‘An artist is in a constant state of becoming’ – Prince

Quick story: A couple of years ago (when I was still studying music at university), I remember I had this feeling that the curriculum was trying to simplify ones musical taste and outlook; like I was being forced into a box. The same goes for the tutors, they we’re struggling to comprehend my perspective on music and why my songs we’re hard to define in terms of genre. I felt like I didn’t fit in. They even wondered why I had such an eclectic array of influences. For them, it was a big issue, cause everyone else in my year and class have ‘found their sound’ and was on the way to success (or so I thought). I guess looking back, it finally makes sense why the younger me was so out the box and free; my sound was derived from artists such as: Prince, The Beatles, John Mayer. I mean if we look at JM’s genre on Wiki, it literally says ‘Pop, alt-rock, neo-soul, rnb, blues, americana’. So if you’re an artist or musician who doesn’t necessarily fit in a box or have a definite sound; don’t worry, I got some great news for you!

And now back on course.

I opened up my Spotify app only to be notified of a new playlist called ‘Pollen’. Their description of it is: ‘genre-less. Quality first always’. I was sure Spotify never really did that, at least not from my experience. I mean they usually put new tracks and albums using their algorithms as pop-ups. But this was different I thought. Somehow they knew that my listening habits wasn’t as predictable as it is on the surface. I listen to classical music, lofi, all the way to hip-hop, pop and mostly, everything in between. Could there be a new genre brooding on the surface?

And then I actually listened to a couple of tracks from the playlist, and to say that the tracks we’re mostly undefinable is an understatement. There is a track on there (can’t remember the title), that starts out as an indie-folk type track which then evolves into an acapella choir section, and ends with a trappy beat with 808 subs! Define that music critics! Does this mean that as music is evolving and is becoming more available worldwide in terms of accessibility; that sounds, genres and cultures are starting to meld into one? I think so. But that’s a topic for another day 😊

Anyways, the point of this post is to inform and challenge all you musos out there, to not be afraid to be more than one dimension. You are an artist. A creator. Who says you have to necessarily be in a pre-packaged box from the get go? We can even refer to someone everyone is hyping about, ‘Billie Eillish’. Yes, she definitely has a sound that melds all her songs together, it’s her voice and her lyrics AKA the song. But when it comes to the overarching genre, I’m not so sure it’s as simple as describing her as Pop. She definitely is cross-genre. And God only knows where she heads next in terms of her sound.

And just to be the devil’s advocate, I do also believe that everything you release can’t just be random. Context is everything. You’re song or track still has to connect to an ideology, but less so in terms of genre. We’re trying to connect to people with our music, not standards.

I’ll end this post with a quote from the legendary prince (I’m currently reading his recent official autobiography, The Beautiful Ones, grab it, especially if you’re a fan).

‘An artist is in a constant state of becoming’.


Here’s to more music and success for 2020, let’s get it!

Jonathan Milanes

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