We love to feature alternative music in the FanLabel app, and we have realized the alternative sound has shifted recently. Ten years ago, it was very easy to identify alternative rock as a music genre. What had started as “indie,” a mellow British style of rock, had grown into a widely popular global scene teeming with new artists. Stemming from the unconventional style of British indie bands like Radiohead, Joy Division and The Smiths, alternative rock began to solidify as a genre in the 2000s. Bands like Arctic Monkeys, Phoenix, Arcade Fire, and MGMT made bold steps to define this emerging genre and help it become a category of its own
Today, alternative is as popular as ever. Something is different, though. The majority of emerging indie artists are not rock bands, but instead independent artists or groups. The genre has strayed further from rock, swapping guitar-focused instrumentals for electronically produced beats. It is a style of music often defined by what it is not instead of what it is. As its name suggests, alternative music strays from conventional music. It takes influences from genres ranging from heavy EDM to bluegrass country, blending them into something new and different.
In the past decade, the pattern of the rise of alternative rock has repeated itself for other genres. Part of a flourishing revival movement, bands like Mumford and Sons and The Lumineers have put a modern twist on traditional American folk music. Taking hints from classic alternative to combine modern rock with folk elements, the nostalgic feel of this revisited genre appeals to a broad range of listeners.
As alternative music’s sphere of influence grew, it expanded far beyond rock. In the late 2000s Los Angeles, a collective of rap and R&B artists known as Odd Future formed. Including rappers Tyler the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt as well as R&B singer Frank Ocean, Odd Future releases began to make waves across the country.
Like many indie rock bands at the time, Odd Future owed a big portion of their success to their ability to promote themselves online. Their fresh, unconventional use of classic hip-hop beats and strange, often confusing vocals also reminded many listeners of indie rock’s departure from its mainstream counterpart. Due to the clear parallels between their style and alternative rock, Odd Future began to be called “indie rap.”
Today, Odd Future is still a global phenomenon. They have hosted music festivals and starred in a TV show on Adult Swim. The “alternative rap” style of Odd Future’s members grew and established itself over the years, selling millions of albums in the process.
Originally part of Odd Future, singer Syd formed a band of her own called The Internet. With two high-performing albums, their music has a strong R&B influence. Along with Frank Ocean, this band has contributed to a rising indie R&B scene. A combination of traditional R&B, indie and electronic dance music, alternative R&B also includes artists like Kelela, Kali Uchis and Kaytranada.
With electronic production available to more people than ever, self-made artists have popped up across the internet, spreading their tracks through platforms like Soundcloud and Bandcamp. These “bedroom pop” artists generally handle all aspects of their creative process, including production, instrumentals, vocals and even album art.
After the her song “Flamin Hot Cheetos” went viral through YouTube and Soundcloud, singer Clairo received international attention. The poster child of the latest indie pop movement, she has released several hit tracks since then.
Taking inspiration from indie-pop bands like MGMT and Passion Pit, bedroom pop songs have a definitive indie style. Like similar “bedroom pop” artists Joji, Gus Dapperton, and Frankie Cosmos, Clairo’s music is a blend of indie rock-style vocals over downtempo pop-electronic beats. While it’s still a very new phenomenon, many listeners believe bedroom pop is the next big wave of alternative music.
Alternative is more popular and diverse than ever before. With new genres and styles popping up more than ever, alternative will continue to evolve in surprising ways.