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Dead Horse Genre

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"Improvisational jazz banjoists are shot on sight!"

A music genre that critics hate on principle. If a work or creator is from one of the forbidden genres, it is automatically bad, no matter what the creator or work makes. A critic who actually likes any of this stuff has to bend over backward, apologizing that these works are Guilty Pleasures and they know they shouldn't like the stuff. Some critics seem unable to write a review of works they like without an obligatory kick to the dead horse — "this is so much better than that other crap!" Times when these genres were popular are declared to be an Audience-Alienating Era.

Amateur critics on the Web aren't quite as dogmatic as the professionals, because the amateurs aren't part of an establishment that declares who is hot and who is not. But since anybody with an internet connection and library can be a critic, amateurs often have their own personal Dead Horse Genre, which they flog as hard as the professionals do with theirs.

Of course, a lot of these genres really are full of rubbish. But so are genres that the critics like — Sturgeon's Law strictly applies. If you're a fan of this stuff and you want reviews, you may have to go to a specialized web site that only covers that one genre.

So why kick a genre until it's a dead horse? Because critics regard what they do as Serious Business. They're trying to calculate the canon of Great Works here, and there's no room for anything less. They seem to think that if enough people consume good works, people will start giving out flowers and candy and overthrow The Man and cure cancer, but if they consume bad works, people will have their souls crushed and vote to establish fascism. Some music critics with strong political beliefs go further — some are still angry that the decline of music in the late 60s prevented the revolution that was so, so close at hand! (They seem to forget, or never even realized, that so many of these works were brought to us by - and perhaps never would have been without - corporate entities.)

Another reason for this is that entire genres have been created by taking a style the creators hate and then doing the exact opposite. Critics who like these rebel genres have to pan the ones they rebelled against. Maybe both genres have something to offer? Don't be silly! This is art, and there's only one way to do things.

Sometimes, a genre turns into a dead horse through a mix of Hype Backlash and It's Popular, Now It Sucks!; the work hit a peak level of popularity where it appears to be everywhere, and both the public and the critics get sick of it.

Most of these genres have one or two exceptions, the creators that the critics like in spite of it all. Of course, the critics usually spend their time trying to explain that no, these bands aren't really part of the hated genre at all— although it should be noted that in some cases this is more true than others.

For those people who haven't figured it out yet, most music criticism is very close to Fan Dumb and Hate Dumb. See also Sci Fi Ghetto.

Note that the list doesn't include very old nearly-forgotten genres like motet.

The Big List of Dead Horse Genres:

Arena Rock

There ain't no respect for 1970s bands who made songs specifically for arena spectacles, like Foreigner and REO Speedwagon. Critics regard them as pompous, fake, and not real music because their songs aren't really played — they're performed. Especially to fans of Three Chords and the Truth, this is unacceptable. And since arena rockers usually wrote straightforward lyrics, those who feel that True Art Is Angsty have nothing.

Arena rock is notable for being a Dead Horse Genre that also has a band that is usually loved or liked even by the people who hate the genre: Queen, who were a lot more willing to experiment and do odd things than most Arena Rock bands.

Hair Metal

A sub-type of heavy metal from the 1980s, bands like Poison, Bon Jovi, and Mötley Crüe inspire a lot of hate, even from people who love other kinds of heavy metal. Critics dismiss it as nothing but make-up, big hair, fancy costumes, and videos, with no room for actual music in there. (Wilson & Alroy, the first big amateur music reviewers on the web, refuse to review hair metal albums for any reason.) Among professional critics, hair metal had the misfortune of being too tied to the 1980s rock "establishment," especially MTV. 1990s Grunge music was a rebellion against hair metal, like Punk was a rebellion against Prog Rock, so when grunge became the critical darling of MTV, there was soon no place for hair metal among the pros.

Show Tunes

Rock critics don't usually like (or know much about) music that isn't rock, but they're wary of attacking genres that they know they don't understand. So they leave Classical, Blues, Jazz, and "World" alone. But Broadway show tunes don't have the mystique that makes those other genres so scary. If it was sung in a theater, rock critics dismiss it as sappy, soulless stuff for lame fifty-something white people in 1955. One of the stock funny anecdotes among music critics is that Marvin Gaye, the master of suave Motown love ballads with soul, originally wanted to sing show tunes.

Incidentally, musical theater fans have their own Dead Horse Genres: Jukebox Musicals, European pop operas such as the output of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Disney musicals, etc. The hate for those is similar to the hate others have for Manufactured Bands (see below).

Mainstream Radio

Albums by the likes of Fleetwood Mac or Eagles — which seem to consist of the same song repeated for seven tracks or more — send a shiver down the spine of many a critic. After all, it's produced by The Man, who is the root of all evil (but not that one); and it probably got played due to payola anyway. The fact that lots of people love it is only proof that it's bad — what do the proles know, anyway? Also currently applies to bands such as Nickelback which have the "sold 10 million albums but I don't know anyone who owns one" type of fanbase.

Manufactured Bands

Probably more of a target for amateur critics than professionals, this genre is also the one that most non-critics who start getting interested in music will hate the most. From Fabian and The Monkees to *NSYNC and Britney Spears, performers who serve as faces for a faceless team of composers are viewed as outright traitors to music. They are the monster, the roots of the evil corporate machine that suppresses true music. They perform catchy but empty pop designed to hypnotize teenagers into becoming shopping-obsessed zombies. They... well, you know the drill. The average critic cares a lot about sincerity, so singers who only sing (instead of writing their own material) are unacceptable (depending on how long ago the artist came to prominence — most people aren't going to criticize Nat King Cole or Frank Sinatra for not writing their own tunes...). Professional critics have to (publicly) give 'equal time' to modern manufactured bands for obvious reasons, but are free to trash selected out-of-date whipping boys (like the Monkees) with gusto. And don't even mention the words "Milli Vanilli" around them.

The older bands suffer the same fate as hair metal — manufactured bands prospered most between Elvis getting drafted and The Beatles arriving, so they are seen as the horror which the Beatles saved music from. Speaking of "older", note that in recent years manufactured bands and their intended demographic are getting youngerMiley Cyrus, The Jonas Brothers and The Naked Brothers Band are presumably marketed to kids whose parents think they're too young to go on the Internet. Interestingly, manufactured bands targeted toward girls get far, far, far more criticism than those targeted toward boys even if their music is of the exact same quality. Manufactured bands targeted at girls almost always acquire the Periphery Hatedom of their generation.

In Britain, much of the ire for manufactured bands is specifically directed at contestants from The X Factor or Britain's Got Talent who actually started music careers. While some manage to acquire mainstream acceptance, many are derided for appealing to the Lowest Common Denominator and existing solely to "steal" the Christmas Number One single spot with a cover version to validate the existence of the programme (with the back cover of several Pop Stars: The Rivals VHS tapes actually implying that the Christmas number one was the prize for winning the programme). The backlash against this seems to have culminated with the successful 2009 Facebook campaign to put "Killing In the Name" at the top of the Christmas singles chart. Generally, the ire isn't really directed at the singers themselves — evidenced by the success of Leona Lewis and the praise for JLS attempting to be original with their material — but at the system which got them into the position (and Simon Cowell).

As noted above, many critics generally don't hate manufactured artists as much as one would think. Britney Spears? Oops!... I Did It Again, Britney, In The Zone, Circus and Blackout have all averaged around three stars or more in reviews. The Monkees have also been somewhat Vindicated by History lately. Justin Bieber and The Jonas Brothers also don't receive, for the most part, overly negative reviews on their albums. Indifference moreso than dislike is probably the most common critical reaction. It also depends on what the "faces" themselves bring to the table. The Monkees fought for more creative control over their music from the start, succeeding from the album Headquarters onward. They began writing their own songs and Michael Nesmith has been recognized in particular as a talented songwriter and music video auteur. Britney Spears, on the other hand, is largely a figurehead for writers and producers and is nicknamed "One-take Jake" for her minimal studio time recording vocals (which are heavily processed).

Viewpoints about the Sex Pistols vary: they started as a band manufactured by Malcolm McLaren, but with the addition of John Lydon his influence over them was heavily diminished. Subsequently they initiated the first wave of British punk, with bands like The Clash and Buzzcocks citing them as the direct reason they formed. After Lydon left, McLaren tried to keep the band going, resulting in disasters such as The Great Rock and Roll Swindle.

In some cases, if a manufactured band breaks up then regroups a few years later when they're a bit older and wiser, there's sometimes a good chance that they will manage to win the favour of critics and the public. Take That is a pretty good example.

Also, starting in The New '10s there is a small boy band resurgence in Britain (like One Direction, 5 Seconds of Summer, The Wanted, and The Vamps; although the former two would eventually blow up internationally) but girl groups are still out of the question as groups like Girlicious and Pussycat Dolls fell by the wayside.

Finally, outright parody bands such as Spinal Tap may get a bye on the basis that they were really attacking the sort of band they pretend to be.

In Asia, there appears to be somewhat less resistance in accepting Boy Bands/Girl Groups; groups like Big Bang and the Hello! Project still sell in Korea and Japan. It likely helps that they're generally willing to mock themselves relentlessly. Furthermore, J-Pop singers often have other people write and/or compose their songs (Yoko Kanno partnering with Maaya Sakamoto on numerous albums, for example). It's not really a negative, nor is it decried as "manufactured" (at least not over and above what American critics think of the dancy, peppy J-pop genre as it is).

Nu Metal

Nu Metal is an umbrella term coined in the mid-1990s to refer to music that blends heavy metal elements with other styles, typically Industrial and Alternative Metal. Nu Metal is hated by many metalheads, who stereotype it as commercial and musically simple. It's also hated by many non-metalheads, who view it as crass, misogynistic, and pointlessly obnoxious — a bunch of Jerk Jocks "stealing" the clothes of the weird kids (a sentiment ironically felt within nu metal itself later on). In fact, there are many that argue Nu Metal isn't even a subgenre of metal, but rather a fusion genre that happens to have noticeable elements of metal in it. Some music critics argue that it is an experimental and diverse genre, which it very well could have been if the more commercially viable elements hadn't been milked to death. The original concept lives on as Avant-Garde Metal to some degree, but outside of a few acts that either abandoned the more disliked aspects of the genre or simply got too big to die, the genre of nu metal itself is still largely viewed as a punchline for jokes about late-Nineties suburban excess. Despite this, the genre has had a noticeable increase in prominence with revival bands such as Vein, Issues and various other artists, although the genre is still largely disliked by critics as a rule.

As with arena rock above, a few bands did manage to escape the critical pasting associated with nu metal, such as Dir en grey and System of a Down (of course, there are plenty of people who'll insist neither act was ever a nu metal band). Again, this is likely due to their diverse, experimental sound.


Deathcore is a genre that was developed in the 2000s that combines the extreme technicality of Death Metal with the mosh pit-inducing energy of Hardcore Punk / Metalcore. The genre rose to popularity in 2006/2007 with bands such as Bring Me the Horizon and Suicide Silence. The genre at the time was considered a commercially viable form of Death Metal and was popular from 2006 to 2012. In spite of its commercial success, deathcore is often frowned upon by critics and metalheads alike. Many critics call the style "ugly", "disgusting" and other related names. Critics will often pan albums in this genre due to the practicing bands' inability to evolve the genre in any way, as many of the artists in the deathcore genre will copy a style from one of their peers, rinse-repeat. In fact, many people consider deathcore to be a "dirty word" in the heavy metal community and is often labelled as the Spiritual Successor to Nu Metal in terms of genres being The Scrappy of the heavy metal world. Funnily enough, deathcore artists will often cite Ensemble Dark Horse nu metal bands such as Korn or Deftones as stylistic influences even though the former genre is hardly influenced by the latter in any way.

As the years went on, many deathcore artists have abandoned their style in favor of other genres or have disbanded, with the currently existing deathcore artists being disowned by the heavy metal community. Nowadays, deathcore is considered a giant fad that was filled with emo teens who had throat tattoos and were known to kill themselves in motorcycle accidents.

Gangsta Rap

Many think the genre died in the late 90s (Dr. Dre himself thinks so as well). But this is somewhat contested because some (mostly horribly out-of-touch Moral Guardians) think it's still the popular hip hop genre. The problem with this is that a lot of hip hop that didn't fall into the indie, pop, or alternative banner was automatically placed under the gangsta rap umbrella term...unfairly or not. Usually by cynical alt/indie rap fans. Also the grittier type 1 variants are dead, while a glossier Lighter and Softer version exists in its place.

Political Rap

Most rappers who get on their soap box are considered preachy, pretentious, and irrelevant now. In general, there's a backlash towards rap music like this (including the aforementioned Gangsta Rap, and alt rap) from the mainstream rap fans. Likely because of the resentment from the fans of those particular genres that's usually aimed at pure mainstream rap fans. So in essence it's a backlash against the Critical Backlash...If that makes any sense. So a lot of mainstream rap fans and mainstream rap outlets (including BET, and apparently MTV) dismiss them as irrelevant. Basically any hip-hop that isn't club-oriented, trendy, safe, and radio-friendly is considered "played out" or not cool to like. Or it could all just be a defense mechanism for mainstream fans to justify their taste in current pure mainstream hip-hop. Conscious hip-hop has also gotten a few criticisms as well given rise to derogatory terms like "Niggas with Ankhs", and "Sistas with Headwraps".


After floating around in the outer reaches of the record industry for decades, the success of African-American musical genres like jazz, blues, soul, and funk in the 1960s finally brought it to the forefront by the beginning of the 1970s. However, many objected to the glitzy, camped-out commercialism, claiming it "sucked all of the soul" out of the music. Disco came under a backlash from two sides — white rock fans despised the genre due to its ubiquity and perceived threat to Rock & Roll's dominance, while black Funk fans trashed the genre as soulless, vapid, and stupid, angry over how it pushed their heroes (James Brown, George Clinton, et al.) and hard-edged funk out of the charts. When the hammer fell on the genre, it fell hard, and practically no one will now admit to having come within a billion miles of it at its height. "X was into disco in the '70s" jokes mocking the genre are practically a staple of the Sitcom genre. It tried to resurrect itself in disguise as '80s High-Energy, but could not reclaim its once-lofty position. Notably, although it can't retake the position it once held, time has helped to soften the once incredibly harsh attitudes towards the genre; especially with a growing set of generations that have since come up without all the vitriol aimed at it. This has allowed certain elements of Disco music to come back with a modern flair in a better fashion than its prior 80s resurrection attempt.

Some critics who live through the Disco Sucks era may admit to liking a few disco acts — The Bee Gees, Donna Summer, ABBA, Blondie, and Chic still maintain good critical reputations. Of course, some of these acts long predated disco and many didn't perform the style exclusively. Those who didn't or weren't born tend to be more open about liking the genre and modern acts like Daft Punk. It was also a fairly major influence on early hip-hop and was also one of the more prominent genres in the musical potpourri that was post-punk and New Wave.

Lounge Music/Easy Listening

Lounge Music has always earned the loathing of critics even in heyday of the mid-1960s and early 1970s, being typified as the musical equivalent of Valium. 'Easy Listening' derivatives of Jazz especially earn the enmity of rock critics — even those unfamiliar with jazz in general — because it is seen as a neutered form of a real genre. It is essentially so middle-of-the-road it's criticized by fans of all genres: Pop fans dismiss it as "boring music for old people," while diehard jazz and classical fans accuse it of taking only the surface-level elements of those genres.

Nevertheless, so-called "Beautiful Music" radio stations enjoyed large listening audiences during the 1960s, '70s, and '80s, sometimes even ranking as the most listened-to stations in their respective markets. Typical artists heard on such stations included instrumentalists such as Percy Faith, Mantovani, and the 101 Strings as well as "middle of the road" pop acts like Barbra Streisand, The Carpenters, and Frank Sinatra. The death of Easy Listening as a radio format in the late 1980s had more to do with the age of the stations' listeners (as many advertisers do not target listeners over the age of 50) than with poor ratings. Many such radio stations moved into "soft rock" or adult contemporary formats playing the likes of Céline Dion, Whitney Houston, and Lionel Richie, which generated just as much revulsion from rock fans and hipsters. Nevertheless, the genre still has its devotees and even a channel on Sirius/XM satellite radio called "Escape" dedicated to keeping the Beautiful Music sound alive.

Popular acts such as Barry Manilow in the 1970s and Kenny G. in the 1990s are especially reviled for being both banal and successful — Manilow especially for admitting to doing the most soulless of music before turning to pop: commercial jingles. New Age/Worldbeat music, like Yanni or Enigma's output, is usually lumped into this category.

An interesting subsect of this would be vaporwave — no relation to Vapor Ware — a music which functions as a both a parody and Spiritual Successor "Easy Listening" music. It became subject to Memetic Mutation in the early 2010's but fell out as the meme became discredited later. Today, the genre has experiences a revival of sorts, mainly thanks to it's offshoots like Future Funk and the various "core" music genre. And still has a thriving, if somewhat niche.

Songfestival pop

In Europe, everything and everyone that has anything to do with the Eurovision Song Contest is reviled by critics. This includes such acts as ABBA.


Some say Neo-Soul is dead. Considering in the early 2000s it was getting A LOT of mainstream buzz (mostly because of Alicia Keys), with singers like Maxwell, D'Angelo, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Angie Stone, Lina, India.Arie, Music Soulchild Et Cetera. But by the mid-2000s, interest faded away.

Contemporary R&B

In the words of P!nk (whose first album was R&B) "Nobody wants to hear a love song that you don't mean". Not just the genre itself but arguably the love and romance of Contemporary R&B is dead. Replaced by songs dealing with trashy soap opera/Jerry Springer topics. With more vocal gymnastics and some vague, treacly high-pitched sound in the background. The fusion of modern R&B to hip-hop tends to dilute both these Genres. Interestingly enough, Contemporary R&B pushed soul music off the charts.

New Jack Swing

Ironically the fusion genre that pushed Contemporary R&B off the charts is also deader than a doornail. Its heavy hip-hop influence was its undoing: the harder hip-hop acts, primarily the early, socially-conscious gangsta rap movement, criticized it as a watered-down version of their own music, incorporating their production techniques but commercialized for a wider audience and missing the core message. Rapper Ice Cube, in his song "Wrong Nigga To Fuck Wit," uttered the immortal line, "It ain't no pop 'cause that sucks/And you can new jack swing on my nuts." By the end of the early '90s, it had faded away. Others place the blame on its over saturation on urban radio. It didn't help that 90% of it was produced by the same producer (Teddy Riley), giving different artists the same redundant production style.

Traditional Anime Theme Songs

Back in the '70s, most animes had their own catchy theme songs. However, during the '80s, it was slowly phased out for J-pop or J-Rock tracks which are easy to license and seem more normal for listening. Good luck finding a theme song for anything past kids' shows nowadays. Even Kamen Rider is a bit more unconventional with its newer openings and end theme songs than, say, Super Sentai. This was heavily lampshaded in Kämpfer as Kaede speaks of anime openings being normal compared to say cartoon openings. Helps that thanks to increasing deals and connections between studios, networks, and production groups — the songs are now commonly used as a way to help sell that particular artist just as much as the show itself.

Smooth Jazz

Kenny G and all that. For years, it was often the only jazz you'd hear on the radio unless you listen to NPR at 1:00 AM Saturday morning, or as non-offensive background music for the local forecast on The Weather Channel (which has actually issued compilations of smooth jazz in the past). It's also the one form of jazz critics feel free to trash. It probably doesn't help that most porn now uses smooth jazz for the "action" scenes.

During the heyday of Smooth Jazz as a radio format in the 1990s, it was reviled as the modern version of the Easy Listening or "Beautiful Music" format, despite incorporating R&B and soft soul vocals from Anita Baker, Sade, Luther Vandross and Mariah Carey rather than traditional "middle of the road" artists like Barry Manilow. In the 2020s, like Easy Listening, it's more or less dead as a radio format due to the aging of the genre's core listener group and advertisers' unwillingness to reach those audiences, despite a few stations gamely hanging on in places like Atlanta, Georgia.


As in Mainstream Radio above, these bands are often accused of being repetitive and banal — if not outright bashed, there's a good chance that they'll be described as "middle-of-the-road, comfort food rock". These bands tend to fall in the "sold millions of albums but nobody seems to actually like them" trap. It's also unpopular among fans of the original grunge bands, who see it as a watered-down, mainstream-baiting response to an "authentic" rock movement. The genre died out in The New '10s, with the few bands that didn't sing about Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll adopting elements of other genres in order to keep their chart success alive. Most of the bands who refused to change their sound have invariably been Condemned by History.

Progressive Rock

Similar to the criticisms of Arena Rock: these bands offend critical sensibilities, which tend sharply toward Three Chords and the Truth. Not only do they do extremely long songs, they tend to write incomprehensible lyrics to go with them. Though unlike Arena Rock (for the most part), it's under gone a case of Vindicated by History (or Popularity Polynomial in case of critical darlings like Pink Floyd). And outside of aging rock snobs, the general public's reaction to Prog-Rock is one of indifference at worse.

Ska Punk

For about two years between the start of 1996 and the end of 1997, third wave ska was pretty big in America, propelled into the charts by multi-platinum albums like Tragic Kingdom and Sublime. However, after its brief time in the limelight, third wave ska basically disappeared, and many bands (including No Doubt and The Aquabats!) changed their sound.

As far as the fandom went, ska punk occupied an uncomfortable position; it was simultaneously seen as geekish (many ska groups were former band geeks, and there's a curious tendency towards ska musicians being One of Us) and fratboyish (due to the party anthems many groups became known for and the inclusion of ska songs in late nineties comedy movie soundtracks). Further, third wave ska was often criticised for straying too far from the original Jamaican style (and even the British revivalists who'd been popular in the eighties), hence the derogatory "punk with horns" nickname.


This is mostly a case of an album being released that was so good — namely My Bloody Valentine's Loveless — that no other shoegaze act could possibly hope to live up to it, so critics took to panning the overwhelming number of shoegaze records that were released after that point just on principle. It doesn't help that My Bloody Valentine themselves took twenty-two years to release the record's follow-up. In The Noughties the genre did undergo something of a revival, but most of the acts are still negatively compared to MBV.

Group Sounds

A form of Japanese rock/folk music hybrid popular in the early to late 60s pioneered by bands such as The Tigers, The Spiders, and The Tempters, it died a rather quick death immediately upon the introduction of guitar feedback into music, due to the rather large orchestral arrangements popular with Group Sounds bands being largely found impractical and laughably overwrought upon the introduction of heavier guitar playing into Japanese music, thus leading to the New Rock genre replacing GS largely as the biggest form of J-Rock in the 70s.

City Pop

A subgenre of Japanese Pop Music from the eighties. City Pop embraced an optimistic worldview influenced by the country's rising economy. When Japan experienced a sudden and massive economic crisis in the early 90s, the genre fell out of popularity and was derided by the younger generations, who frequently nicknamed it "shitty pop" and gravitated towards the Visual Kei scene. Interestingly, the genre saw a revival on the internet in the 2010s, owing to its popularity among Vaporwave and Future Funk artists.

Hippie music (Not including Psychedelic Rock)

Music performed by hippies as a primary component of the counterculture movement (think the gentle guitar and ukulele songs of Charles Manson) is largely considered tepid, boring, and hypocritical. Largely, the type of folk music done by hippies has long been seen as dated and "lame" even for the time, even by people who enjoy '60s music.

An odd case is jam band, which is generally associated with "hippie music" but people mostly just ignore except to hate on The Grateful Dead and their spiritual successors Phish, or rather the fans who spend too much time following them.

Country Music

A marginal case. Most critics recognize that Country Music is Not Intended For Them, and so many ignore it. But even so, Country Music's post-approximately-1975 tendency towards mawkishness and sentimentality has made it a favorite whipping boy (and let's not get started on "Bro Country", which is probably worth a section in itself).

That being said, the genre is worth mentioning because it provides one of the most defensible cases of a "not part of the genre" defense of an artist: Johnny Cash was, by the 1980s, thought by most country music executives to be washed up and incapable of attracting younger fans. Then he hooked up with producer Rick Rubin for a series of recordings featuring covers of artists such as Nine Inch Nails in classic Johnny Cash style. These were a huge success with young Alternative Rock fans, revitalizing Cash's career.

Singer-Songwriter Style (aka "White Guy With Acoustic Guitar"/"White Chick With Piano")

The complaint here is that a single guy or girl on a guitar or piano is, in essence, the simplest setup you can possibly have, bar a single singer singing acapella. While useful for demos, and songs that require that kind of simplicity (for example, a song clearly intended to show off the singer's raw singing ability), most songs using such a minimal setup do nothing to "earn" the usage of such minimalism, and instead convey the feeling that the artist only put in the bare minimum amount of effort necessary to release the song. As with country music, there's a tendency toward sentimentalism in the material.