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1 March 2023

Most music being made these days has a familiar relationship between its perceived intention and sonic aesthetic. This suggests that genres have a sort of self-fulfilling nature. When you register the familiar sonic cues of a contemporary pop song, you suspect the artist intended for it to have popular appeal, even though what’s popular is virtually unknowable when even slightly zoomed out from today. When you hear the sonic cues of a punk song, you figure the artist wanted to subvert social norms, even though the punk sound and style went mainstream decades ago.

What if we defined music genres primarily by perceived artistic intent rather than sonic quality? What genres would remain? What new genres might we identify? Which artists might we see in a new light?

Below is a list of familiar genres, cannibalized to serve this alternate paradigm. With each, I’ve included a piece of music that might be assigned to this genre as it has been redefined, but likely wouldn’t be with our conventional, more sonically and commercially oriented classification.


Distinguished by the artist’s intention to appeal to contemporary broad and commercializable sensibilities, attitudes, sentiments, and experiences.

Atreyu - “You Give Love a Bad Name”


Distinguished by the artist’s intention to subvert or challenge contemporary sensibilities, standards, and expectations.

Carman - “R.I.O.T. (Righteous Invasion of Truth)”


Distinguished by the artist’s intention to represent and share the contemporary concerns and experiences of his or her peers.

Abstract Tribe Unique - “Them That’s Got”


Distinguished by the artist’s intention to interpret, reflect upon, and contribute to the Western academic and music theory-based musical tradition.

Sam Gendel & Sam Wilkes - “Kiefer No Melody”


Distinguished by the artist’s intention to make you shake your booty.

Sexwitch - “Kassidat El Hakka”