Personally, I’m not a fan of absolute definition when it comes to music, but am guilty of asking the same question to musicians I’ve met so it’s understandable and to a certain degree expected. At its core, the music I write and perform falls into the singer-songwriter category (although this is most often perceived as a guitarist’s realm), and while it’s not mainstream commercial within a South African context, my album would fit quite comfortably into the “vocal” section of retail store shelves with the likes of Norah Jones, KT Tunstall, Sara Bareilles and Regina Spektor. But Vocal isn’t really regarded as a genre in South Africa.
My personal definition dilemma was solved by chance. When met with the “what kind of music” question at a book launch I attended last year, I stumbled around a few loose definitions before being interrupted by a journalist who, having recently listened to my album, offered up the term “Art Pop”. I connected with it instantly and have defined my music as Art Pop ever since. But that doesn’t tell you anything.
I say again, I’m not a fan of absolute definition when it comes to music. While I appreciate the need for definition to a certain degree, music is a subjective experience, and I think that the idea of putting it into a neat little box before you’ve heard it for yourself can be dangerous. The term Art Pop offers something to my dilemma that I really like. A certain level of mystery. Using the term generates conversation about the music, because not many people know what the term means. Sneaky. But to alleviate some of the mystery, perhaps a (loose) definition of the term is necessary.
Art Pop is “popular music with artistic integrity”.
That’s my definition anyway. Most likely derived or adapted from the term “Art Rock”, it is “not so much for dancing as for listening” (according to Wikipedia) with a slightly more avant-garde influence than more commercially produced music.
So there you have it. Kind of.