What does “Genre” even mean?

In class we discussed “genres” briefly today. It kind of struck me a little differently than I expected. It brought back an old memory of mine I had long since forgotten. It reminded me of when I was a kid and I asked my father and grandfather what made country music country music. I remember my father turning to my grandfather anticipating an answer from him. My grandfather simply said, “It is whatever you want it to be. If your heart thinks it’s country, then it must be country.”

His words were in my head today when we discussed genres. I came to the conclusion, that genres are mainly used to help people find and classify the songs they enjoy. I posted a couple weeks ago about what classifies bluegrass music as bluegrass. The theory that I came up with then still stands true in this blog. Music is what you classify it as. If you believe the music is country, then by all means it is country. If you want to believe a banjo, fiddle, mandolin, and guitar is Bluegrass, then it’s Bluegrass.

Ricky Skaggs is one of my favorite performers. I remember his songs being played on the radio in the truck back home. His song, “Country Boy”, was one that I truly fell in love with. The song was reassuring when I went to college because the meaning of the song, to me, was that no matter where I go or what I do, I will always be a country girl in my roots.

Anyways, in the readings we looked at the other day, it discussed Ricky Skaggs and how his concerts were set up. It discussed how he would do Bluegrass than country and vice versus. It makes sense that he would add or take away instruments in order to appeal to a greater crowd. In a sense, he would genre hop a lot within the concert alone. I think most artists who genre hop are more interested in trying to make more money and appeal to greater audiences. However, I feel Skaggs just wanted to return to his roots. His song, “Country Boy” did appeal to that. My favorite verse, “I may look like a city slicker/Shinin’ up through his shoes/Underneath I’m just a cotton picker/Pickin’ out a mess of blues.” discusses how he may look one way, but in fact he knows who he is and where he started. I think the ones that genre hop know where they came from and know where they are going. As I mentioned early, however, I believe that the genre should only be classified by yourself. You should decide what kind of music it is and believe that. If you want to believe Mumford and Sons is straight up Bluegrass, then that is your choice, not anyone elses.

One thought on “What does “Genre” even mean?”

  1. Courtney, it is interesting and inspiring to see how much your grandfather has influenced your thinking. I am glad these memories and insights surfaced today!

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