Homogenized, unoriginal, and run of the mill. These are just some of the terms that you’ll hear more often than not used to describe the current state of the mainstream music scene.
While this may certainly ring true for the majority of songs that simply mimic the most recent trends, once you get into the upper echelons of the charts you’ll notice a distinct difference. These “trend setter” songs possess unique & clever characteristics that enable them to stand out from the pack. The trick is that they combine these characteristics with the “familiar,” enabling them to push the boundaries of what has been done before while easily connecting with their intended demographic. Combined, this greatly heightens a song’s chance for widespread success.
One of the most effective ways to stand out from the pack is through the effective fusion of multiple genres within a single song. To find examples of how this is done, you need not look any further than the Hot 100 top 10. During the first quarter of 2014, 21 different genres were mixed and matched to shape the sound of the 20 songs that topped the chart. Some of these are chart mainstays such as Hip Hop/Rap, Straight-Up Pop and Dance, while others could be classified as “flavors of the day,” including Theatrical/Show Tune, Trap, Gospel, and of course Retro influences amongst others.
Some of the more interesting/effective combinations included Dance fusing with Hip Hop/Rap & Country (Timber), Hip Hop/Rap fusing with R&B, Straight-Up Pop, and Rock (The Monster), Dark Pop fusing with Trap and Hip Hop/Rap (Dark Horse), R&B/Soul fusing with Gospel, Hip Hop/Rap, Straight-Up Pop and early 70’s Retro (The Man) and Pop/Rock fusing with Folk and Gospel (Counting Stars).
What all of these songs have in common is the methodical and effective manner in which diverse genres are fused together. In some cases, they’re all firing at the same time. Let Her Go features an ongoing fusion of Straight-Up Pop, Singer/Songwriter & Folk. Wrecking Ball is through and through a Straight-Up Pop Power Ballad.
In other instances, a specific section, instrument or vocal characteristic will feature a particular influence. The majority of Timber, for example, possesses an overtly Dance nature, which is most pronounced within the verse, pre-chorus and vocal break sections. The nature of Pitbull’s vocal delivery within the verse provides the Hip Hop/Rap element, and the Country influence is present throughout the entire song via the nature of the backing music (primarily the harmonica), coupled with Pitbull’s shift over to a “hoedown” styled vocal delivery within the pre-choruses.
Aloe Blacc’s The Man has even more going on. The nature of the beat provides the primary Hip Hop/Rap influence throughout the majority of the song. The chorus sections possesses a retro early 70’s Pop nature ala Elton John, while the second verse and bridge feature a late 60’s/early 70’s vibe elicited via the harpsichord. Blacc’s vocal delivery brings the R&B/Soul influence coupled with hints of Hip Hop/Rap, and the final chorus introduces a prominent Gospel vibe primarily brought about via the nature of the group vocal.
Regardless of how different genres are fused together within a song, when done effectively the end result is a unique sound that’s infectious, engaging and memorable, primed to resonate with its intended audience.
Interested in diving in deeper? Our Hit Songs Deconstructed Genre Report provides an in-depth analysis of the characteristics and trends that define each genre represented within the Hot 100 top 10, and how they’re fused with one another to create songs that stand out from the pack. Hit Songs Deconstructed PRO subscribers can access the Hit Songs Deconstructed Q1 Genre Report by clicking here. Not a PRO subscriber? Click here to find out what a PRO subscription includes.