The world of music is vast, like the ocean. It is full of variety both known and loved (dolphins) as well as terrifying and unapproachable (giant squid). There are depths of unexplored and uncharted territory, so who’s to say mermaids don’t exist?! In the vast ocean that is music, these five genres are the equivalent to mermaids. They are mystical, magical, utterly amazing, and by and large undiscovered by the masses.
5 J-rock – Japan, 1970s – Present
A huge genre that is all but ignored by America, Japanese Rock music has a very strange reputation over here. Reserved for anime freaks, J-rock is widely recognized as being the genre of the outcast. But even the outcasts of the marginalized need music, and J-rock provides an undeniably unique soundtrack. X-Japan is one of the most famous J-rock bands, producing undeniably hard rocking music, even if our American ears are conditioned to ignore (and hate) things that we can’t understand. Following acts with actual merit consist of Dir en Grey, Mongol 800, and L’arc En Ciel. Mongol 800’s “Anata Ni” is a very sweet love song, whose chorus (a translated line is: “If I meet you in dreams where will we go”) is just as sweet and moving as any American modern rock song about far away love – we just don’t understand it (unless you’re one of the freaks like me who speaks Japanese). Finding a sense of belonging when you know you don’t fit is always hard, and the subculture of J-rockin America provides a safe haven for the most marginalized young adults to find refuge.
4 Shoegazing – U.K. / U.S., late 1980s – Present
A genre that isn’t quite music, Shoegazing is post-modernism for music. Broken down, but not as pure-noise riddled as industrial, shoegazing is a wall of distorted guitar sound that hits you like, well, a brick wall. There isn’t much you can do when playing shoegaze, except stare at your shoes … hence the name, duh. That said, there is plenty of experimentation within the genre, and it has garnered plenty of success in the U.K. since the 80s, and even managed to become successful underground in the U.S. There is an element of supreme detachment that shoegazing espouses, which makes it inherently very interesting to experience. Whereas grunge and new wave (the overwhelmingly popular genres of the time) were all about breaking down barriers between audience and musician, shoegazing was all about the disconnect. It’s the type of music you have to experience to understand, and everyone should experience it for its sheer unique quality.
3 British Hip Hop – England, Present
With acts like Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip, Tricky, and Roots Manuva creating inimitable works, it’s hard to understand why their popularity hasn’t expanded across the pond, especially when we consider the viral nature of the internet. Cat videos garner more notoriety in America than these acts, and it’s a damn shame. Their lyrics are decidedly more poignant and meaningful than American hip-hop acts (not that we don’t have our more poetic artists here). British hip-hop is more genre melding than American hip-hop, and takes a much more holistic approach to their genre. As such, it appeals to a wider audience. Far more experimental, in the best of ways, British Hip Hop deserves as much attention here as it gets in its homeland.
2 Oi! – England, 1980s
While the above musical genre was preaching love and tolerance, Oi! was taking it to the streets. The preferred musical genre of marginalized working class British youth, Oi! punk was music ‘for us, by us’, as it were. With formidable acts like The Business, The 4-Skins, Cockney Rejects, etc., Oi! Punk was a short-lived but an exceedingly energetic conglomerate of musicians. Unfortunately, the image of Oi! was overtaken by terribly misguided white-supremacist groups like Skrewdriver. That isn’t to say that the non-racist Oi! bands professed peace. They definitely did not. What they did profess, though, was the refusal to sit back and be silent as their government ignored their desperate need for help. Violently energetic music was their way of expressing their displeasure. Aggro at gigs was commonplace, but not racially motivated. The other side of the same coin of 2-Tone, Oi! was another outlet for discontented youth to express all the anger and frustration they had with “the man”. It is some seriously hard-core punk music, and not for the faint of hearing, and it definitely rocks your socks.
1 2-Tone – England, late 1970s/1980s
One of the most unrecognized and influentially amazing musical genres to ever exist, 2-Tone was the brain child of The Specials’ front man Jerry Dammers. During the race and socioeconomic tensions of 1980s England, The Specials, Madness, Bad Manners, and 2-Tone’s other noteworthy acts were the harbingers of a new message – a positive anti-racist message. The music was the perfect melding of classic reggae and ska, with the racing beats of punk rock. It espoused equality, tolerance, safe sex, and social welfare programs. That’s a hell of a lot to pack into a musical genre, but 2-Tone was undeniably successful. Plenty of accounts exist of white-supremacist English youth attending 2-Tone gigs, and leaving changed men and women. The black-and-white imaging used in album covers, dress, and other merchandise was at once subliminal and overt, making it impossible to ignore. Not to mention, the music was freaking amazing. It’s no wonder Madness performed at the 2012 Olympics – after all, these are all messages we, as a society, haven’t quite gotten around to learning. Let’s just hope our teachers continue to be the amazing artists that make up the 2-Tone musical genre.
Despite the obvious obstacle of being foreign, these genres house some of the most talented musicians in the world. The fact that America is simply unaware of them, or that they don’t garner internet stardom, does not mean a damn thing. To British youth, 2-Tone and Oi! are as important as American punk and classic rock. J-rock is the soundtrack to the lives of countless Japanese youth, and just because American ears aren’t attuned to the language doesn’t mean the genre is without merit. Pushing boundaries is something music is meant to do, and we should all push our own boundaries of what we consider ‘acceptable’ genres to by giving these genres a listen.