Jake Listens to it Loud: What’s so “Alternative” about listening to “Alternative”…

Alternative music is genre.  It is different.  It is not the normal genre. It is “alternative.” But what does that even mean?

Well, frankly, I don’t have the answer to that question. But when I begin to explore my music library, the definition of alternative drifts even further out of reach and understanding.

Arcade Fire, Beirut, Coconut Records, The White Stripes, Foo Fighters, The Dead Weather. All of these are categorized under “Alternative” as a genre.  But some of these groups are also categorized as “Rock” and even “Folk.”

So if the genre itself is so difficult to pin down, then how can someone listen to it? I frequently listen to the Sirius/XM Radio channel “Alt Nation” which would mean “Alternative Nation” The channel is literally aimed at the people who claim to enjoy alternative music. But the wide range of songs played leaves me with my hands in the air and shouting “What the hell is alternative music?”

I’m not mad at the genre. I love the genre. It’s my favorite kind of music. By definition it claims to be different. To be a choice apart from whatever is already offered.  I like the idea that my musical taste wants something a little different. It wants something that is different from itself, and doesn’t stay focused on a single road.

In the rest of my life, I prefer to keep some order. I want to know how I feel about people and things, and I want to be able to go to sleep every night knowing that I’ll wake up feeling the same.

But music doesn’t fall in with everything else. I like the change. I like the new. And as much as I try to stick to what I know, I always end up falling for something new.  I hear a song and think, “This is good.”  I may have thought the artist behind the song was a joke before, but, suddenly, they’ve made a song that connects and makes me think differently.  It makes my opinion new. It provides an alternative.

I suppose what makes listening to alternative so alternative is that it’s kind of silly to try to describe it. It’s so different, so wide a genre, and often gets broken up into a myriad of more specific genres, leaving everyone wondering what the common link between Passion Pit’s “Little Secrets” and Bon Iver’s “For Emma” is that makes them both “Alternative.”

Alternative music is my favorite music. Alternative music could be your favorite type of music. And we might not like the same bands. Go figure, I guess.

6 Responses to “Jake Listens to it Loud: What’s so “Alternative” about listening to “Alternative”…”
  1. k.marie says:

    Thank you for putting down in words my frustrations when reformatting my iTunes library.

  2. rainischange says:

    “I suppose what makes listening to alternative so alternative is that it’s kind of silly to try to describe it.” –nice line. In regards to this topic, I gave up on trying to categorize bands or songs in one category primarily because I think no musician wants to be predictable; predictability seems to equate with non-creativity.

  3. thanks for the trackback!

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