Spoiler alert: this isn’t an opinion. It’s a fact, Jack!
It’s fall. That means a lot of things but one big time thing it means is ACOUSTIC MUSIC. I’m not judging... I listen to it too. I love Bob Dylan, and Joan Baez and all that bizznass. But a lot of time I hear people saying that they love “folk music” and that “folk” is their fall jam.
Let’s get something straight… Folk music does not mean acoustic music. That is an association that arose because of homies like Dave van Ronk and Bobby D and Joan Didion and others. But folk music existed before them. In fact, folk music has existed literally ever since music has existed. That’s because folk isn’t a genre.
Folk just means storytelling. It’s passed down from generation to generation and it tells personal stories, or legends or whatever. But the point is that they all tell a collective story—a story that encompasses a whole culture. This was the case in Greenwich Village in the 1960s with all those American folk peeps laying down some straight delectable tunes with some gentle finger picking. Songs like “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Green, Green Rocky Road…” Thus there are things like folk-rock (rock being the genre, folk being the mode of storytelling).
So when we look at modern music, what do we normally think of as folk? Lumineers… Mumford… Stuff like that. Whether or not you like that music, I’ll go ahead and say those acts aren’t really folk… They’re alternative, acoustic, rock… They have some of the elements of folk for sure. They tell some dope stories (I think the folksiest songs by those groups are probs songs like “Charlie Boy” or “Timshel”), however most of the songs are adhering to a vogue or an aesthetic more than the integrity of folk.
The real folk music today isn’t quite the same genre that it has been in the past. It’s taken a new form. If you think of traditional folk music (what folk music is meant to be) the closest thing that comes to it in content and intent is rap. Particularly, Jay-Z’s 4:44, Kendrick Lamar’s Damn, SZA’s Ctrl and Tyler the Creator’s Flower Boy all capture the spirit of folk better than other genres. The songs on these albums are personal, raw and vulnerable. But more than that, they are trying to tell a collective story.
Caveat here: I’m white. I’m not saying that I understand the struggles and experiences voiced on these albums. I don’t. But I am saying that when I listen to them, I hear a story about an individual, and I hear a story about a community… a culture. And that is what folk is all about, friends.
Sorry if I crapped on a band you like. That wasn’t the intention. BUT I hope that you will consider the nature of folk. Also a lot of folk music IS acoustic (at least in America). So I’m not saying that isn’t folk. There are a lot of other dynamics there which I think are important to consider. So maybe instead of saying that you like “folk” music and then just surfing a wave of acoustic-rock songs about running away from home and just going where no one knows your name and stuff, that you might want to check out other very legitimate sources of storytelling and folk and genres that tell stories like that.
So drink up those PSL’s and button up those flannels cause it’s fall folks. And if you have a record player like a good hipster, then crank that baby up and lay down some dope vinyls on that bad boy. But maybe check something that you haven’t listened to before. Good stories are dope. College rulez. I’m gonna live forever. Pilot G-2 05’s are the best pens in existence.