Salmoneus wrote:Let's just start with Grammy top-level categories.
OK, and I shall go through them now. I shall note what genres
are named thus; as I wrote yesterday, this has nothing to do with the Grammy categories!
Question 1: what is "pop"?.
There are three commonly used definitions of "pop":
1. A shorthand for "popular music", nothing else.
2. All styles of popular music whose origins can be traced to mid-20th-century rhythm & blues.
3. As in 2. but restricted to the "lighter", more commercially oriented styles, as opposed to rock etc.
Question 2: what is "traditional pop", and how does it relate to pop? (recent nominees include Bob Dylan, Lady Gaga, Willie Nelson, Andrea Boccelli (!?), and Seth MacFarlane (who I didn't even know was a pop star, but he's been nominated at least four times))).
AFAIK, "traditional pop" usually refers to popular music that doesn't
have roots in mid-20-century rhythm & blues, i.e. all pop (1) that isn't pop (2), such as Frank Sinatra. I prefer calling this "bourgeois popular music" (no reference to Marxism, though).
Question 3: what is "contemporary instrumental"? I don't think of pop as being about instruments. What makes it different from dance, electronica (the grammies conflate "dance/electronica", which surprised me), or indeed classical?
Well, "instrumental" is everything without vocals. And "contemporary instrumental" is instrumental music that has been composed and recorded recently. Nothing else.
Question 4: what are the lines between "R&B", "traditional R&B", "urban contemporary", and "rap"? It seems as though many of the same people get nominated for all these categories.
No idea. "Traditional R&B" probably means R&B that uses manually played instruments such as guitars and a real drum kit, as opposed to R&B where the instrumental parts are put together on a digital audio workstation (the usual kind of R&B today). Or it is a term for what "rhythm & blues" meant in the middle of the 20th century, which is a very different thing than contemporary R&B.
I have no idea what "urban contemporary" should be, and "rap" is just a vocal technique that is used in many genres, but sometimes used as a synonym for "hip-hop music".
b) Meanwhile, what's the difference between "R&B" and "pop" (a bunch of people have been nominated for both), and between "traditional R&B" and "traditional pop" (CeeLo Green, for instance, has been nominated for both).
I think the only difference is that in R&B, the singer(s) and musicians are Afro-Americans. Thus, a category of "race" rather than actual music.
c) What's the connexion between "R&B" and what used to be called rhythm and blues?
A very tenuous if at all. Contemporary R&B evolved from various older Afro-American popular music styles which all can be traced back to mid-20th-century rhythm & blues, but that holds true for most pop music these days.
d) What's the difference between "R&B" and "dance"?
I think it's that R&B uses the song format with vocals and meaningful (if trivial) lyrics, while dance tracks usually use neither. Yet, as with all genres, the boundaries are fuzzy.
Question 5: what's the difference between "rock" and "pop" (or "traditional pop")? Is "rock" just old pop that Tony Bennet isn't involved in?
Rock is what happened when British beat grew up. In the time from ca. 1965 to ca. 1995, the main difference between rock and pop was that rock was a more or less authentic expression of the musicians, while pop was mainly commercially motivated. There was - and still is - much contention about these things, of course. Today, pop is no longer based on rock the way it used to be between 1965 and 1995.
Question 6: what's the difference between "rock" and "metal"? Is it just the use of raspy/breathy phonation by the singers?
b) the category's been removed, but where does hard rock fit in?
Metal is a subgenre of rock which is hard to pinpoint to one or two criteria. It is usually characterized by riff-based compositions, heavily distorted guitars, harsh vocals, fortissimmo playing, and lyrics about things as war, death and other "dark" subjects. Hard rock is also a subgenre of rock which is similar to metal, but less so. Deep Purple are hard rock; Iron Maiden are metal.
Question 7: what's "alternative" music? How does it differ from "rock" and "pop"? The rubric says that it must "exist outside of the mainstream", which suggests Weird Stuff... but nominees include Lady Gaga, Coldplay, Radiohead, Sinead O'Connor, The Arctic Monkeys, Gnarls Barkley and David Bowie (i.e. many of the bestselling popstars?)
"Alternative" was a term which was coined when in the early 90s, many "indie" acts got major-label deals and thus were technically no longer "indie", though their music hadn't changed much.
b) it's not a Grammy category, but a genre people seem to talk about: what's "indie"? how is it distinguished from pop, rock, or alternative?
"Indie" is technically just music released by independent (i.e., small-scale) record companies. As most of these companies specialized in punk-derived (but no longer really punk) rock music, this genre was labelled "indie" by the music press. But there have always been independent record companies that specialized in completely different music, and in the early 90s, many "indie" bands got major deals so a new term had to be invented - "alternative", see above.
Question 8: what is the difference between: country; bluegrass; american roots; americana; folk; regional roots? I'm kind of surprised to see that country is considered a different top-level genre from the one comprising all those other things.
"Country" is a subgenre of white American folk music (as opposed to blues, which is black American folk music), "bluegrass" a particular style of country music originating from Kentucky. "American roots" and "americana" pretty much mean the same thing, namely a music genres based on country, folk song, and blues).
Question 9: I'm also kind of surprised to see "blues" included with folk and americana, rather than with, say, jazz. what are the differences between "blues", "traditional blues", "traditional R&B" and "jazz"? And it's not a category, but where does soul fit in?
The blues (aficionados always use the definite article) is a particular tradition of Afro-American folk music which is basically the common ancestor of jazz, R&B and rock. "Traditional blues" is blues as it was played down in the south, as opposed to such things as "electric blues" (which uses electric guitars - something the cotton pickers of Mississippi, for instance, had no idea of). Soul is a genre that evolved from rhythm & blues in the 1960s.
Question 10: "Latin". Is it just a racial/ethnic genre? Is it a linguistic genre (lyrics not in english)? Or is there some sort of musical distinction? In particular, is "tropical Latin" just a political place-of-birth distinction, or an actual stylistic genre? Why is "latin jazz" considered a type of jazz, while "latin pop" isn't considered a type of "pop"?
As you say, a matter of race more than of music, though there is such a thing as a genre of Latin American music.
Question 11: Is there any clear definition of "world music"? I was thinking it would be things outside the european tradition, but nominees have included Irish, French, and even American music. Why is reggae, for instance, not considered world music? Are Latin songs automatically excluded? Somehow, Yo-Yo Ma IS included, though...
"World music" is indeed a very fuzzy notion. Technically, it is everything except
classical, jazz, rhythm & blues, rock, (western) pop, etc. However, European folk music is often considered "world music".
But to paraphrase what I said yesterday, none of this is relevant to the Grammy Award categories
, which are simply defined by what was nominated for them. The most glaring case seems to be the nomination of Lady Gaga (as commercial a pop star as you can get) for "alternative".