It's happened to the best of us. We want to have that incredibly cool and diverse taste in music, knowing what's popular and being able to relate to everyone's taste. But we're stuck on just one genre. We've lost touch with all those things we used to love, or we can't quite get into the new thing that everybody's talking about. And there's also the issue of navigating what's hot and what's good, two qualifiers that don't always coincide.
Some people drown in indie rock, some in metal, some in radio pop, maybe even country or classical. For me, the last year and a half or so has been absolutely consumed by hip-hop. Oddly enough, it was rediscovering old Kanye music that set me off. From there, I dove into new and recent releases from J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, Chance the Rapper, A$AP Rocky, Earl Sweatshirt, and countless others. There were points where I had absolutely no desire to listen to music that wasn't in the same vein as what I was already listening to. I used to pride myself on liking all different types of music from all different eras, so I was pretty disappointed in myself. I know, it sounds stupid - just listen to other stuff, right? But if you've had a dilemma like this, whether you knew it or not, you found yourself mindlessly going back to play the same stuff over and over again. The reality is you kind of have to fight yourself, and it has to become a conscious effort to get back to a rotation of different music.
I think by now, I've dug myself a good ways out of my hip-hop hole. It's not that easy, but if you pay attention and look around, you should be able to get out of a one-genre dilemma and discover new things on the way. Here are some of the things I think it's really useful to do.
Go back to the oldies.
Never underestimate a timeless classic. If it's old and people are still listening to it, that means it's damn good. It also means it's going to show up as an influence in someone's more contemporary work. And if it's an oldie with sentimental value for you, that nostalgia is going to trigger other memories and bring you back to even more music. Also, don't assume 'oldies' means you have to back to the 70s (although you should go there, if not earlier). You might not call them oldies (yet), but go back to the early 2000s for some classic angsty pop punk. Or even just 5 years back, I bet you forgot about "Pumped Up Kicks" and now that it's not playing every 2 minutes on the radio, you can appreciate it again. You don't have to scour the internet for the newest music to get something different. Let the oldies take you back before you move forward.
Find the artists who bridge genres.
I think a general rule is that if you can't definitively name the genre, it's a great artist. And they don't have to be pioneers that are 'unclassifiable,' so unique that no one even attempts to label them. Even artists who simply take two genres and put them together. Some of my favorite genre-bending and genre-blending artists include The Clash, King Krule, and Gorillaz. But hey, you can go as simple as Nelly and Tim McGraw crossing over for "Over and Over" (classic, so classic). Songs and artists like these share elements with all different musical styles, so they'll always be a good point to move from one genre into many more.
Stop after a few plays on repeat.
I can't stress this enough, even if you're not stuck in one genre. Yes, there will be albums that you can play over and over and absolutely never get tired of. But that's rare and special. I think it's always better to take a step back to make sure you don't ruin an album or song for yourself. I know I have whole bands that I haven't been able to listen to for years now, all because I played them on repeat for a couple months back in fucking 2010. If something sounds good, you want to keep playing it, and then you only want to hear music that sounds just like it. Turn off repeat after a few plays, let it sit and try to switch gears for a while. You'll probably find yourself wanting a better variety.
Look at what the artists listen to.
For me, this really rings true because hip-hop is a genre that takes so much inspiration and direct influence from other types of music. From finding Beach House samples in Kendrick Lamars stuff to hearing A$AP Rocky and Tyler, The Creator talk about how they'd go crazy if they only listened to hip-hop, you can always trust an artist's taste. More often than not, they're drawing ideas from an incredibly large amount of music. You'll see artists praising each other on social media, or hear about low-key cross-genre collaborations (i.e. Bon Iver's work with Kanye). If you're lucky, you'll even get playlists like 'Frank Oceans Favorite Songs,' which someone made from a list found in Frank's Boys Don't Cry magazine. The variety of genres in that playlist is crazy, and you can trust that anything Frank likes is going to be great.
So yeah, we all get stuck in our favorite genre at times. And by all means, we shouldn't forget that genre and why it's so important and appealing to us. But if we want to have that wide range of musical knowledge and an interesting, diverse taste, we might have to work for it. We don't have to be experts, but we'd like to say we have a grasp on what music means as a whole. And we work towards that by finding unique artists, revisiting old ones, controlling our impulses, and exploring what our tastes share with others. If you'd like to limit yourself to one genre, by all means go ahead. On the other hand, if you find yourself wanting more from the music you listen to, don't be intimidated. It's really not that hard to get some great variety into your rotation.