I'm often asked about my tendency to bend genres from one album to the next. I don't have much loyalty to one sound yet. I'm an artist. It's very important to me as an artist to experience the kind of music that is truest to me. A part of the popular artists musical journey consists of being seen while you're experimenting. Much of what you hear from a true artist is something that they may not have anticipated being so well received or even heard at all. For many of us, creating is a constant state of experimentation.
Don't let the fear of corporations and mass marketing scare you from being the creative artist that you truly are. Feel music. Experience music and share music with the ones who appreciate you for who you are. Your sound is for those who dare to experience it. You don't have to beg to be heard. Someone needs you just the way you are.
I often hear artists ask about writing hit records. It's a dream many people have. To be heard by millions. To be accepted by masses. To be known for being the "top". That's a noble endeavor. There's nothing wrong with wanting to create great music.
My question here isn't whether or not you should aspire to write a hit song. My question is, "Do you aspire to tell your truth?
Here's the deal. The story you desire to tell is personal. It's a story that you lived with your own life. Perhaps you've sprinkled some fairy dust on your lyrics and they're just a little shinier then they were in real life. That's okay but, when choosing genre, melody and style it's just as important to be authentic.
We all remember Kelis shouting the lyrics, "I hate you so much right now! Ahhhhh!!!!". It was a hip hop tinged, pop, maybe even alternative R&B tune that led us to feel all the RAGE she was feeling even if only for the 3 minutes that the song blasted thru our system. Rage was the feeling.
How about Jazmine Sullivan shouting, "I'll bust the windows out your car,"? This song was so melodic and filled with Jazmines amazing vibrato. It was a soul song for sure, perhaps R&B. It was so full of something we'd felt before. Although the genre isn't the same, although the voice isn't the same, the same feeling of RAGE was present.
Skip to the Jade Bird tune "Furious". She's asking her ex why he took his ring off when checking into a hotel and boy is she pissed. Here the genre is obvious Singer/Songwriter. The same Rage is present.
All three of these tunes rose to the top of their respective charts. All three were well received by their respective audience (or multi-genre lovers like you and I). All three songs could be considered "hit records", and they certainly are. Can you begin to understand why I shy away from the word, "hit"? If you can convey the feeling. If you can execute your personal style. If you can produce what is true to you. Your EXCELLENCE will shine thru. This is why I say corny things like, "Be your best self,". That is your only responsibility as an ARTIST. I could call you other things, "product", "the talent", "singer", "performer", but I'm being specific here. I'm calling you the creative force behind the craft that you plan to share.
Artists ask me all the time, "Chris? What kind of genre should I choose when writing a record? Should I switch genre's in order to make a hit song?". Well, if what I shared above isn't enough to explain my point then lets get a little more technical.
It's difficult when there is so much music to explore. How on Earth do we decide how to hone in on ONE sound. Truth is, we don't have to. There are loads of artist who hop from genre to another as they please. That can be your story but here is my plea, "Sing what speaks to you."
3 Tips to Choosing a Genre
1. Make sure the genre FEELS like the lyrics you're writing
Is the genre you're choosing one that resonates with what you're saying? Are you throwing your words into a template they don't fit in just for "likes" from a certain audience?
2. Make sure that the genre embraces the feeling you want to convey when it makes it to peoples ears.
Jazmine, Kelis and Jade all have something in common and thats "FEELING". What genre will help you to share the feeling your lyrics are trying to express? Do your lyrics a favor and wrap them in the genre that empowers them best.
3. Remember there are many places music is heard.
It may not be your local radio. It may not be the people who purchased your last single. Maybe it's a particular niche satellite radio station. Perhaps it's college radio. I teach more about niche and genre in the "Artist Development" mentorship program if you'd like to learn more about how to market your particular sound to your particular audience.
Listen, lots in the music world is about marketing and promotions but I'm a living witness that a lot of it is still about heart. There are many lessons I can share about how to choose genre, and I will in future blogs, but today, let's start with heart. Jazmine, Kelis and Jade have heart. If you can't hear feeling and heart in those lyrics then you aren't listening. Find a few songs talking about some of what you're writing about. Search online "songs about ______" (fill in the blank). Listen to 5 or 6 songs in different genres about your subject. See what resonates with your heart and start there.
This blog was fun to write. I hope you enjoyed reading it. If so, make sure you comment or write back. I love answering your music questions. If you're up for spending 5 weeks with me and a few dozen other writers, enroll in the Authentic Songwriters Course today. Spots are just $149.
Till next time, Peace.