Written by Alan Ng
Edited by Cornelius Suen
Photography by Jenkin Au
How is the classification of different art styles defined? Why is music constrained within set genres? Where is the fine line between mainstream and underground? Being able to define a subject could be a good thing the surface, but nowadays, being indefinable often times serves as a better characteristic for new artists, emerging brands, and even music.
Emerging artists are always placed into distinct categories when they emerge in the public eye. It helps people remember new faces easier but later on it blurs one’s characteristics and likens one to other established artists from the past. This creates a distortion, because one will always be compared with other people when one is defined by the genre, category, or group. While this encourages competitive spirit within the industry, a fundamental problem exists when an artist is not defined in one set of genre, but multiple ones. When this case arises, artists then not only get put in the ring with others, but they engage in the free-for-all battle within all rings. So, would you rather be the one understood by people, or stand out above the rest and set yourself into a category where people are confused as to what your next move will be?
The choice lies with the artists themselves. How they choose to brand and define themselves is a crucial factor in the development of their career. The whole pop music culture has now become a fusion of all genres. Smaller niche markets such as rap contain more die-hard fans that are more willing to support their artists in whatever way possible, but putting yourself in the pop music circle allows you to have a wider audience. The choices of who to collaborate with, what music style to incorporate in the production process, and even the appearance of how you portray yourself ultimately defines you.
Emerging brands all start off by defining their direction with one definition. How often nowadays do people only want to sell their products to one market, when they can sell it to the masses? It’s a tough choice for artists and brand owners to consider. The fact that you are constantly defining your initial concept into multiple ones brings you to the state of being indefinable. Defined brands might hold forever respect from their long followers for staying consistent with one well-focused direction, but indefinable ones are able to openly collaborate with any other brand, reach a larger market, and perhaps go international at a faster pace.
As Jay-Z stated “Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t”. The question is not just simply about being true to the game or not, but is about what you want to achieve and what you want to be defined as. This is a highly debatable question, the difference in value between numbers and reputation. Perhaps the easiest way is to find a balance between the two, but that could also lead into the danger of further confusion in definitions.