From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

A microgenre is a specialized or niche genre. Historically, writers seeking to define a new style of music, by linking together a group of seemingly unrelated artists, labelled a new microgenre using an appropriate protologism of their choosing. Additionally, genres are sometimes retroactively created by record dealers and collectors as a way to increase the monetary value of certain records. Some of the earliest examples are Northern soul, freakbeat, garage punk, and sunshine pop.

By the early 2010s, most microgenres would be linked and defined through various outlets on the Internet, usually as part of generating popularity and hype for a newly perceived trend. Examples of these include chillwave, witch house, seapunk, shitgaze, vaporwave, and cloud rap.


Microgenres are usually labelled by writers seeking to define a new style of music (by linking together a group of unrelated artists).[1] For example, when Lenny Kaye invoked the phrase "garage-punk" in liner notes for the 1971 compilation Nuggets, it effectively created a style of rock music that, until then, was nameless and lingering in obscurity.[2] The process of recognition for "power pop" was similarly formulated by a circle of rock writers who advocated their own annotated history of the genre.[3] Music journalist Simon Reynolds referenced the "genre-as-retroactive-fiction" to as early as "Northern soul" and "garage punk", both coined in the early 1970s, and later followed by "freakbeat" and "sunshine pop". These kinds of genres are also sometimes designed by record dealers and collectors to increase the monetary value of the original records.[4]

Successful attempts that resulted in widespread usage include "post-rock" (Reynolds) and "hauntology" (Mark Fisher).[1] In the mid 1990s, Melody Maker journalists went so far as to make up fictional bands to justify the existence of an updated New Romantic scene they dubbed "Romantic Modernism". That same decade, there was a trend of electronic and dance music producers who created specialized descriptions of their music as a way to assert their individuality. In the instance of trance music, this desire led to "progressive trance", "Goa trance", "deep psytrance", and "hard trance".[1] House, drum-n-bass, dubstep and techno also contain a large number of microgenres.[5]

Since the 1990s, Metal music, especially from Extreme Metal, spawned a lot of different styles by using expressions like War Metal, Drone Metal, Depressive Black Metal, Djent for the music. Many of these highly specialized subgenres are hard to distinguish for non-metal listners. See Heavy metal genres for an overview of all metal genres.

21st century[edit]

The 21st century "microgenre explosion" was partly a consequence of "software advances, faster internet connections, and the globalized proliferation of music".[6] By the early 2010s, most microgenres would be linked and defined through various outlets on the Internet. Examples of these include chillwave, witch house, seapunk, shitgaze, vaporwave, and cloud rap. Each of them, according to Vice writer Ezra Marcus, were "music scenes [created] out of thin air".[7] Pitchfork's Jonny Coleman commented: "The line between a real genre that sounds fake and a fake genre that could be real is as thin as ever, if existent at all. This is the uncanny genre valley that publicists-cum-neologicians live in and for."[8] PopMatters' Thomas Britt argued that the "staggering number of niches created by writers and commenters to 'distinguish' musical acts is ultimately binding. If a band plays along and tailors itself to a category, then its fortunes are likely tied to the shelf life of that category."[9]

In 2010, The Atlantic's Llewellyn Hinkes Johns referenced the succession of chillwave, glo-fi, and hypnagogic pop as a "prime example" of a cycle involving the invention of a new category that is quickly and "brazenly denounced, sometimes in the same article".[10] Chillwave—termed sarcastically in a 2009 blog post[11]—was one of the first music genres to formulate online.[12] The term did not gain mainstream currency until early 2010, when it was the subject of articles by the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.[13] Grantland's Dave Schilling describes the label's designation as a pivotal moment that "revealed how arbitrary and meaningless labels like that really are. It wasn't a scene. It was a parody of a scene, both a defining moment for the music blogosphere and the last gasp."[14]

List of microgenres[edit]

Microgenre Year of coinage
Alternative R&B[15] Does not appear
Cloud rap[16][7] Does not appear
Deep Internet[17] Does not appear
Distroid[1] Does not appear
Hardvapour[18] Does not appear
Hipster hop[19] Does not appear
Mumble rap[20]
Noisegrind[22] Does not appear
c. 1991[25]
Shitgaze[16][7] Does not appear
Slam death metal[26] Does not appear
Witch house[1][16][7]

See also[edit]

Lists of sub-subgenres


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Halciion (April 9, 2014). "(micro)genres of music explored". AQNB.
  2. ^ Graham, Ben (2015). A Gathering of Promises: The Battle for Texas's Psychedelic Music, from The 13th Floor Elevators to The Black Angels and Beyond. John Hunt Publishing. p. 311. ISBN 978-1-78279-093-8.
  3. ^ Cateforis, Theo (2011). Are We Not New Wave: Modern Pop at the Turn of the 1980s. University of Michigan Press. pp. 130, 132. ISBN 978-0-472-03470-3.
  4. ^ Reynolds, Simon (2011). Retromania: Pop Culture's Addiction to Its Own Past. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. p. 152. ISBN 978-1-4299-6858-4.
  5. ^ Ramanthan, Lavanya (April 17, 2014). "Factory Floor album review". The Washington Post.
  6. ^ Kneschke, Tristan (February 10, 2017). "On Wandering the Paths of a Spotify Analyst's Mad Music Map". PopMatters.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Marcus, Ezra (May 12, 2017). "Wave Music Is a Marketing Tactic, Not a Microgenre". Vice.
  8. ^ Coleman, Jonny (May 1, 2015). "Quiz: Is This A Real Genre". Pitchfork.
  9. ^ Britt, Thomas (April 2, 2014). "Pattern Is Movement - Pattern Is Movement". PopMatters.
  10. ^ Hinkes-Jones, Llewellyn (15 July 2010). "Downtempo Pop: When Good Music Gets a Bad Name". The Atlantic.
  11. ^ Cheshire, Tom (March 30, 2011). "Invent a new genre: Hipster Runoff's Carles explains 'chillwave'". The Wired.
  12. ^ Scherer, James (October 26, 2016). "Great artists steal: An interview with Neon Indian's Alan Palomo". Smile Politely.
  13. ^ a b Hood, Bryan (July 14, 2011). "Vulture's Brief History of Chillwave". Vulture.[permanent dead link]
  14. ^ Schilling, Dave (April 8, 2015). "That Was a Thing: The Brief History of the Totally Made-Up Chillwave Music Genre".
  15. ^ "6LACK: East Atlanta Love Letter Album Review - Pitchfork". pitchfork.com.
  16. ^ a b c d e Friedlander, Emilie; McDermott, Patrick D. (October 8, 2015). "A Recent History of Microgenres". The Fader.
  17. ^ "Deep Internet - A History of Quiz MVE | Morpheus Lunae on Patreon". Patreon. Retrieved 2019-11-01.
  18. ^ Arcand, Rob (July 12, 2016). "Inside Hardvapour, an Aggressive, Wry Rebellion Against Vaporwave". Vice. Retrieved December 30, 2016.
  19. ^ Matt Preira (May 10, 2011). "Five Key Moments in the Chronology of Hipster Hop". Miami New Times. Retrieved August 17, 2011. a brewing microgenre poised to take the mainstream by storm
  20. ^ "The real 'Slim Shady' strikes again with latest album release | Arts & Entertainment". theeastcarolinian.com. 2018-09-10. Retrieved 2018-09-27.
  21. ^ "The Rise of 'Mumble Rap': Did Lyricism Take a Hit in 2016?". Billboard. Retrieved 2018-08-28.
  22. ^ "Fear of God Founder Erich Keller Talks Grindcore History, Album Reissue - Decibel Magazine". 6 March 2018.
  23. ^ Detrick, Ben (March 2, 2012). "Little Mermaid Goes Punk: Seapunk, a Web Joke With Music, Has Its Moment". The New York Times. Retrieved August 16, 2016.
  24. ^ L-Vis 1990 & Sinjin Hawke Feat. Pink Dollaz. "Singles Club: Empress Of, MihTy, mmph". Factmag.com. Retrieved 2018-09-27.
  25. ^ Onishi, Koji (1998). "Shibuya-Kei (Shibuya Sound) and globalization". In Mitsui, Tōru (ed.). Popular Music: Intercultural Interpretations. Graduate Program in Music, Kanazawa University. ISBN 978-4-9980684-1-9.
  26. ^ Deaville, Jason (2018). "The blackened slamming death metal of hateful transgression". Metal Injection.
  27. ^ Galil, Leor (February 19, 2013). "Vaporwave and the Observer Effect". Chicago Reader.
  28. ^ Lhooq, Michelle (June 18, 2015). "Teens, Drugs, and HIV Jokes: Welcome to Witch House in Russia". Retrieved March 2, 2016.

Further reading[edit]