For years, I have tried to describe the style of music I listen to. This post is an attempt at doing that.
To most people, I probably would not describe my tastes in music as "normal." A quick summary I tell people is that if it has a guitar in it, I probably do not listen to it. While that is not always true, I find a statement like that is easier to say than getting into the intricacies of my tastes in Electronic, Trap, and Hip-Hop/Rap music. I will attempt to get into those details and reflect on the music I listen to.
This post gets nuanced, so if you do not read the whole thing, no worries! I do suggest at least checking out the Remixes section, as I think it is more important than most of what I have to say about my personal interests in this post. 😅
Way back when I was a kid, I remember listening to some tapes with my dad. He played an album of a band that used focused more on the drums than I had heard before. Seemingly, from that point on, I have focused on the drums or beat of a song. I think a lot of that is due to the fact that I liked Hip-Hop beats, but was not really exposed to them in a great amount until fourth grade (2003-2004).
In fourth grade, a couple of days a week after school, I went to another elementary school until my parents came and picked me up. The bus driver on this other route would play the local Hip-Hop and Pop station. Oh man was I exposed to a lot of music that year! Some notable songs I first heard then are a few from Sean Paul's album "Dutty Rock", "In da Club" by 50 Cent, "Hey Ya!" by Outkast, and the infamous "Yeah!" by Usher.
In junior high, I listened to a lot of "Weird Al" Yankovic and small independent musicians from the Newgrounds Audio Portal. In high school (2008-2012), I started exploring more and listened to a lot of electronic music artists like Bassnectar, Pendulum, Pretty Lights, Basshunter, Skrillex, Diplo, Klaypex, as well as Hip-Hop/Rap like Eminem and The Lonely Island.
I used to discover new music fairly organically from friends and out-and-about.
In 2012, I started using SoundCloud for most of my discovery. Musicians, especially ones just starting out, would upload their music with links to download the song. Many artists created playlists and would add to them and re-post other songs. For a while, I listened to (or at least part of) every song in my stream in order to discover new music.
In 2015, when Apple released Apple Music, I started adding music to my library through that instead of hunting down MP3s from SoundCloud and "other sources". A year or two later, Apple added the generated My New Music playlist, similar to Spotify's Discovery Weekly and Release Radar playlists. I still listen to it every week when it's updated.
By the end of 2016, when I was working full time, it became more time-consuming to keep up with all the new music that was flowing through my SoundCloud stream. This is when I started using Spotify much more for discovery. I listen to the generated Discovery Weekly and Release Radar playlists every week when they're updated, in addition to a few playlists curated by artists and labels I listen.
Every so often I will open up SoundCloud and get lost down a rabbit hole of artists, finding new music, but for the most part, I listen to and discover music exclusively on Apple Music and Spotify.
From a high level, I would say I listen to the following genres:
- EDM (Electronic Dance Music)
These three genres can all blend together in very interesting ways. I will mostly focus on Trap music, as I feel that is the genre I listen to the most.
I definitely like Hip-Hop/Rap that is more of a Trap music style (which I will touch on in a minute). I generally listen to songs that are produced in certain styles over blanketly listening to certain artists. Some albums are mostly produced by one producer, but other albums have a mix of several producers. Some producers that I follow are DJ Mustard, Mike Will Made-It, and Judge, among others. Some artists that I listen to include Kid Ink, Rae Sremmurd, Cardi B, Nicki Minaj, 2 Chainz, Travis Scott, The Weeknd, Migos, Quavo, Iggy Azalea, and EMP. I also listen to a lot of Danish rap, see Lyrics for a playlist.
Trap music really means two genres, Trap music and Trap music (EDM). EDM Trap spun out of the non-electronic form, which stems from southern Hip-Hop. EDM trap is a relatively new genre, starting in 2012. I first discovered it in early 2013 through, what I call the meme that changed my life, the Harlem Shake meme. Starting with Baauer and Harlem Shake, I quickly started following related artists on SoundCloud and bought the All Trap Music Vol. 1 album.
For the remainder of college and into the year afterward, I heavily used SoundCloud to listen to and discover new music. You can check out my profile if you are interested in the artists I follow and songs I have liked or reposted.
EDM Trap music has changed quite a bit since 2012. In the early days, songs were simpler and had a smaller soundscape. Today, EDM Trap can be further broken into several sub-genres, of which, I would put into four rough categories.
- Future Bass/Chill Trap
- Hybrid Trap/Dubstep
Hip-Hop is most similar, if not the same, to non-EDM Trap music, and may contain rap verses or not (released as an instrumental). Songs in this sub-genre are often on the more minimal side, with a focus on the beat and without heavy drops or aggressive synthesizers. Festival/House Trap may also be called "mainstream" and is easier to dance to. Future Bass/Chill Trap are more mellow and have softer beats and a more laid back feeling. Hybrid Trap/Dubstep is the hardest sub-genre of Trap music. Much like Hip-Hop and Trap music, the difference between heavy or Hybrid Trap music and Dubstep can be hard to differentiate, and there is no clear boundary.
I listen to a variety of artists from all sub-genres. Lately, I have been slowly beginning to listen to heavier Trap, probably some sort of a mix of Festival Trap and Hybrid Trap. That being said, I am definitely not a big fan of Dubstep, so even I am a little surprised at my new-ish liking towards some harder Trap music.
EDM and dance music has been around for decades, but has changed a lot over time, and is filled with a multitude of sub-genres. EDM has been especially on the rise since the turn of the century, and I would say has heavily influenced Pop music in the last decade. To spare myself I will just link you to the Wikipedia page on Electronic Dance Music which goes into much more depth than I care to on such a large genre. 😉
Some artists that come to mind that have brought EDM to the mainstream to the point where it blends with Pop music are David Guetta, Avicii, Calvin Harris, DJ Snake, and The Chainsmokers.
I would call this the most popular style of EDM, and is what is frequently played at large festivals and is most similar to EDM style Pop music. Songs are usually around 128 beats per minute, that ✨ magical ✨ dance tempo. There are many sub-genres of Electro House, some of which I like more or less than others. I do not particularly seek out Electro House music, but I enjoy listening to it when I hear it in playlists, at shows, or when I am out-and-about.
Melbourne Bounce is a pretty specific sub-genre (microgenre?) of EDM that I have yet to meet someone who likes it as much as I do (if you love this, please reach out 😄). I heard a Will Sparks song or remix several years ago, and have been looking for more ever since. Other notable artists that I listen to in this genre are Deorro, Joel Fletcher, Ger3to, and Ortal Israel. An upbeat bass, fast tempo, and Electro House and Trance influences define the genre.
Similar, but not entirely the same, I have recently discovered Timmy Trumpet, who blends the bounce sound with Electro House and takes it towards Trance music.
A lot of the music I listen to is light on lyrics, if it has any at all. Even with lyrics, I generally do not actively listen to the words. There are songs I have listened to hundreds of times that I could not sing along to. That being said, I do really value lyrics in songs. They add an irreplaceable "voice" (ha!) and natural sound to a song. The rhythm, melody, and tone of a voice is more important to me than the language that the singer/lyricist is conveying.
I listen to many Danish (as well as other languages such as a little French, Swedish, and Norwegian) artists. Unless I am trying really hard (and even then my Danish is not even close to being good enough), I usually do not have more than a general idea about what the rapper (most of the Danish music I listen to is rap) is talking about. If I am really liking a song, I will look up and read the lyrics, and often run them through Google Translate as well.
While not necessarily lyrics (but they can be), I love vocal effects. Whether the lyrics are processed with distortion or reverb, or heavily chopped to the point that they are no longer words, vocal effects are a effective way of applying a human sound into a song and giving it a unique and organic sound.
A few weeks ago, I was listening to music, as I do, and thought, "Nothing says 'Saturday morning' like some electro-pop with vocal effects." Here is a prime example (toward the end of the preview):
If you have not spent any time listening to or searching for remixes, I highly recommend you watch Kirby Ferguson's fantastic series, Everything is a Remix. I also suggest you look up some of your favorite songs, particularity if they are Hip-Hop or Electronic, on Who Sampled, which shows songs that sample from other songs (and vice versa). The amount of sampling/remixing in "original" songs may surprise you.
I have shifted most of my music discovery to Apple Music and Spotify these days, so I unfortunately do not listen to as many remixes as I used to. SoundCloud is a great place for independent artists to upload and share their original and remix songs. Because there does not need to be a music label involved for legal approval, I have found that there are more remixes on SoundCloud than anywhere else. Roughly 7.5% (over 1,200 songs) of the music in my iTunes library are remixes. Some of my favorite songs are remixes, and especially when I heavily used SoundCloud, I would often hear the latest popular songs first as a remix.
As a preface, not long after I started going to Electronic music shows I purchased a pair of ear plugs and have worn them the entire time for every show. Protect your ears, enjoy music for a lifetime 👂
I have attended countless shows at The Loft in downtown Minneapolis (as well as a couple of other venues), where many artists I listen to have come and played sets. I enjoy going to these shows because not only am I there to see the artist or two who are headlining, but also the local producers and DJs who play before them, and the lights and a space to dance to music! I have discovered several artists through going to shows or using Shazam to identify a song I am hearing. Some of the more memorable shows I have been to include artists like:
- Alexander Lewis
- Alison Wonderland
- Boombox Cartel
- Dillon Francis
- The Glitch Mob
- Knife Party
- Stööki Sound
- Yellow Claw
My tastes in music have certainly changed over the years. I think it has evolved with me growing up and becoming independent, meeting new people, the music industry changing with streaming platforms, the rise in artists independently releasing their music, and me following musicians on the Internet. I am curious how my tastes in music will change over the next few years as I get older and new styles are created. A few times in the last decade, I have thought, "this new style is awesome, I have now peaked," only to find myself thinking that again just months later. According to a study, in general, music tastes evolve quickly in the teen years and into the mid-20s, and by the mid-30s, music tastes "mature". We will see...
Hopefully you got something out of this post, I sure did just from researching for it 😄.