Independent music is great, but what is it? – The Vanderbilt Hustler


I love Indian music. But, there isn’t just one way to define it. Is my indie the same as yours? What about him there? what his indie sound? Obviously, independent music has a problem with standardization. So, I reached out to the Vanderbilt community to find out what indie really means to us.

“Indie” music initially referred to an artist’s “independent” publication method, that is, without being financially dependent on a major record company. A BBC documentary attributes the genesis of the term to “Spiral Scratch” by Buzzcocks, a 1977 punk EP famous for being self-published. This fact also raises the question of whether independent music is a genre or just a method of publication. Although “Spiral Scratch” is punk rock, at the same time it is independent, which makes it indie rock.

Before delving into what constitutes indie music, its distinction (or lack thereof) from “alternative” music needs to be clarified. The two have long been used interchangeably, as alternative artists tend to be independent as well. Alternative music, first used as an umbrella term for every record that did not fit traditional formulas, gradually lost its original definition when it indirectly became part of the mainstream. Some examples of this trend include Nirvana, The Offspring, Oasis, and Green Day. So, currently, in layman’s terms, alternative music is not quite the tip of the iceberg of commercial music, which is predominantly pop, but still garners sizable financial and audience success.

First-year William Yuk commented on the use of the term, noting that indie is also still used as an umbrella term for more experimental music than that played on major radio stations.

“There are so many artists who use different styles and genres, just to be labeled as ‘indie’ by the general public because they are different, which is kind of an insult to individuality and to the uniqueness of their music, ”Yuk said.

Yuk also described how independent music and alternative music overlap because they are both so vague.

“Both terms are super arbitrary categorizations, rather than indicating a specific style,” Yuk said.

While alternative music has remained an umbrella term, independent music has evolved somewhat into an almost specific genre with lines albeit blurry and yet a definitive vibe, moving away from its definition based on the method of publication. That’s a lot of swear words (and I feel smart), but my theory still stands: indie music is a genre now, regardless of whether an artist participating in the genre is actually independent.

To support this argument, we can use NPRdefinition of indie in its original form, which does not depend financially on the four big labels: WMG, UMG, EMI and Sony BMG. However, Lana Del Rey, arguably one of the biggest names on the scene, is signed to Interscope Records (owned by UMG) and The Neighborhood works with Columbia Records (owned by Sony). This doesn’t mean that worthy independent artists like Phoebe Bridgers or Mac DeMarco don’t exist in modern music, but it further shows that independence is no longer a prerequisite for being considered independent.

Senior Trey Minter also praised the diversity within independent music.

“When I think of [indie], I think of the incredible acoustic and instrumental accompaniment, the musicality brought by the artist, ”said Minter. “But you can also have a kind of relaxed lyrical vibe, which is really emotional and punchy, all wrapped up in that instrumental accompaniment.”

Despite our first step towards a definition, we are faced with another obstacle: syntax. If we dive into the variety of fusion genres, such as pop-punk, jazz-rock (jazz fusion) or folk-pop, we realize that they refer to both genres equally. A folk-pop album is both folk and pop, because the two terms are practically nouns here, but when we analyze indie rock or indie pop, we realize that indie is always an adjective, unable to escape his original identity. Indie rock, for example, seems to belong to the rock genre, described by an independent “feel” rather than the fusion of two distinct styles.

Let’s take a look at a recent LP that has been dubbed by critics an independent album: Taylor Swift “Folklore”. Now we all know Tay-Tay’s change in tone was a drastic but welcome change to his discography, but is it really indie, or just a moderate version of pop or folk? The answer lies in what is commonly associated with the word, which is a quiet, understated and “vibrant” essence. Well, if that’s what’s generally considered independent, then this album is exactly that. And, if we can use the term for an album, or maybe even a song, that means we’re using it as a descriptor, a genre. While our syntactic barrier has definitely slowed us down, using this definition we’re back on track: indie isn’t a traditional genre, but the way the word is used forces us to think of it as such. .

Now is the time to talk about what I think I am independent because this is my article and I selfishly want to share MY opinion with the world. One of my favorite bands, Men I Trust, are, in my opinion, mostly independent, which makes them my starting point for an attempt at definition. Their smooth production, groovy guitar riffs – most prominent in “Seven” – and atmospheric feel are what make them hard to place anywhere other than in the middle of our “genre”. They’re not pop (although Google says so); they are not rock; they are independent.

Flipturn is another band that communicates the essence of indie to a T. Such a perfect blend of angst and tenderness, usually on a few majestic instrumentals, is not found anywhere else. Songs like “Something You Needed”, “Churches” and “Six Below” make me wish I was kicked out of this indie rock band‘s Nashville gig (another story).

First-year Christina Berninger thinks independent music is more abstract than mainstream music.

“The lyrics are more apparent to the artist than to the listeners,” Berninger said.

Her uncle is the frontman of The National, a fact that baffled me when I saw their three million monthly listeners on Spotify.

“My uncle makes his lyrics ambiguous and vague but has something very specific in mind,” said Berninger, who has the same last name as the singer himself. “This is why independent music has an additional emotional connection with it. “

So what is indie? The jury is still out. Although there is a semi-consensus regarding the style of music included in “genre” – as in the example of “folklore” – I think indie is subjective enough to remain inconclusive, but it is. the beauty of it. Anyone can pull something different from indie, whereas I would say other genres are generally pretty clear in what their musicality communicates.

However, it’s important not to see indie as an umbrella term like it used to be. It is not a storage room where you can store artists who do not fit in certain molds. I believe that there is not enough time yet for indie, in the modern sense of the term, to materialize concrete rules and aesthetics. We are close, however. More and more artists are embracing the sound we currently associate with the genre, and it is seeping into the public consciousness that, by some unknown metric, some music is indie and some is not. Listen to “Day Without You” by Keep for Cheap or “Techno Show” by Peach Pit and tell me what kind of songs are those songs. You KNOW they are independent; there is no other answer. If you don’t agree, it’s good! Freedom of expression! Just sleep with one eye open tonight.

During my quest to find the “quintessential indie song” from Vandy students, the fact that I received the answer “depends on what indie is” over and over shows how difficult it is to find out. define it precisely. I created a small sample indie music with the responses I got, and I think the difference in the recommendations shows exactly why I embarked on this journey – and that Vandy has very good taste in music.


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