7 music genres to spice up your playlist

As Shakespeare once said, if music be the food of love, play on. As we head into the summer, music festivals such as Coachella and Glastonbury dominate the airwaves and megastars such as Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, and Harry Styles embark on global stadium tours, entertaining thousands of adoring fans in a different city every night.

With metalcore, a style of rock music that blends heavy metal and hardcore, officially entering the Collins Dictionary earlier this year, now is the perfect time to shine a spotlight on lesser-known music genres. From avant-garde to lo-fi, we’ve got 7 new (or new-to-you) music genres to spice up your playlist. Put your headphones on and press play!


Perhaps the one genre on this list that tries to eschew any kind of definition, avant-garde music is work by musicians that is considered to be at the forefront of innovation or a particularly unique form of artistic expression. The expression avant-garde originates from French and it translates as ‘advance guard’, a military term used to describe a section of the army that goes ahead of the rest. In this sense, avant-garde music is any music that sets itself apart. For example, Brian Eno’s work in rock, pop and electronica is often considered avant-garde.


Okay, we’re willing to concede that you’ve almost definitely heard of Britpop, but the emergence of Britpop in the mid-1990s was an iconic moment for the UK, when bands such as Oasis, Pulp, and Blur put their own stamp on alternative rock. Partly a reaction to the emerging grunge scene in the US, partly a protest against polished pop bands, Britpop was spearheaded and influenced by the 1960s ‘British invasion’ bands and ’80s indie pop. The Kinks’ Ray Davies and XTC’s Andy Partridge have been heralded by some as the godfathers of Britpop, so here’s a taste of XTC’s work.


What happens when you combine folk music with electronica? Folktronica, obviously. Folktronica involves blending elements of folk and electronic music, such as acoustic instruments and synthesizers, to put a modern spin on a centuries-old genre. The word folk originates from the old English folc, meaning common people or laity, which itself stems from the Germanic volk, which simply means people. If you fancy giving folktronica a try,  Bon Iver is a good place to start.


One of the biggest emerging music genres of the last ten years has undoubtably been K-pop. This genre of music is influenced by pop, hip-hop, R&B, rock, EDM, disco, and even classical. The defining feature of K-pop is its origin, with many artists emerging from South Korea and often singing in their own language. While K-pop has been around for decades, viral sensation Gangnam Style did much to popularize the genre in the US and Europe and opened the door for K-pop superstars such as BTS, BLACKPINK and EXO.


While the music genre definition hasn’t yet officially been added to the Collins Dictionary entry for the term lo-fi, this style of music has become increasingly popular over the last few years. Lo-fi is an abbreviation of low fidelity, referring to sound reproduction that is (or made to sound) of a lower quality, or has a stripped-back production. This crackly, laid-back style of music is usually instrumental and is noted for its ability to help people relax, focus, and de-stress. One YouTube creator, ChilledCow (now known as Lofi Girl), hit the headlines when their lo-fi hop-hop livestream was unexpectedly taken down from the video streaming site, having racked up 218 million views and streamed over 13,000 hours of lo-fi content: this accidentally created one of the longest videos ever to have been shown on YouTube.  


Emo is experiencing a comeback, with noughties favourites My Chemical Romance, Paramore, and Fall Out Boy releasing new music and announcing tours. A subgenre of both punk and rock music, emo is characterised by its expressive and confessional lyrics. But what about screamo? It’s a subgenre within a subgenre. Screamo sets itself apart with harsh vocals and lyrics that really hammer home emotional pain. Famous screamo bands include Bring Me The Horizon, Pierce The Veil, and Bullet For My Valentine.


A beautiful hybrid genre that brings together French, Spanish, African, and Caribbean sounds, zydeco first emerged in the US state of Louisiana. American Creole musician Clifton Chenier, also known as the King of Zydeco, pioneered the genre with his vocal style and accordion playing. Other instruments that make an appearance in zydeco music include the fiddle, the vest frottoir and the washboard. It’s been said that the word zydeco comes from the lyrics of Les Haricots Sont Pas Salés, a Cajun song whose title translates as ‘the beans are not salty’. When spoken in French Creole, ‘les haricots’ sounds a little like ‘zydeco’.

By Rachel Quin
Rachel Quin is a freelance marketer and copywriter with a love of language, books and cats.

All opinions expressed on this blog are those of the individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of Collins, or its parent company, HarperCollins.

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