Are there too many house music subgenres | Features | MN2S

Deep House, Ghetto House, Soulful House, Acid House, Progressive House. Are there just too many House music subgenres?

In the second half of our recent interview with Terry Hunter he raised the issue of subgenres in House music. “I’m so sick and tired of all the different genres of House,” he said. “They really separate us. At the start it was just House music and Techno. Now we’ve got Soulful House, Afro House, Deep House, Disco House—it’s just House music! There are two kinds of music in this world: good music and bad music.”

He has a point. Following House music has become increasingly complicated due to the excess of genre labels, and the fact that artists do not necessarily see themselves as working within them. Terry Hunter clearly sees himself as straightforwardly a House DJ and producer, but Traxsource lists him under the term Soulful House, presumably due to his historic work with soulful vocalists. His recent House ‘N HD release has also been categorised as such, even though Mike Dunn’s growling vocals have little in common with Jennifer Hudson’s.

So just why are there so many subgenres of House music, and do we really need them all?

In the beginning

As Terry Hunter told us, in the beginning it was just House music and Techno. Though they would eventually meet in Tech House, at this point they were separate entities. As has well been established on this site and elsewhere, House music originated in Chicago. It was just called House.

All is good at this point. No one could argue that House music didn’t need a name. “Gotta have House music all night long/With that House music you can’t go wrong.” So say the lyrics of Marshall Jefferson’s seminal ‘Move Your Body’. Jefferson is right, of course. Except thirty years on, this track is more likely to be classified as Chicago House. Most of the original 1980s House tracks by artists such as Steve ‘Silk’ Hurley and artists on Screamin’ Rachael’s Trax Records label are classified as such. This signifier does work if the intention is to specify which period of House you are referring to, and of course there is a lot of similarity in the sound. But can a contemporary artist from Europe make a Chicago House track? Would we just call it House?

The first subgenres

After House (or Chicago House) was established, Acid House soon came along. Named after Phuture’s ‘Acid Tracks’, released on Trax and produced by Marshall Jefferson with DJ Pierre, sonically ‘Acid Tracks’ stands apart from the original House music for its use of the Roland TB-303 bass synthesiser.

This added instrument undeniably gives Acid House a distinct sound, especially in the way it was used in later tracks. It would be hard to argue that this genre is superfluous, especially since artists from anywhere and at any time can still contribute to it.

Around the same time, we saw the coining of the term Deep House. The name Deep House has seen a rise in popularity in recent years, though not necessarily for the right reasons. Originally, Deep House referred to the kind of music produced by Chicago’s Larry Heard, which incorporated elements of jazz, used deeper bass sounds, was often more mellow, and frequently made use of more traditional vocal structures. As explained in this Mixmag post, the term is now mostly used to refer to house music that is more serious and less pop friendly than, say, David Guetta. Many fans simply use Deep House as a way to differentiate between ‘real’ House music and EDM.

The subgenre influx

From the 1990s through to today, more House genres have sprung up than we have time to discuss here. There is Ghetto House, born as a blend of House and harder Detroit Techno. There is Progressive House, which built on Deep House and Eurodance. There is Tropical House, which is mostly mistakenly used to describe Dancehall-influenced Pop tracks. Tracks sometimes have to be very specific to count as being in these genres, in which case, the labels are useful.

Thanks to the large number of subgenres, House fans have a way of finding more music that is exactly to their tastes. The problems arise either when the terms are misused, or when, as Terry Hunter implied is the case, they separate artists or put them in boxes. As Marshall Jefferson’s involvement in both Chicago House and Acid House shows, the best House producers are not interested in sticking to a prescribed style, instead they follow their musical muse wherever it takes them. As long as the subgenres don’t stop artists doing this, they will not harm the House music scene.

Search our DJ roster by genre today.

Header image is Turntables by Felix Huth, CC 2.0

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Atleast one genre is required

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