What's the Word?

December 02, 1992|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,Pop Music Critic

Have you ever read Rolling Stone or watched MTV and found yourself wondering when pop fans stopped using English to describe their favorite music? Do terms like "mosh," "techno," "sample" and "grunge" make you feel very old and out-of-it? Well, fret no more. Simply by memorizing the following definitions, you too will be able to discuss the latest trends in pop music -- and without actually having to listen to the stuff.

Alternative (awl-tur-nah-tiv) n. 1. Short for "alternative rock" and generally connoting any pop style too uncompromising, arcane or intense for mainstream consumption, but not so weird as to be unplayable on MTV. 2. Any pop style favored by college-age hipsters.

L Blunt (blunt) n. 1. Hip-hop slang for a marijuana cigarette.

Diva (dee-vuh) n. 1. A talented, flashy female opera singer, a prima donna. 2. A big-voiced, flamboyantly expressive female pop singer, particularly one specializing in soul or dance music; examples include Chaka Khan, Gloria Gaynor, Martha Wash.

Grunge (grunj) n. 1. Rock style generally associated with alternative/metal bands from the Seattle area, especially groups associated with the Sub-Pop record label; similar in feel to hard rock but different in attitude, drawing more from punk-rock ennui than heavy metal grandeur. Bands include: Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Screaming Trees, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains. 2. A fashion craze drawing from the Seattle rock scene in which couturiers sell thrift-shop clothing -- flannel shirts, rock-band T-shirts, torn jeans and knit caps -- at premium prices to the desperately trendy. adj. 3. Of electric guitars, having a dirty, distorted tone, similar in sound to heavy metal guitar but lacking the virtuosity.

Hardcore (hahrd-kohr) adj. 1. The purest and most demanding music in any pop style; that which appeals only to the most knowledgeable and devoted fans; e.g., Eschewing pop, he only listened to hardcore rap. n. 2. Hyper-fast and determinedly inaccessible form of punk rock, originally referring to early-'80s punk rock scenes in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

Hip-Hop (hip-hop) n. 1. Urban, Afrocentric cultural movement originating in the late '70s and encompassing rap, break dancing and graffiti art. 2. Term used by hardcore rappers to explain the difference between their music and Hammer's.

Industrial (in-dus-tree-al) n. 1. Musical style pioneered by the German group Einsturzende Neubauten, using amplified construction equipment as instrumentation. 2. A term applied, for want of a better one, to the abrasively electronic dance music popularized by such groups as Ministry, Skinny Puppy or Front 242.

Loop (loop) n. 1. A piece of recording tape that has been cut and spliced so that recorded fragment can seem to repeat infinitely. 2. Any recorded musical phrase, whether from live musicians or samples, that has been edited into a continuous ostinato. 3. The central rhythmic phrase on a rap recording. v. 4. To assemble samples, drum machine patterns and/or other sounds into a repetitious rhythmic phrase, either on tape or using a sequencer.

Mack Daddy (mak dad-ee) n. 1. A well-dressed and successful pimp. 2. Any stylish and powerful male in urban street culture. 3. The younger member of Kris Kross.

Mosh (mahsh) v. Dance favored by thrash fans, who hurtle against one another while flailing arms and bobbing in time; usually includes stage diving, in which audience members leap onto the crowd from the stage, and crowd surfing, where the stage-diver is passed over the heads of moshers in apparent gratitude for not having squashed anyone. Mosh pit n. Area of crowd in which moshing takes place.

New Acoustic (noo ah-koo-stik) n. Folk-oriented improvisatorial pop style using mostly folk instruments (acoustic guitar, fiddle, mandolin, banjo, double bass) and drawing equally from jazz, bluegrass and folk traditions; new acoustic artists include Darol Anger, Mike Marshall, David Grisman, Acoustic Alchemy.

New Age (noo ayj) n. 1. Restful, reflective, mostly instrumental pop style, originally intended as music for reading or meditation. 2. General term applied to quiet, folk- and jazz-derived instrumental music popularized in the 1980s by Windham Hill Records; typical artists include George Winston, Alex de Grassi, David Lanz and Kitaro. adj. 3. Boring, vapid, vacuous-sounding; seeming like high-concept elevator music.

Rave (rayv) n. All-night dance party featuring oddly-dressed, energetically undulating "ravers," brutally loud techno music, hypnotic lighting, vitamin compounds described as "smart drugs," and an assortment of illegal stimulants, especially Ecstasy or "E."

Riot Grrrls (ry-uht gurlz) n. 1. Post-feminist pop movement drawing from bands like Bikini Kill and Babes In Toyland, focusing on aggressive feminine pride and flouting of sexual stereotypes; generally easier to find in newspaper or magazine trend stories than in nightclubs or concert halls.

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