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“What Is That Melody?”

February 16, 2023

Throughout the endless search to discover new music, a common Google search of mine has often begun with these words: “Music that sounds like ___.” Typically, inserting the name of an artist that I’ve been most recently obsessed with easily yields a plethora of similar music that sometimes nestles itself within the comfort of my beloved Spotify playlists. For a select few musicians, however, the formulaic process that has unearthed some of my most beloved songs had come to no avail. I found that other artists simply couldn’t match the spark that defined the enchanting music of my present infatuations. While these musicians range in style and celebrity, between all of them lay one common link – each artist has embraced the freedom of music without genre in crafting a distinct, incomparable voice that truly exemplifies rising against the tide.

Take Warpaint, for example. The four-person Californian band holds a wide range of critic-granted labels, including “psychedelic rock,” “indie rock,” “post-punk,” “dream pop,” and “electronic rock,” just to rattle off a few. Attempting to confine the band to one of these terms, however, would be a disservice to the indescribably mystical, quiet aura that Warpaint produces by combining a variety of genre-based elements. In “Proof,” a notable track off the band’s most recent release, Radiate Like This, the intimate conversation between captivating synth, rock-like drum work, and the echo of a tantalizing vocal track creates a dialogue that isn’t quite pop, rock, or electronic. Instead, Warpaint coats itself in the essence of the band’s dream-like energy. The rosy haze that defines the band’s work is hard to emulate and drifts beyond the defining conditions of genre, granting Warpaint an unparalleled voice that ultimately stands stronger in the field of upcoming artists.

In a similar vein, Tash Sultana’s charm holds an inimitable rhythm. The artist retains a fluid balance that tips between instrumentalism and entrancing vocals to keep listeners latched on to the artist’s unheard of tone. The song “Greed” from Sultana’s 2021 album Terra Firma links layered vocals with a slick, jazzy guitar, crafting a groove that resides independently between R&B, jazz, and rap. Submerging the track entirely into one of those categories fails to capture the sophisticated blend of typically unmixed elements; listeners like myself keep crawling back to Sultana purely because finding a similarly intoxicating fuse between these genres is a daunting task. Beyond Sultana, Lykke Li has been a distinct name within music for over a decade, maintaining her captivating individuality with retro indie pop that comfortably stretches into the worlds of electronica and rock. Considering the remarkable singularity of Li’s singing voice alone, the combination of her vocals with acidic instrumentals and catchy electronic beats crafts a ghostly, steely atmosphere that isn’t found within the heart of many other artists. Li maintains her integrity as an artist that listeners naturally keep coming back to, for her distinct aura defines Li to the sound that she creates herself – not the sound that a particular genre has encouraged her to adapt.

Aside from Li, the connection between these artists of holding a genreless platform means all of them instinctively hold the same quality of greater listener loyalty. Even while their style isn’t my personal cup of tea, Chase Atlantic is notable for perpetuating this truth. I once attempted to explain what “type of music” Chase Atlantic is known for; after fumbling between explanations of rock, pop, and R&B, I finally landed on the answer that “you just have to listen to them to get an idea of it.” Thus, finding indie singers that replicate tendencies similar to Clairo or discovering pop artists that pride themselves on catchy choruses akin to Taylor Swift isn’t too much of a challenge. However, naming an artist that blends raw instrumentals, electronic intensity, and bold vocals to the same capacity of Chase Atlantic is an exhausting task that often reverts to listeners maintaining greater loyalty to the comfort of the band’s distinct sound.

As new artists continue to emerge across the music scene, launching from a variety of genres and working with musicians of all styles, the desire that listeners crave remains consistent – an urge to hear a unique, inventive rhythm that grows beyond the conventionality of musical stereotypes. In other words, music that transcends genre automatically ensures that musicians attain a reputation for raw artistry. The names of Warpaint, Tash Sultana, Lykke Li, and Chase Atlantic themselves aren’t known for the genres they oblige to, but the music that they pour their soul into. Between artists and listeners alike, the land free of genre is the perfect location for creativity to reign supreme and for notability to emerge.

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