It’s recently come to the attention of my wife and I that our music collection is not organized correctly. We have more than 13,000 songs in our iTunes Library, classified into 28 genres, which is a pretty representative collection, providing us with just enough categories to be able to arrange things meaningfully without it getting too complicated. Except, somehow it has, and this has a lot to do with the vagaries of cataloging in general. Our main problem is in deciding what performer or group goes in what genre. You’d think this would be straight forward but you’d be wrong.
Take for example our selection of the Cure. We have pretty much everything they’ve ever recorded. But where does it go? Rock? Alternative? Pop? 80’s? They aren’t traditional rock (a category I think should be reserved for your basic, straight ahead guitar based music, like Led Zeppelin or the Doors or the Beatles– but only mid to late Beatles as early Beatles is clearly pop. See where this gets confusing?)
As for the Cure, we do have an 80’s genre, which isn’t a real genre but a catch all for anything that came out during the New Wave, Post Punk era. But as the Cure were formed in the late seventies and are still recording and touring today, they span four decades so calling them 80’s just doesn’t fly. We could just say screw it and put them in Alternative, but what does Alternative even mean? These days, bands are just as likely to release albums on the Internet, which is as alternative as you can get from the Big Labels, but that doesn’t mean a Big Label, medium label or even small label won’t release the album as well. And with the mainstreaming of the Alt sound, the category just doesn’t mean anything, except as a non-genre label for everything that doesn’t fit neatly into Rock or Pop.
And the problem with Pop is really what got us into this mess in the first place. A friend of ours is getting ready for a cross country drive, moving back to Oregon and wanted some music for the road. So, naturally we said sure, come on over and we’ll burn you a disc of whatever you want. She wanted something upbeat and poppy to keep her and her boyfriend awake on the road. But My wife’s idea of pop music differs wildly form that of, well, everyone else in the world. Our Pop category covers Belle and Sebastian and Leonard Cohen. The Beach Boys and Amiee Mann. We don’t listen to Poppy Pop Pop music, like Boy Bands or Britney Spears, so our Pop selection veers wildly toward the upbeat alt scene. Except for Mr. Cohen who, as anyone even half familiar with his music will attest, is not even remotely what you’d call upbeat. But there he is, rubbing elbows with the Shins, Modest Mouse and The Postal Service.
We could move Leonard to Jazz, but our Jazz leans heavily towards the Swing/Crooner style. If we’re in the mood to listen to the swinging sound of the Squirrel Nut Zippers and Billie Holiday, we don’t want to put it on shuffle and end up with an ear full of So Long, Marianne. We do have a Chanson genre, which is basically French ballads in a cabaret style which might work bu then who says, “You know what I’m in the mood for? Melancholy French Cabaret Music. And Leonard Cohen.”
Oh, it’s all so confusing.