with relative ease, without even thinking twice about it. The digital age has raised a generation to not only accept this more readily, but CREATE it more readily.

          As much as I’ve disagreed with Lil Miguel in the past, I get what he’s trying to say. I don’t disagree with the meat of it, I just think it’s the wrong direction for what this article is getting at. These Deconstructing articles are usually more about music culture from a sociological standpoint. I guess ome people just like to over-think (or under-think) the fairly simple topic at hand.

          • I see what you’re saying there. From that perspective I can understand the scope of the thing. And I can see where I may have over/under-thought it. My beef is with how it echoes. I think sometimes people can get the wrong idea (myself included) and pass around borrowed feelings about where things are going, where they were, and where they’re at. What this article points out is a trend that I would argue goes back a bit further, but it isn’t necessarily all that related. Maybe I’m the only one who feels like we’re all in the 80s again in a way. Not just musically, but in other forms as well. I could just be projecting though.

          • I find it VERY strange that this article didn’t mainly focus on the Arctic Monkeys’ new album and songs like “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?”

  5. There was an amazing article about a year ago in Washington’s City Paper about this exact phenomenon: http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/articles/43235/our-band-could-be-your-band-how-the-brooklynization-of/

    Some Key Lines:

    “Regional music scenes are disappearing because everyone is starting to sound like everyone else.”

    “Those who abandon their regional music scene to come to Brooklyn risk co-option by an aesthetic Borg. Things get mushy. There’s too much input, and there’s not a lot that’s not known. Somebody’s band sounds like Howlin’ Wolf and ESG and Gang of Four, but also sounds like REO Speedwagon and Glenn Branca and The Pointer Sisters. There aren’t many secrets. There are no mountains to go over.”

    “There is a tidal wave of generic, mushy, apolitical, featureless, Brooklynish music infiltrating the world’s stereos.”

    Basically, Lorde and Avicii and Coldplay with Rihanna are what you get when you throw decades of pop music in an easily downloadable blended smoothie. There’s beat there, enough to move a song along but not enough to dance to or scare your Grandma. There’s a message about love or lust or boredom or something, but nothing you could hang a philosophy or perspective on. But it sure fills that space between your ears while you’re updating your social networking profile or checking your feed.

    The problem is these kids have access to everything and no way to critically process it all. It’s all music man! These kids also don’t dislike anything unless it’s vocally discriminatory against something else. No need to be judgmental! So no lines get drawn, and everything bleeds into everything else. It’s like how all the colors of the specturm when mixed together gives you boring old white.

    All the world’s grumpy musical cranks are getting their edges sanded down, and it’s sad. Give me the old weird America any day.

    • I like your point about edges being sanded down. I agree, even if genres mash, blind subjective acceptance of everything shouldn’t be a result. That’ll just lead to boring, lowest common denomonator crap. I like the idea of not being afraid to like whatever, but I also like the idea of calling shit out for what it is. Boundaries can’t be broken if no boundaries are set.

    • I generally assume articles like this one in the Washington City Paper are written by people who are too lazy or don’t know how to seek out good new music. If you rely on corporate radio and the Grammys to sort through everything that’s out there, then, yeah, I can see why you’re getting bored. But the simple fact is that there are more people recording music and making it available to the public than ever before, and you don’t even have to stick to music produced in your own country. The people writing these articles need to stop waiting for good music to be directly marketed to them and just go out and find it.

  6. Interesting piece. I suppose my major objection would be that a lot of the artists you mention just don’t sound like each other at all (what sounds like Yeezus other than Yeezus? Certainly not Haim or Lorde). Also, that pop acts, pop-rock acts, and crossover hip-hop acts would all be dabbling in the same trendy sounds isn’t especially surprising… if you go deeper into a particular genre you’ll definitely find a lot more diversity of influences and sounds, even a willingness to revel in a particular niche (think Savages, the Knife, Run the Jewels). And then you have acts like Sleigh Bells who really fit your account of what the monogenre is like, but also have a distinctive and immediately recognizable sound.

    I think part of what’s going on here is that the reception of a new act or a new single now often depends on whether or not people will want to add it to their playlists. Lorde and Haim can go on a playlist with pretty much anything, and their songs are strong enough that they may well steal the show. It’s a good recipe for turning casual fans into converts.

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  8. Remember when you were 14 and you didn’t give shit about new music and just wanted to come across more and more Led Zeppelin, Bowie, Pink Floyd, Who, Clapton, Smiths, REM, etc. ?

  9. I don’t see where Mumford and Sons fits into this theory. Are they not pop but folkies? I don’t think Arcade Fire is monogenreing I think they are polygenreing by moving into dance territory. But I still think the lyrics are a little heavyhanded/silly…love the songs though.

  10. Is anyone else getting really tired of obsessing over this stuff? The song remains the same whether you give it a new genre or not.

    • Hear here! It is a thinkpiece though so it has to be about something involving genre and something that is very tiresome and obsessive.

  11. I don’t know what any of these words mean.

  12. While I agree that we are witnessing the rise of the monogenre, I think that the addendum of indie to rock or pop is more of an expression of posturing ( as Hyden alluded to briefly ). Indie or Alternative are buzzwords for a cultural economy. You might even consider Stereogum, Pitchfork and Spin your bank, doling out cool bucks in the form of in-the-know. Not that we don’t desperately need curators such as Stereogum et al, because we really do. Besides the critics don’t create cultural capital, they just invest, spend, loan it out. Everybody participates, audiences, marketers and artists too. The term indie is a by-product of leveraging these psychological currents.

    Not that this is a bad thing – it works out very well for all parties involved!

    It’s just maybe we can put this whole “death of indie” thing to rest. Indie (and alternative, I suppose) doesn’t die or go away it will always exist in one form or another.

  13. alot of it is the commercialization and popularization of indie. As recently as 2002 or so I remember being into underground hip hop. Aesop Rock, El-P, Anticon, Sole, Mos Def, Talib. All those guys were unknown to those in the mainstream. Now in 2013, every single on of them is mainstream. Everyone knows who they are.

    Same could be said for the hipster lifestyle, Billysburg, skinny jeans, and indie music including pitchfork.

    In 2013, pop is indie. Indie is pop. The lines are indeed blurry. TI and Pharrell both worshipped in the indie sphere, appears on a Thicke song thats the biggest song of the year. JT creates 2 albums, critically acclaimed and becomes an avatar of “cool” and “hip” culture. Get Lucky features Pharrell and is the big hit of the year. Miguel teams up with Mariah to create the song of the summer.

    People in 2013 are willing to like ANY music. Tribes and sectors and genre boundaries dont exist. Good music is good music. iPods and iPads rarely are filled with one genre entirely. And often encompass a mish mash of pop, rock, indie, hip hop etc…

    Indie become pop. And pop is cool right now

    • think of how many indie bands demonstrate pure pop songwriting and production distanced from the mainstream only by time, i.e., they are retro pop in some way. The only thing making them indie is the literal independent label thing. Maybe not even that.

      Indie is almost a completely useless term. Underground and outsider labels probably fit better to dividde things up. But it’s hard to be underground these days [via Carles/NSA].

    • None of those guys are mainstream at all. Ask a random person who Sole, Anticon, or even El-P are and chances are they will have no idea who you’re talking about. Most people would probably think of ASAP Rocky when you say Aesop Rock. SOME people will know Talib because he’s had some success and people will know Mos Def more from The Italian Job than his music.

      Now, you’re right when you say that indie is bigger than ever. That’s apparent, but that doesn’t mean that stuff that used to be underground is now mainstream just because indie is more popular. It doesn’t work that way.

  14. wait, so, HAIM and Lorde are the robotic overlords, right?

  15. Not to mention the guy who wrote that Avicii song is the guitarist from Incubus… WORLD’S ARE COLLIDING, JERRY!

  16. So HAIM is the Nirvana of our generation and soon we’ll hate everyone for sounding exactly the same and the industry will have complete power because pop music has a creation monopoly.

    I’m sure think pieces were written about this when rap-rock was a thing in ’88 and WORLDZ WUZ COLLIDIN’

    Let’s skip forward ten years to when the backlash kicks in and nobody listens to music unless they’re local, unreported, and even rap has been gentrified.

  17. I dont know. Are HAIM really the band that changes everything? I can think of a ton of other major events from this year alone, as I stated above, that were more important and groundbreaking than Days Are Gone.

    Blurred Lines, Pharrell, Miguel, JT, Daft, Disclosure, etc….

    I dont really see HAIM as these cultural warriors either intentional or unintentional. I dont see Days Are Gone as changing the music world or the world in general as Nevermind did

  18. So, now, to defend themselves, indie websites must use “monogenre” to qualify mainstream music ? It’s all I can see in most of the names dropped in the article. Not sayin they’re all bad, but they all wanna be on radio.
    So ok, “this new kings of leon is no mainstream bro’ it’s monogennrreee !”, I’ll try it.

  19. I was just thinking a few weeks ago how weird it is that my favorite albums of the year are not really ‘rock’ albums at all. And that thought makes me feel weird, unnerved even. I’ve always considered myself first and foremost a ‘rock’ fan. Led Zeppelin, the Stones, Nirvana, the White Stripes, the Strokes, Spoon, whatever it is. And now my favorite current stuff is Daft Punk, JT, Drake, Disclosure, Lorde, disco-infused Arcade Fire. And I was like, “WHAT IS HAPPENING TO ME, why don’t I like rock any more?”

    But rock has changed. And it feels weird. I really really like what’s come out this year, but it really really feels odd that none of it is ‘rock.’

    • This is me. I find myself asking the same question of myself all the time. I’d say the Arcade Fire is still pretty firmly in the rock camp though, as are the new Arctic Monkeys and Vampire Weekend LPs.

    • in the mainstream indie sense that is. there’s so much guitar based (rock?) music out there that does not necessarily get coverage on a very indie mainstream site such as the gum.

    • im the same way, I came of age in the indie world having my life changed by Good News, Translatlanticism, Moon and Antarctica, Im Wide Awake, Endless Numbered Days and Funeral.

      But I feel like the music that most interests me right now is r&b and pop like you mentioned Disclosure, JT, Daft, Drake, Weeknd, Miguel, The Dream.

      I feel the same way about 2013 in rock. Most of my top albums of the year will most likely be non-rock albums.

      Maybe you and I have changed? Its possible we have moved on. I know ive disagreed with pitchfork this year, more so than in any other year that I can remember. Most of my favorite albums this year didnt get rave reviews from Pitchfork.

      For me the most exciting sounds in the music right now are pop and r&b, and not guitar based rock music

  20. still can’t believe people like HAIM..or CHVRCHES for that matter… Keven Shields should be tinfoiling about the farce that is the American “indie” scene, not britpop.

    /twocents

  21. The internet is the biggest reason artists previously defined as “indie” can score big hits now. There is no filter system on the web, no radio programmers telling you that these are the 15 most popular songs in the country.

    I feel like when Pitchfork gave JT the best song of 2007 for “My Love,” that signaled the shift between pop/alternative. But even before that, Modest Mouse and Franz Ferdinand were able to score huge top 40 hits. Maybe it was The OC that began this shift? Now we’re at the point where bands such as CHVRCHES, Haim, and Lorde, all making pop music, can be labeled as Alternative. And no one is saying Haim is the next Nirvana. That’s ridiculous. What is being said is that now, more than ever, it’s irrelevant as to which label you prescribe to your music. As long as it’s good (i.e. catchy, interesting) it can make its way onto a playlist.

    There’s just too much good music out there to ignore any one genre.

  22. so what youre saying is, there’s a thin liiiiine between Lorde and Haim?

  23. I like to pretend that michael_ and isuckhard are the same person, and that michael_ has jumped off the deep end and created multiple personas to make it look like more people agree with him. I might even be michael_. Are you michael_?

    • I would be shocked if michael_ and isuckhard are not the same person. I refuse to believe there are two people in the world who would be so deeply hurt by downvotes and could go from brash to whimpering and then back to brash again so effortlessly. I mean, a few days ago, Michael_ actually threatened to kill himself, because somebody called him a misogynist or something. And then on this page, you’ve got isuckhard posting “very hurtful.” Give me a break. Either they’re lovers or they’re the same person. I’m betting on same person.

      Michael_ has said his login has been deleted by Stereogum before, so I’m sure he’s up to some shenanigans.

      • I remember that saga (which was likely the point – for people to give him attention). I think he asked Stereogum to delete his profile. There was a stint of porn gifs being posted to the comment section by him, then a lot of freakouts…. he used the “I have gay friends so I’m not homophobic” defense with me once. I’m all too familiar with his shtick.

        I suppose I’m no better because it obviously affects me enough to remember his name and the comment wars we’ve gotten into. But I refuse to be sympathetic to someone who is likely trolling and or getting off on toying with peoples’ emotions (like getting us to care about him because he says he’ll kill himself, or pretending that he is offended by people not liking what he has to say).

        It’s ultimately just traffic for Stereogum, so they probably don’t care. He probably works for them to get more people to visit the site with the aggressive commenting guy (which would be dumb because trying to get internet comment controversy is like trying to blink).

        Michael_ sucks, I suck, this website sucks, everything is stupid and we should all be allowed to do whatever we want. And I suppose if we get to downvote michael_ we also should have to deal with the harmless entertaining rants.

      • Interesting conspiracy theory, but alas, it’s not true. For one, when Stereogum updated their comment section voting feature, it did away with the ability for a single username to achieve multiple votes from different IP address locations (home, work, etc.) and I’m sure that would extend to having multiple accounts. michael_ (all lowercase) is my only account.

        Other clarifications: Not homophobic, not sure where that came from but whatevs, and not that it has to be a talking point anywhere, but my life is coming to a close in the coming months, so if I mention it here, it’s just my way of saying “Who cares, I’m going to be dead soon.” I’ve set a date and that’s my choice. If it bothers you, sorry. It doesn’t need to be discussed I suppose.

        • Also, some of the villainizing by holier art thou commenters such as yourselves around here is so fucking out of line. I don’t think you understand the gravity of your SLANDERING comments (because that’s what it is when you accuse someone of being misogynistic or homophobic when they are not, especially by twisting around their words context or misunderstood. It’s like you have a vendetta and will stoop to )

          I am not sure how it is where you live, but we have a law here where if someone slanders your name three times on the Internet — via e-mail, facebook, text, twitter or whatever form of social media you choose — in a public forum, you have the right to pursue legal action against them. Because I am not only a Stereogum commenter but a person with a “brand” so to speak outside of Stereogum, I’ll just spell it out for you: If you continue accusing me of being malicious things such as the ones I mentioned above, I will pursue legal action (and believe me, the veil of being a cutesy named anonymous Stereogum commenter is not hard to yank back.)

          • (and that law crosses state lines’ jurisdiction, by the way. Locally, some high school coach recently successfully sued some 21 year old military punk who was posting accusations that the coach was a pedophile all because the kid’s sister quit the soccer team since she wasn’t getting enough playing time because she wasn’t all that good, and the brother took it upon himself to blame and try to ruin the coach’s life for that.)

          • Sorry, re-reading this I sound totally like an Amanda Bynes, but c’mon — It’s one thing to say you disagree with someone’s opinion on music and the topic at hand, chalk them up as an idiot, downvote them and be on your merry way, and it’s another thing to go deeper than that and bash their character into the ground all because they drew up a visual comparison to Lorde and the Ring Girl.

          • Didn’t call you homophobic, just said that you told me you weren’t homophobic. It happened a while ago. And even then I didn’t say that you were homophobic.

            For someone with a brand that they seem to care about, you sure do make yourself seem incredibly unlikeable. And you have no legal recourse against my opinion of you (which you have misconstrued and twisted to suit your own needs – vilifying me as some sort of nemesis. save it for someone else, please). You can’t sue someone for saying that they’re homophobic. Otherwise Chick-fil-a would be rolling in lawsuit money.

            Also I don’t care about your comparison of Lorde and the Ring girl (Lord of the ring girl – - – just noticed that). I just find your presence on this site to be polarizing and derisive and purposefully trolling.

          • I’m sorry if it comes off that way. How about I do me, and you do you, and we just leave it at that and do our best not to inflict personal conflict unrelated to the content in these comments.

          • Deal.

  24. Funny that Slate published a very, very similar article literally within one minute of Stereogum running this…
    http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/music_box/2013/10/lorde_s_pure_heroine_and_haim_s_days_are_gone_reviewed.html

  25. Nothing new is happening here. Genres converge all the time.

    - Rock music happened because rhythm and blues mixed with gospel and elements of country/folk music.

    - Hip Hop happened when folk poets and jamaican style toasting melded with funk and disco breaks.

    - House music melded hip-hop, italian disco, Kraftwerk, etc.

    Were those all instances of “kids today don’t have genre filters” or just a continuation of musical history that’s been happening since the beginning of human culture?

  26. Sounds like the crankypants author doesn’t like new music. Waah. When someone says “It all sounds the same!” (monogenre) they’re just being ignorant…or my grandparents.

  27. You could write this article about any week in popular music since the beginning of recorded music.

    Here, I re-wrote this article for 1995:

    “(No Doubt)’s debut (Tragic Kingdom), out this week, makes the case that the monogenre doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Their music ties together so many different sounds and styles — (third wave punk and ska); (new wave pop)” (Tejano flavored guitars); (post-grunge distortion); but you can’t see the seams. The band also pulls off the time-honored trick of coming off like a neat and tidy pop group on record while wilding out rock ‘n’ roll style in concert. (Tragic Kingdom) is distinctly retro yet undeniably modern. Like the best pop musicians, (No Doubt) is easy to enjoy but impossible to pin down.”

  28. You could have just as well written this in 1999. With hugely popular mainstream rock bands like Linkin Park fusing a rock band setup with hip-hop rhymes and electronic beats, it seems as if we’re heading for a monogenre. Furthermore, some of the most critically acclaimed alternative/indie rock acts like Radiohead and Beck have reached for electronic influenced sounds and rejected traditional rock approaches.

  29. This article started so well and then AMAZINGLY decided that the monogenre was ok – based on two artists discussed. I don’t think the monogenre is ok. Influences are great and what you do with them is even better. However, mashing up a series of popular trends into one song – is not really that inventive. Sure it can be entertaining ear candy a la HAIM (Lorde – IDK both of her songs I have heard are almost entirely alike).
    The reason the monogenre is coming about is because the younger gen of artists haven’t listened to goddamn albums. They’ve distilled a bunch of ‘hits’ onto their ipods – and so they are brilliant at making ear candy.
    Also – and stereogum could do this article too – many artists now come from priveledged families. That wasn’t the case in the 70s – and maybe in the 80s. This isn’t to say only people that had it hard make good music – but I do think they had to work harder for it. The reasons Robert Johnson, The Clash, Bruce Springsteen, and MInor Threat ruled – and it’s the same reason many newer artists will never rule.
    Here’s to hoping the opposite of this article – that this monogenre culture dies a quick death.

  30. I disagree.

    We’ve seen this before. That point in the early ’80s when new wave, an evolution of an independent strain of rock music (punk), suddenly started finding commercial success. Non-new wave artists began incorporating elements of the genre in an attempt to seem relevant (Frampton’s Art of Control) or simply out of a lack of distinction in sounds (Whodini’s first single being produced by Thomas Dolby) while new wave artists began incorporating others sounds like hip hop (Blondie’s “Rapture”, Malcom McLaren “Buffalo Gals”) and other genres that would be seemingly opposed to their sound. Then there were people like Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Prince, people who so fully merged multiple genres that they gave us the first true conception of modern pop music. By the end of the decade, there really wasn’t much of a distinction in the pop realm between many of the genres, so you had something like Neneh Cherry’s “Buffalo Stance” which appealed across a spectrum that could include college radio but also the pop charts in the same way a Lorde is positioned today, but that changed sometime in the early ’90s.

    What we’re seeing isn’t a monogenre, it’s simply another ebb in the constant shifting of the musical landscape. Something in the ’90s led to a complete fracturing of sounds so that rock became distinct from dance which became distinct from hip-hop which became distinct from R&B. Everything became a niche in that era where you had so many fractured radio formats popping up to cater to specific audiences that it was almost a joke. This is those sounds finding their way back into a place where they can coexist peacefully. There were obviously a number of things the preceded this happening in the indie rock community, for example the rise of Daft Punk and LCD Soundsystem as icons in a scene that valued the guitar over the sequencer, and out of that the return to a danceable form of rock music in the mid-half of the last decade which allowed for many rockists to start expanding beyond the guitar-bass-drums dynamic. But more than anything, it was the iPod. iPods and music-streaming services like Spotify have nearly killed niche radio formats. Rock stations are hard up today because they stick to a specific format of specific bands. Hell, what was the biggest hit of the ’00s? “Hey Ya”, a song that somehow appeared on rock radio just as often as it did pop or hip-hip stations. What wasn’t as big a hit? 99.9% of the stuff that was normally showing up on those stations. Seriously simple stuff like the shuffle function allowed people to see how different styles were actually quite similar. And people like Andre 3000 used that as a springboard to help merge styles that had seen distance for so many years.

    I don’t think the story in HAIM or Lorde is the death of indie, it’s the ascent of women as the primary force in the market. You mentioned the gentrification of indie in a previous article, but seriously? Indie was ALWAYS gentrified. It grew out of college rock, which was white college kids grappling with the ennui of their existence. These were also almost exclusively men. You would have the occasional Siouxsie as a force but she was something of an exception because it was rare to see such a fierce female personality finding success in that world. Today there’s a general shift in America where the male half of the population is slowly losing its hold over the cultural currency it once so freely spent, while the female half is taking that growing power and using it to reshape genres to fit its idea of what they should be. So HAIM can reference Fleetwood Mac and still maintain relevance as an “indie” band.

  31. much of these death of indie articles always ignore real trends. The major trend in indie music from 2003 onwards was the increasing mainstreaming and popularity of the genre, starting with Death Cab being mentioned by Seth Cohen, and including things like Arcade Fire and Bon Iver and Frank Ocean winning Grammys.

    The idea of abandoning a band because they get popular isnt reality. Which is bizaare since even in 2013 the defining stereotype of a hipster and indie fan is “I only like obscure bands that no one else loves”.

    Whats happened in the 2000′s is the mainstreaming of indie and the popularizing of a style of music. And the willingness of a generation to accept ALL styles of music, whether dubstep or indie folk, or straight up pop.

    People nowadays dont care if its mainstream pop or a band that has 20 fans total. If the music is good thats the only thing that matters

  32. I’m way late to the game, and maybe this has been said (I didn’t sift through the 89 previous comments), but part of this is probably due to the prevalence of Pandora and curated radio applications. I was listening to Songza today, one of my favorites, and I tried out a new station called “Sophisticated Indie.” I was hoping for something a little more difficult to listen to, less ‘poppy.’ It was mostly Vampire Weekend and Magnetic Fields. I was disappointed.

    So this became an outlet to complain, lol. Sorry.

  33. Its pretty amusing, spotify has a banner right now. Two pictures are featured, one of HAIM and one of Lorde, with the advertisement saying “check it out” so is this connection between these two bands a coincidence? Or is it spotify trying to cash in on multiple articles being written about these two artists together? Also, who the fuck wrote this article first? I guess you can say I’m just a little perplexed maybe everyone was paid to write about these bands at the same time.

  34. I’m just trying to wrap my brain around critics using names like Wilson Philips, Amy Grant, Shania Twain and the Eagles to try to get people TO buy albums. I guess I bemoan “the death of the guilty pleasure,” not because anyone should feel guilty for liking the music they like, but because I miss when smart people with good taste could agree that some things were just objectively fucking terrible.

    • Yessir!

      It’s like the whole music world lost its goddamn mind!

    • Wait a second, those artists are “objectively” terrible? One thing I WON’T miss is people like you dogmatically acting like the only good records are the ones that middle-aged, white, male rock critics like.

      • I wouldn’t take that stretch. I mean the two critics I can think of immediately, who use this sort of reviewing process, Christgau and Scaruffi happen to be white and male and “old”. But on the same token the new school of reviewers take such precarious subjective positions that with time become less and less relevant to the music they review. I can’t think of the last time I read a review by Lindsay Zoladz or Carrie Battan where they analyzed the what and how in detail without succumbing to projection. Now granted that objectivity is a fool’s game, I’ll concede that the optimism is a good thing but I think the rigor and attention has gone out of the general consensus of music writing and engagement of music in that respect. It is more rhetorical and concerned with lensing than analysis. Feel free to illuminate any flaws in my argument. I stake no claim here, just an observation.

        • who are you talking to? also, about what? also, why?

          • I was responding to your response to (this part I am assuming) James Jackson Toth’s comment. I replied to you specifically because I don’t exactly agree that objectivity has no place in engaging music and writing about it. I agree that dogmatically consuming music isn’t the most respectable thing to do.

            It works both ways though for the growing amount of music listeners that borrow their opinions from various outlets with little difference from the source and not much elaboration. For example, I pointed to the writing common to some of Pitchfork’s reviewers that reverberates throughout internet discussions (primarily) about what good records are and how/why we should or shouldn’t like certain music.

            I also alluded to the growing trend in rhetorical analysis that focuses on supporting a decided point with evidence rather than from that evidence. The idea being that one involves projecting an idea onto the experience and working from their and the other being to discover an idea from investigating the music. But like I said earlier I was musing, making an observation.

  35. Your internal links still open in separate tabs/windows… c’mon Stereogum! Maybe when I click a link in the middle of a paragraph, I still want to read the rest of the paragraph!

  36. you want monogenre?

    ttp://blog.ourstage.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/311-logo.jpg

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