Music Genres Should Not Have a Shelf-Life

Perhaps Matt Bellamy's addition of Kaos Pads to his guitars are his was of maintaining it as a lead instrument of Muse.

Music, like everything else on the planet, must continue to move forwards. If the world of music was to stop innovating and trying new things, it would simply come to a halt as the staleness of its output would become gradually less appealing to audiences. It's the same with movies, with books, with all forms of entertainment. If the creativity and the innovation of a band dies, you can bet they won't last much longer.

Muse's Matt Bellamy agrees. “As a rock band you’re slightly one foot in the past, playing instruments like guitar, bass and drums", he told the BBC in 2018. He also said that the guitar is now a "textural instrument rather than a lead instrument", going on to describe this evolution of its role as "a good thing". These quotes go a long way to explaining why Muse, once full of noise and rock on songs such as 'Plug In Baby', 'Stockholm Syndrome' and 'Hysteria' (indeed, Bellamy was named as Total Guitar's 'Guitarist of the Decade' in 2010), are now a very different entity to what they were in those early days.

Muse aren't the only rockers to have evolved, however. Linkin Park became a very different band as time went on, and bands such as Amaranthe, who love to combine elements of Trance music with metalcore, and upcoming trap-metal artist Mimi Barks, all take rock and metal to new places that often prove to be controversial with the traditionalists.

However, whilst innovation within music must continue, does that mean that there is no place for music with older roots? It seems incredibly harsh to criticise good music just because it's not perceived to be from its respective genre's heyday, yet that's what often happens. Take Bruce Dickinson's 1997 solo album Accident of Birth as an example. After experimenting with different genres on previous solo albums, Dickinson returned to his heavy metal roots on Accident of Birth, even recruiting fellow ex-Maiden man Adrian Smith to play guitar (both would, of course, subsequently rejoin Maiden in 1999). Whilst it is now generally perceived to be a great record (and arguably better than Maiden's output from around the same time), one review at the time in Q Magazine said that its "thundering choruses and heroic lyrics render this release even more out of time".

But was it out of time? And was the release of Tygers of Pan Tang's Ritual - which we absolutely adored - out of time last year? Our argument would be no.

Bruce Dickinson: out of date by 1997? (Credit: John McCurtrie)

Genres and styles shouldn't have a shelf life. The popularity of different genres will naturally ebb and flow as time goes on, and the classic metal sound certainly had its biggest moment in the 1980s. But whilst metal continues to innovate today with artists such as Amaranthe and Mimi Barks, that doesn't mean there is no room at all for its classic sound. It may have its roots in the 1980s, but the abundance of good music still coming from that style - see our current leader for album of the year as an example - renders it far from outdated. It is still around, still relevant and still producing excellent material.

This article's focus may be on heavy metal but the same can be said for any genre which begun a long time ago and whose artists are now maligned for creating music in that style. As long as there is still life in it, why should the genre simply cease to be? Music does not and should not have a use-by date. Taking this view is disrespectful to the artists and also to genres that have often proven to be very influential indeed.

Indeed, time can be cyclical and certain styles can regain their popularity years after their original boom. The Weeknd's 'Blinding Lights' became a phenomenally successful song off the back of its 1980s sound taken straight from the likes of 'Take On Me'. The song is proof that genres and styles can be eternally successful, for as long as artists can continue to find good material within them.

It even makes sense from an economic standpoint. Iron Maiden are still huge and making tons of money for themselves and their record companies today because young people still connect with their music. Good music does not have a shelf life; there will always be a market for it, regardless of its age. Millions still enjoy the works of Bach and Mozart, centuries after they were composed. It's not a matter of genre, it's a matter of quality. The notion of outdated music is nothing more than a myth.

The innovators are the future. The term "genre", while a big part of this article, is becoming increasingly meaningless as time goes on and creative people blend together different styles. However, the natural connection good music can create with people means that genres of music never go out of date, regardless of how old its origins are. Let's focus less on whether the music would have been better off coming out in its genre's heyday or not, and more on whether the actual quality of it is good. Bellamy is right; to stick with just guitar, drums, bass and vocals is having one foot in the past - but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. As long as what you are creating is of good quality, as long as your music brings joy and entertainment to people, who cares? Good music is timeless, regardless of genre. Let's not judge music for its style, but for its quality, because at the end of the day, that is all that matters.


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