Is "mainstream" a genre now?

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    Is "mainstream" a genre now?

    Was "mainstream music" originally determined / defined by Billboard charts and sales?    Were musical artists who were considered mainstream simply those that reached a certain level of visibility, popularity, sales, chart position, radio air play, or a combination thereof?

    That's a sincere question.  

    If that's the case, that would have meant that music of any genre could enter the realm of mainstream, and even though we might have revelled in learning of a band before it reached the "mainstream", that fame, fortune, or popularity would not cause a fan to turn away,  because going "mainstream" was not a dirty word, although it hurts a little when a band leaves its under-appreciated or lesser known status behind.  

    The more prominent / common and everyday use of the word mainstream now (as it pertains to music) has more to do with connotation, and that connotation is, of course, negative.  Very, very negative.   It's as though mainstream music has become a genre, because once those words are slapped onto an artist, they are irreversibly classified as over-played garbage.    If an artist is a mainstream artist, it's synonymous with:

    "The worst music out there."
    "Commercialized, conformist music for people who don't have a clue about real music."
    "Mainstream music is at its apex of garbage."
    "Low quality crap (music)."

    According to the original definition (if that was the case), many of the high quality, front-runner artists that many of us know and love, went mainstream.    Aren't the Rolling Stones mainstream?   Pearl Jam (even though an alt band originally)?   Bob Dylan?  Tom Petty?  Led Zepp?   The list goes on.   In their day, and into the present day, why aren't these artists called mainstream?   Are they or not?   Yet ...

    It's because the definition and connotation only includes the likes of Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, and the list goes on and on, to denote "the worst, commercialized music out there" , so is this fair?   And is it a qualifier?   

    If mainstream music is simply "popular music" then why has the connotation turned into something so unseemly?     Any thoughts as to the severity of the downer now defined as mainstream music?

     
  2. You have chosen to ignore posts from Hfxsoxnut. Show Hfxsoxnut's posts

    Re: Is

    I don't think mainstream is a genre, it's a label that is attached to a certain level of mass appeal.  It can certainly have derogatory connotations.  There's a backlash when some artists get 'too popular for their own good'.  It's not really a new concept though, is it?  I think just the terminology has changed...'The Who Sell Out/Go Mainstream' 

     
  3. You have chosen to ignore posts from devildavid. Show devildavid's posts

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    This reminds me of how my brother and I use to kid a friend of ours about his musical taste. He was heavily into alternative/college rock but he did enjoy the occasional pop song. We called him Mr. Mainstream just to bust his chops and he would always protest that appellation. Truth is, my brother and I were much more mainstream in our tastes, and for our friend it was a point of pride to be into alternative music, for lack of a better term. Yet this guy was also a fan of The Cars, Van Halen, John Waite, and Corey Hart.


    So it depends on the individual as to whether or not mainstream has a negative connotation. And really, today's alternative very often becomes tomorrow's mainstream. Just look back to Elvis Presley for proof of this.

    You know me. Music is music is music. Label it any way you want, it makes no difference to me. I like what I like and what I don't I just leave alone.

     
  4. You have chosen to ignore posts from jesseyeric. Show jesseyeric's posts

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    I always took mainstream to be the same as popular.

     
  5. You have chosen to ignore posts from yogafriend. Show yogafriend's posts

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    Okay, fair enough.  

    It's just my perception perhaps, that there seems to be elevated contempt and more venom than ever with the association / or being classed among the music industry mainstream.   Since the response over the past many (easily since 2000 it seems) years is that pop(ular) music has gone drastically downhill, maybe that's part of the reason I have that perception.   Mainstream has been more maligned in correspondence to the degrading quality.  

    I was listening to some tracks online of what's on a 'best of 2012' list, and I have to say, I was shocked as to how bad this music sounded.   Zillions of hits on youtube,  and it was just awful.  

     
  6. You have chosen to ignore posts from leafswin27. Show leafswin27's posts

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    I kind of think of mainstream as those songs on top 40 radio that are played over and over and over.. Kind of like jerseyeric as the most popular songs..

     
  7. You have chosen to ignore posts from mrmojo1120. Show mrmojo1120's posts

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    I've always thought of mainstream music as popular music that's accepted by fans of different types of music.It's music that's kind of non-threatening for all audiences.Certain songs from Pop,Rock and Country can all be considered mainstream.Stuff like Sade's- "Smooth Operator",Bob Seger's - "Old time rock and roll" and  Billy Ray Cyrus - "Achey Breaky Heart" fit into that category IMO.It's just feel good music for the timid or for the masses who listen to music as background noise.

     
  8. You have chosen to ignore posts from ZILLAGOD. Show ZILLAGOD's posts

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    I seriously think the Punk/New Wave movement of the mid to late 70s ( leading up to the golden age of Alternative -in the mid 80s to mid 90s) is when mainstream became a dirty word or a term to be sneered at.

    The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd were MAINSTREAM , they were the darlings of the music world along with MAINSTREAMERS, Fleetwood Mac, Bob Seger, Bruce Springsteen, Jefferson Starship, and so many others ( great talents all of them.

    No way is this a genre or subgenre, it is exactly what it says it is, mainstream. It reaches more people, due to it being considered what radio deems "acceptable" or "safe" or a thousand other things that mean the advertisers think you will listen to it and loveit so much that you will not change the station...therefore you will hear the ads played in between and ( hopefully) buy their product.

    Which is where we come in to the "why?"

    Why did Punk rock bite the hand that fed it? Why did it strike out at it's own ancestry? Why so much hate and and venom toward the MAINSTREAM?

    Heavy Metal never entered the mainstream completely. It was always the b*stard son of rock.

    There is much for these two genres to hate about MAINSTREAM. It is a term that has become synonomous with garbage...which much, but not all of it is. But, it wasn't always that way.

     
  9. You have chosen to ignore posts from ZILLAGOD. Show ZILLAGOD's posts

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    I believe I fully embraced the Punk movement when so much of the mainstream was Disco.

    Disco's entrance into the mainstream was the last straw. After Tony Orlando and Dawn, Sonny and Cher, and Barry Manilow, I was becoming more and more disenchanted with the mainstream.

     

     
  10. You have chosen to ignore posts from MattyScornD. Show MattyScornD's posts

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    Classic Rock is only mainstream by virtue of it having been played a zillion times on radio since it came out.  Several have been co-opted by advertising by now, for better or worse.  Otherwise, it might be seen as passe.

    But there are subtleties...

    For example, I think "Stairway To Heaven" is mainstream.  "Boogie With Stu" and "Tea For One" are not.

    The Beatles' "Revolution" is mainstream.  "Revolution #9"...not so much (and yet, even it was parodied in The Simpsons ergo "Homer's Barbershop Quartet, so...  :P)   

     

     
  11. You have chosen to ignore posts from yogafriend. Show yogafriend's posts

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    In response to WhatDoYouWantNow's comment:

     Well I don't know if "mainstream" is a genre, but to me it implies the sort of generally bland pop/rock that is more like background noise people seem to crave. The sort of stuff that plays in gyms (which I require an ipod blasting Gn'R or AIC or something loud to blot out). "Mainstream" cannot simply mean "popular but bad" because there have been any number of bands that became popular specifically because they were good. 

    Well, I do think this is it in a nutshell, then.  

    I should have put the word "genre" in quotes, but the point is the implication, or the connotation attached to the word mainstream now, which has taken a U-turn from the original meaning that simply denoted popular, with no under current re: poor quality.

    It never meant "bad, crappy popular music"  -- but it certainly does now, more often than not.   



     
  12. You have chosen to ignore posts from yogafriend. Show yogafriend's posts

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    In response to ZILLAGOD's comment:

     I believe I fully embraced the Punk movement when so much of the mainstream was Disco.  Disco's entrance into the mainstream was the last straw. After Tony Orlando and Dawn, Sonny and Cher, and Barry Manilow, I was becoming more and more disenchanted with the mainstream. 

    Uh oh.  I can see Part Two:  The Disco Era: ZILLAGOD'S Departure from the Mainstream. :)

    But seriously, your previous post was a good read, and highlighted how the shift took place very nicely.    "Mainstream is a term that is synonymous with garbage.   But it was not always that way."    That's consisely the way I saw it,  too.   

    What you said in terms of punk / new wave was similar to saying that particular music became "the tail that wagged the dog" (of mainstream), and once that shake-up took place, the erosion of "mainstream" never subsided.   

     
  13. You have chosen to ignore posts from Hfxsoxnut. Show Hfxsoxnut's posts

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    Here's a little tidbit...I'm reading a massive biography of John Lennon written by Tim Riley, and  last night I read this sentence by Riley describing events in 1965:  "The song 'Yesterday' had legitimized the Beatles as a mainstream product, and sent Lennon further into outsider status within the band he supposedly led."

     
  14. You have chosen to ignore posts from yogafriend. Show yogafriend's posts

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    In response to Hfxsoxnut's comment:

     Here's a little tidbit...I'm reading a massive biography of John Lennon written by Tim Riley, and  last night I read this sentence by Riley describing events in 1965:  "The song 'Yesterday' had legitimized the Beatles as a mainstream product, and sent Lennon further into outsider status within the band he supposedly led." 

    The use of the word "legitimize" says it all in terms of the validation that formerly came from having a hit that would catapult a band into the mainstream, when it had a positive, favorable connotation and meaning.   Lennon was never on board with that, and was the only Beatle that felt that way?   He was the only Beatle that was truly counterculture?   



     
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    In response to yogafriend's comment:

    The use of the word "legitimize" says it all in terms of the validation that formerly came from having a hit that would catapult a band into the mainstream, when it had a positive, favorable connotation and meaning.   Lennon was never on board with that, and was the only Beatle that felt that way?   He was the only Beatle that was truly counterculture?   




    I think that would be an overstatement or oversimplification.  But I think it's fair to say that Lennon was by far the most rebellious and subversive member of the Beatles.

    There's another moment earlier in the book which was a great insight.  It was when  Lennon went to see the Stones play for the first time.  He came away impressed, but also angry at Brian Epstein for having 'cleaned up' the Beatles so much.  Lennon said something like 'That's the band I should be in!' - meaning the Stones.

     
  16. You have chosen to ignore posts from yogafriend. Show yogafriend's posts

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    In response to MattyScornD's comment:

     Classic Rock is only mainstream by virtue of it having been played a zillion times on radio since it came out.  Several have been co-opted by advertising by now, for better or worse.  Otherwise, it might be seen as passe. But there are subtleties... For example, I think "Stairway To Heaven" is mainstream.  "Boogie With Stu" and "Tea For One" are not. The Beatles' "Revolution" is mainstream.  "Revolution #9"...not so much (and yet, even it was parodied in The Simpsons ergo "Homer's Barbershop Quartet, so...  :P)

     

    The "zillion times" factor is true; that also reminds me of an article (great article, in fact) I read a few weeks ago about mainstream (pieces referred to as the 'warhorses' ) in classical music: "we listen to it because it's famous, and it's famous because we keep listening to it."

    Classical music that is hundreds of years old is never viewed as passe.  Certain masterpieces are certainly seen as over-played (to say the least), but the thought of "retiring" those mainstream masterpieces is preposterous.  Never gonna happen.   

    Same with the way we discussed "Stairway to Heaven" -- so what if it's been overplayed? It's pretty much rock's answer to what?  Pachelbel's Canon?   :)   

    Funny, but most of the classical music that the average person knows is among the most "mainstream" well-known works.   No one other than classical music experts (snobs?  geeks?  hahah)  have knowledge of the hidden nuggets.  You hear these pieces your entire life, and the familiarity behind what you hear remains beautiful, comforting and grounding, and no one cares if it's mainstream.     Now the view is becoming the same for classic rock, and it's a very good thing.    The connotation is good.   It became famous because people listened to it, yeah, a zillion times  (and counting).   

     
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    In response to yogafriend's comment:

    Funny, but most of the classical music that the average person knows is among the most "mainstream" well-known works.   No one other than classical music experts (snobs?  geeks?  hahah)  have knowledge of the hidden nuggets.  You hear these pieces your entire life, and the familiarity behind what you hear remains beautiful, comforting and grounding, and no one cares if it's mainstream.     Now the view is becoming the same for classic rock, and it's a very good thing.    The connotation is good.   It became famous because people listened to it, yeah, a zillion times  (and counting).   



    Most if not all of the classical music I own can be traced to Walter/Wendy Carlos, the Clockwork Orange soundtrack and the Moog Synthesizer.  The synthesizer is what drew me into classical music and made me realize what a trip for the mind the great pieces are.

     
  18. You have chosen to ignore posts from yogafriend. Show yogafriend's posts

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    In response to Hfxsoxnut's comment:

    In response to yogafriend's comment:

    The use of the word "legitimize" says it all in terms of the validation that formerly came from having a hit that would catapult a band into the mainstream, when it had a positive, favorable connotation and meaning.   Lennon was never on board with that, and was the only Beatle that felt that way?   He was the only Beatle that was truly counterculture?   

     I think that would be an overstatement or oversimplification.  But I think it's fair to say that Lennon was by far the most rebellious and subversive member of the Beatles.

    There's another moment earlier in the book which was a great insight.  It was when  Lennon went to see the Stones play for the first time.  He came away impressed, but also angry at Brian Epstein for having 'cleaned up' the Beatles so much.  Lennon said something like 'That's the band I should be in!' - meaning the Stones. 

     

    Yes, definitely I oversimplified, but Lennon certainly knew from whence he spoke and felt about being 'marketed' and being made into a commodity -- and being somewhat resentful about it at the time. 

    Funny statement about the Stones, too.   It's so sad John Lennon isn't alive to see them celebrating their 50-year career.    Wonder what his response would be to them now, and if he'd see them as the poster boys for a career that's played out remarkably well,  despite straddling a fuzzy line with the mainstream.   



     
  19. You have chosen to ignore posts from ZILLAGOD. Show ZILLAGOD's posts

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    ..AND...now we get into a whole new segment of this discussion.

    The Beatles, as pioneers, as the band that your mother and father hated, but you as a teenager or younger kid loved. The Beatles , who became popular and mainstream almost within a nanosecond.

    R.E.M. was popular with Alt-fans of the early to mid 80s , didn't become mainstream until about their 4th or 5th LP ( was it 'The One I Love', 'Stand' or 'Losing My Relgion' that catapulted them into the mainstream and successfully ended their status as darlings of the alternative movement or college radio or whatever?).

    The Beatles , that group who managed to be everything despite a severe personality disorder. McCartney was always meant to be mainstream. Lennon had the heart and mind of a punk or at the very least was always writing music with more in common with the Alternative style , that wouldn't be defined until 10 years or more after Lennon's death. Harrison, who didn't really intend to be mainstream, but he employed so many great musicians and was such a great songwriter that his LPs couldn't help but be strong efforts.

    McCartney was ( along with Epstein) bringing the Beatles to the mainstream. Yesterday. Eleanor Rigby, Get Back, Let It Be , When I'm 64 ...so many of Paul's somgs were meant to be homogenized radio fare. Lennon wrote songs to upset the applecart. He liked ruffling feathers and this is why I say he had the soul of a Punk Rocker way before his time....more in common with the Gene Vincent image ( somewhat darker than Elvis or Buddy Holly) , while McCartney was more Everly Brothers.

    Lennon's solo career reflects his lack of desire to be commercial or mainstream ( while he couldn't help but get airplay , as he was John Lennon , ex-Beatle. McCartney's solo career and career with Wings reflect a desire to be as mainstream as possible with numerous hit singles.

    Lennon was pure Rock'n Roll attitude.

    McCartney was Pop.

    Forget Yoko ( an avant-garde artist who fueled Lennon's desire to be an anti-hero, and put expression before popularity), it is this divide which guaranteed the Beatles would split.

     
  20. You have chosen to ignore posts from devildavid. Show devildavid's posts

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    I need some examples of what is considered mainstream today. I think some of our opinions are a product of our age and our memory of the past. I remember a lot of crap from the seventies that was not the greatest achievement of high art. I have a Super Hits of the Seventies collection full of such evidence. Afternoon Delight; Convoy; The Bertha Butt Boogie; Don't Pull Your Love; Brand New Key; Daddy Don't You Walk So Fast; Billy Don't Be a Hero; Kung Fu Fighting; Chevy Van; Feelings; Don't Give Up On Us; to name a few. But don't get me wrong, I enjoy a lot of that low art pop pap. I think the Seventies mainstream could give today's mainstream a run for it's money for disposable pop music.

    I guess I disagree with the premise that only recently has mainstream taken on a derogatory connotation. I think it always had that connotation among discriminating music fans and music performers too. But the mainstream audience has always looked favorably on mainstream music and I don't think it is now any more widely accepted that mainstream means "garbage".

     
  21. You have chosen to ignore posts from Hfxsoxnut. Show Hfxsoxnut's posts

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    In response to ZILLAGOD's comment:

    Lennon was pure Rock'n Roll attitude.

    McCartney was Pop.

    Or to put it a little differently:

    McCartney loved to please people.

    Lennon loved to pizz people off.

     
  22. You have chosen to ignore posts from devildavid. Show devildavid's posts

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    In response to Hfxsoxnut's comment:

    In response to ZILLAGOD's comment:

    Lennon was pure Rock'n Roll attitude.

    McCartney was Pop.

    Or to put it a little differently:

    McCartney loved to please people.

    Lennon loved to pizz people off.



    True, and one is not superior to the other. Different strokes.

     
  23. You have chosen to ignore posts from yogafriend. Show yogafriend's posts

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    In response to devildavid's comment:

    I need some examples of what is considered mainstream today. I think some of our opinions are a product of our age and our memory of the past. I remember a lot of crap from the seventies that was not the greatest achievement of high art. I have a Super Hits of the Seventies collection full of such evidence. Afternoon Delight; Convoy; The Bertha Butt Boogie; Don't Pull Your Love; Brand New Key; Daddy Don't You Walk So Fast; Billy Don't Be a Hero; Kung Fu Fighting; Chevy Van; Feelings; Don't Give Up On Us; to name a few. But don't get me wrong, I enjoy a lot of that low art pop pap. I think the Seventies mainstream could give today's mainstream a run for it's money for disposable pop music.

    I guess I disagree with the premise that only recently has mainstream taken on a derogatory connotation. I think it always had that connotation among discriminating music fans and music performers too. But the mainstream audience has always looked favorably on mainstream music and I don't think it is now any more widely accepted that mainstream means "garbage".



    I agree with you here: well said.    I've heard some unusally harsh statements about mainstream pop music that equate it with garbarge to the extent that it practically *defines* it, in the current climate; I could not help but wonder how / if / when ... / the use and meaning of the word has changed, and if so, how radically.   

    But you're right, there have always been music fans out there that have sneered at what would be classed as "mainstream" and that's always going to be the case.    As stated earlier in the thread, there are countless examples of superior "popular" mainstream music that would defy the current harsh connotation.   

    As for the music of the Seventies, it's good to be brought back to earth once in a while, as we do tend to glorify it as a decade of superlative rock music;  the truth is, there was plenty of music that was utter crap, you're right.  I've noticed lately that lots of stores are playing classic rock in the background; some so good in a store where I was shopping, I stayed a little longer for a song to finish.  :)   

     
  24. You have chosen to ignore posts from mrmojo1120. Show mrmojo1120's posts

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    In response to devildavid's comment:

    I need some examples of what is considered mainstream today. I think some of our opinions are a product of our age and our memory of the past. I remember a lot of crap from the seventies that was not the greatest achievement of high art. I have a Super Hits of the Seventies collection full of such evidence. Afternoon Delight; Convoy; The Bertha Butt Boogie; Don't Pull Your Love; Brand New Key; Daddy Don't You Walk So Fast; Billy Don't Be a Hero; Kung Fu Fighting; Chevy Van; Feelings; Don't Give Up On Us; to name a few. But don't get me wrong, I enjoy a lot of that low art pop pap. I think the Seventies mainstream could give today's mainstream a run for it's money for disposable pop music.

    I guess I disagree with the premise that only recently has mainstream taken on a derogatory connotation. I think it always had that connotation among discriminating music fans and music performers too. But the mainstream audience has always looked favorably on mainstream music and I don't think it is now any more widely accepted that mainstream means "garbage".

    I'll bet "The night Chicago died" is on that 70's collection album too.
     

     
  25. You have chosen to ignore posts from devildavid. Show devildavid's posts

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    In response to mrmojo1120's comment:

    In response to devildavid's comment:

    I need some examples of what is considered mainstream today. I think some of our opinions are a product of our age and our memory of the past. I remember a lot of crap from the seventies that was not the greatest achievement of high art. I have a Super Hits of the Seventies collection full of such evidence. Afternoon Delight; Convoy; The Bertha Butt Boogie; Don't Pull Your Love; Brand New Key; Daddy Don't You Walk So Fast; Billy Don't Be a Hero; Kung Fu Fighting; Chevy Van; Feelings; Don't Give Up On Us; to name a few. But don't get me wrong, I enjoy a lot of that low art pop pap. I think the Seventies mainstream could give today's mainstream a run for it's money for disposable pop music.

    I guess I disagree with the premise that only recently has mainstream taken on a derogatory connotation. I think it always had that connotation among discriminating music fans and music performers too. But the mainstream audience has always looked favorably on mainstream music and I don't think it is now any more widely accepted that mainstream means "garbage".

    I'll bet "The night Chicago died" is on that 70's collection album too.
     



    Bingo!

     
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