What makes music 'generic'?

This term is thrown around a lot... I see people say it all the time but I have never seen anybody actually explain their reasoning. The only thing I can guess is that maybe it's used to describe a specific or certain sound that the listener finds boring, perhaps because they've already heard that sound done by another band (in what they consider a more interesting way?)? And if that's the case, can something be generic sounding for one person but not another?

tunes, rhythms or structures that have been used dozens of times before, highly simple lyrics, entire songs that are "by the book", stuff like that.

At least that's what it means to me. Basically, pretty much the entire pop music genre.

If you take inspiration from one band, it's plagiarism.
If you take inspiration from a few bands, you are generic.
If you take inspiration from a wide range of bands, everyone hails you as a genius.

Genericism is a largely ethereal quality. Where said music completely fails to stand out, and follows the same formulaic patterns of other bands without the distinguishing flair that other bands use to provide identity. It's clearly heavily subjective, hence why all the generic bands have large followings.

sanquin:
tunes, rhythms or structures that have been used dozens of times before, highly simple lyrics, entire songs that are "by the book", stuff like that.

At least that's what it means to me. Basically, pretty much the entire pop music genre.

Pretty much this. The mainstream rap genres suffers most from this as well. I tell people if you want to listen to good hip hop just start going online. Or look at the Indie scene.

Eh, depends. Certain lyrics, beats, rhythms, the meaning or context of those lyrics.

Its honestly one of the few reasons I'm not much of a rap fan

See for yourself.

Natemans:
Eh, depends. Certain lyrics, beats, rhythms, the meaning or context of those lyrics.

Its honestly one of the few reasons I'm not much of a rap fan

The right way to make HipHop beats.

Anything that defines "Pop" a general lack of hooks or story lyrically, massive reliance on focus few if any key or tempo changes. If a song sounds like most of the ones after and before it is generic by definition. The opposite would be breaking Genre standards, simply not using 4:4, collaborating with others, adding/removing/retuning an instrument anything like that.

Autotune.

Chord progression I - V - vi - IV. If you're in the key of C, this is C - G - A minor - F.


And chord progession i - VI - III - VII. In the key of A minor, this is A minor - F - C - G.

Both chord progressions are extremely popular in pop music and are used in tons and tons of famous songs. There's nothing inherently wrong with using them, both are effective at giving a song a certain feel and have a pleasing sound. You can still do a lot with the arrangement. Play around with the rhythms, tempos, structures and tones. Put differently, it's not the colors you use, but the picture you paint.

It's just that a lot of artists tend to paint the same picture.

I suspect the answer to this question can be found by a comprehensive study of Radiohead's "music".

Chimpzy:
Chord progression I - V - vi - IV. If you're in the key of C, this is C - G - A minor - F.


And chord progession i - VI - III - VII. In the key of A minor, this is A minor - F - C - G.

Both chord progressions are extremely popular in pop music and are used in tons and tons of famous songs. There's nothing inherently wrong with using them, both are effective at giving a song a certain feel and have a pleasing sound. You can still do a lot with the arrangement. Play around with the rhythms, tempos, structures and tones. Put differently, it's not the colors you use, but the picture you paint.

It's just that a lot of artists tend to paint the same picture.

I don't know if I fully agree with this analysis. While I think there's a ring of truth to it, I play guitar and write songs and I know from doing it myself that not just pop songs that do with similar chord sequences - many rock and indie songs and other genres do and have done since WW1, but many add other layers to it. Most don't label all artists as generic. I don't think you can blame it on just the chords sequences.

dscross:

Chimpzy:
snip

I don't know if I fully agree with this analysis. While I think there's a ring of truth to it, I play guitar and write songs and I know from doing it myself that not just pop songs that do it -most rock and indie songs and other genres do and have done since WW1, but many add other layers to it. Most don't label all artists as generic. I don't think you can blame it on just the chords sequences.

Yes, which is why I said this:

There's nothing inherently wrong with using them, both are effective at giving a song a certain feel and have a pleasing sound. You can still do a lot with the arrangement. Play around with the rhythms, tempos, structures and tones. Put differently, it's not the colors you use, but the picture you paint.

It's just that a lot of artists tend to paint the same picture.

I put down U2's 'With or Without You' as an example of I - V - vi - IV because it was the first that came to mind, but it's actually a pretty good use. Well arranged so it sounds distinct and instantly recognizable.

But to touch upon what you said, The Beatles were very good at using generic (for lack of a better word) chord progressions, but adding all kinds of extra layers and nuances to keep things harmonically interesting. Although it may not appear that way today, since their massive influence on pop music caused many other artist to start using their songwriting techniques, eventually arguably turning those into generic music 'cliches' as well.

Sadly, few artists have Beatles levels of talent, or if they do have it, seem to often prefer sticking to 'tried and true' arrangements. Although exceptions certainly exist.

This is a pretty good example of what makes something generic

I mean, in literal terms "generic" music is music that draws on genre conventions, but that's kind of useless because all music does.

Personally, when I describe something as "generic" what I mean is that I subjectively don't find the experience of listening to it distinct from listening to other music in the same genre. Like, if you were listening to a playlist and a generic song came up, you wouldn't necessarily remember it.

That's not always a bad thing though. I like to listen to synthwave or low-tempo psytrance when I work, for example, precisely because those are genres in which a lot of the output is generic in this sense, so it's not distracting. I know I can put on a playlist and just have some background noise.

votemarvel:
This is a pretty good example of what makes something generic

That's very debatable. The video touches upon the ubiquity of the I-V-vi-IV chord progression in pop music, but many of the songs selected for the medley don't actually use it, or only use it briefly. Most of the songs have also been transposed from their original key. In other words, they purposefully changed songs to make them more generic for comedy's sake.

I ostensibly agree that I-V-vi-IV is arguably overused (I mean, I brought it up myself in this thread), but I feel using this video as an argument against I-V-vi-IV is undercut by the fact Axis of Evil had to alter many songs to fit it.

Chimpzy:

votemarvel:
This is a pretty good example of what makes something generic

That's very debatable. The video touches upon the ubiquity of the I-V-vi-IV chord progression in pop music, but many of the songs selected for the medley don't actually use it, or only use it briefly. Most of the songs have also been transposed from their original key. In other words, they purposefully changed songs to make them more generic for comedy's sake.

I ostensibly agree that I-V-vi-IV is arguably overused (I mean, I brought it up myself in this thread), but I feel using this video as an argument against I-V-vi-IV is undercut by the fact Axis of Evil had to alter many songs to fit it.

Plus the melodies they chose are actually quite distinctive.

 

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