MySpace Genre Semiotics!

other! If you didn't know, bands don't like telling you what they sound like. Here's an example why: Let's say I play in a band, we're called "Stillborn Leper", and my boss asks me what we sound like, and I say "We're like a mix of Radiohead and The Velvet Underground, but our guitarist is really into The Pixies and Joy Division so sometimes we have a lot of post-punk going on, too." Stillborn Leper is, in all likeliness, a poorly executed teenage train wreck so godawfully bland it could sound like any band. Or, worse yet: a carbon copy of one of the aforementioned sacred cow bands. Summary: if you ask a band what they sound like, you're going to get a stumbling, awkward answer, if anything at all. It's a secret.

With MySpace, though, a new paradox exists, seemingly contrary to the "too shy to tell you how my band sound" credo. On almost any given band's profile page there is a line of text between the band's name and picture that gives you their "genre" in three or less categories. The categories are popular, they get used all the time, and the best part is they communicate TONS about what kind of band you are. Really! It's fun, too!

Take, for example, the Locust, of San Diego (If you haven't heard any of these bands, take a minute, click on the links and listen for a MULTI-MULTIMEDIA JOURNALISTIC CAVE DIVE). Their genre classification is fairly basic—punk/experimental/progressive. Punk because they're loud, I'd assume, experimental because they're . . . weird. And progressive because they have a keyboard player, I guess.

Not really that interesting, honestly. So lets take OC hype-wave riders Cold War Kids: Rock/Blues/Soul. Okay, the only thing worse than saying you play a style of music that's only come up in the last two years (ie: freak folk) is saying you play a style that came up at least 60 years before your oldest band member was born. It's the equivalent of Tom Delonge saying Box Car Racer's primarily influence was Fugazi. You're sure you weren't listening to any of those other fashionably sensitive three word bands, dick wad? Either Cold War Kids are trying to say they're so charmingly time warped that you start to wonder if you're listening to a reissue, or they're doing one of those "we're beyond classification" cop-outs, but more subtly.

However, the absolute most efficient and frank way of telling people your band is so original that they can't be defined is to use "other". There are two ways you can use the title—first, you can be like Matt Costa, and use "other" as an addendum to your first two picks; the least pretentious option. In this case, Costa apparently adds an unclassifiable new touch to the archaic formulas "indie" and "folk" are based on time and time again. OR you can go ahead and ditch those first two categories: your band completely falls outside the grasp of conventional definitions. For a perfect example of a band that perfectly fits this definition, look no further than She Wants Revenge: if they aren't a shining beacon of raw, never-before-seen creative energy, nobody is. Music is meaningless.

Franz Ferdinand, finally, brings us to the final category. They list themselves first as "glam" (whatever) then "indie" (of course they do) and finally crunk. Crunk?!? They aren't crunk! . . . ohhhhhhhhh, it's a joke! Here we have encountered the ironic MySpace genre label! They not only know how absurd the system is, they take it a step further in wanting YOU to know that they know how absurd it is. Necessary!

If I seem like I'm refusing to give anybody the thumbs up on a MySpace genre listing, then you've gotten my point. When you think about it, it's impossible to use those genre categories and not come off as a total self-indulgent idiot. I think I've decided that, from now on, I'm not going to shy away from people asking me what my band sounds like: "Yeah, we mostly play other."


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