24 September 2011

I have excellent news for the world. There's no such thing as grunge.

It's the 20th anniversary today of the release of Nirvana's Nevermind and that's got me thinking about the whole "grunge" phenomenon of the 90's.  I've already been into why Nevermind was such a defining album in the 90's so I won't rehash that here.  Head over here to read that post.

I think that the way Nirvana exploded took the music industry, particularly the marketing side of it, by surprise.  Nobody expected it to happen and the prevailing trend in music at the time was definitely pop.  Suddenly, here were these punk kids making a lot of noise, selling a lot of records, and someone needed to capitalize on it.

Bands started to get signed left and right as labels tried to get in on the action and at some point someone came up with the idea of referring to this music as "grunge".  The term itself wasn't a new one and had been in use since the early 80's, but suddenly came to represent this "new" sound of the early 90's.

The problem was/is that the bands being lumped into the grunge genre had very little in common, in terms of sound, attitude or style.  Bands like Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Hole, Stone Temple Pilots and Alice In Chains were all tarred with the grunge brush, when they were all just rock bands - but the major labels struggled to get their collective heads around the fact that rock music had become popular again without their involvement.  Relabeling it and selling it as something new was an attempt to regain some control over the markets, and to profit from it.

The same thing happens across a lot of genres when labels get involved, and it's definitely not a new thing, but grunge in particular seemed to be an extreme example of this manipulation.

What do you think about the way music gets relabeled in this way?  Do you have any extreme examples of new genres being created just to sell records?

1 comment:

  1. Think there are WAYYYY too many genres. Think a genre should give you a bit of an idea what the music is going to be like, then you listen to it and decide if you like it. You shouldn't be able to pinpoint the sound based on carefully crafted categories that probably number in the 100s now!

    On your last post, not sure about Nirvana, remembering loving it in my teens, now just get angry that they are so much more famous than Alice in Chains. Nobody said the world was fair though....