Categorizing Music

On the surface, this topic has absolutely nothing to do with stigmas. But read until the end and you'll see why this was included in this particular blog.

One day recently I was listening to the radio. My husband and I are now driving a new-to-us car and we haven't figured out the radio system yet, so we were testing different methods to find out the easiest way to program and access our favorite stations.

Some of the stations we ran across were obvious - a popular song from the 70s was pretty indicative of an oldies channel; a twangy sound was most likely the local country channel; the mellow speaking voice meant it was probably NPR or a local talk radio show.

But some were harder to guess. Sometimes the lines blurred. A pop rock sound could be a contemporary Christian channel or a latest hits station. Modern country can be confused with some types of old-school rock. Even what seems to obviously be NPR, could potentially be news.

It made me think - where is the line drawn. Just how "twangy" does a song have to be to be classified as country? How loud and raucous does a song have to be to be classified as hard rock? And when does a current hit finally evolve into an "oldie"?

(Funny sideline story... one night I was driving in northern Alabama after visiting my family. I was a little sleepy and was scanning the scarce channels to find something I liked that would help me stay awake. I finally came across a song I loved and sang along happily... 

That is, until I heard, "That was [insert name of a band] and this is the Oldies Channel!" It was one of the first indicators that I was actually old and it struck me harder than I would have imagined.)

Back to categorizing music...

Who comes up with the dividing lines? Is it the artist, the agent, the promotor, or the public? 

When an artist "crosses over" it usually means a jump from one confining category to another. Examples are a Latin singer becoming mainstream or a Christian artist being played in with Top 40 hits.

But what if, as mentioned in the second example, there was no dedicated Christian channel in the first place? There would be no need to try to break out of the shell of only playing to a Christian audience. Non-Christians would have to listen to Christian music and vice-versa. 

There would be no opposition, no polarization, no stigma of being "only a Christian band" (a possible sentiment of the non-Christians) or being "only a secular band" (a possible sentiment of the Christians).

I don't have an answer... I just thought it was an interesting question. But I do happen to think that if this was true, like Louis Armstrong said, "What a wonderful world."



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