’s not “just a phase”

In 2021, the Indie genre became the most-listened-to genre. Indie music is the opposite of the mainstream in any genre. It ultimately appeals to diverse music preferences. 2021 may be the first instance where listenership for the genre surpassed other genres but the indie spirit has marked an imprint in every history.

If you are familiar with the genre, you must have come across this question too— how did the indie genre originate? Who decided to say ‘Screw it!’ to the mainstream and revolutionize the industry?

Well, we have it here for you. A packed list of indie icons the music industry could not have grown without.

1. The Smiths

The Smiths were an English Indie rock boy band formed in Manchester in the 80s. With the talented composer/guitarist, Johnny Marr, united with the beguiling lyricist/singer, Morrissey, the incredible drumming of Mike Joyce and the bassist Andy Rourke, The Smiths offered a perfect counterbalance of each member's strengths. Although they had a very short-lived career, their unique sound, style and appeal to a wider socio-cultural agenda cannot be forgotten.

The Smiths’ albums Meat is Murder and The Queen is Dead are quintessential indie records. . The Smiths were also one of the earliest bands to touch the topic of homosexuality with the evocative cover art of their first single "hand in glove" which made more heads turn their way. Although their level of commercial success was relatively modest in their day, The Smiths became one of the most celebrated bands in Indie rock.

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2. Pavement

While Janet Jackson and Bobby Brown were leading the charts in 1989, a Californian backyard was graced by a five-member American indie rock band’s presence— stewing musical styles that no one had ever even imagined.

Pavement has released 7 revolutionary albums and has since changed our perspective of music. The group’s fluctuating, off-key vocals, mix-and-match lyrics, sci-fi sound effects and lopsided melodies have won an avid fan base, which still continues to exist. Their 1994 album Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, is considered one of the definitive albums of the era because of its insidiously tuneful but meticulously aloof songs. Even with all this success, Pavement never signed with a major label like many of their 1980s forebears had done after starting out as indie. The band remained signed to independent labels throughout their career.

There is no doubt that this is truly where modern indie music was born and still continues to hold an unmatched legacy.

3.Sonic Youth

The Founding members Thurston Moore (guitar, vocals), Kim Gordon (bass, vocals, guitar) and Lee Ranaldo (guitar, vocals) remained together for the entire history of the band— something quite uncommon when it comes to rock music. During their time as a band, they released 15 astounding albums that are legendary and timeless, to say the least.

Sonic Youth chose to remain defiant to the mainstream. Even as they engaged with the major-label scene, the band maintained its allegiances to the underdogs and always remained indie in spirit.

Noisy, arty, and unconventional, Sonic Youth has been unique in bringing its altered tunings, and tampered-with instruments to their audience and marked a milestone into the indie culture. They would stick screwdrivers under the strings to achieve a distorted effect or put a metal rod in the middle of the guitar and give a whole different meaning to creating new sounds.

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R.E.M. was an American rock band formed in 1980. The band continued its career in the 2000s with mixed critical and commercial success. The boyband eventually broke up in 2011 for the members to focus on their individual careers.

To date, they are considered “Indie rock's Beatles”.Their jangly alternative rock quickly became world-famous and their 15 albums released over a two-decade career have all mostly been hits. Their first album "Murmur" has been considered one of the best debuts in rock history, because of its original and powerful sound. They'd shown how far an underground, punk-inspired rock band could go within the industry without compromising on its artistic integrity in any obvious way.

Even after they signed a contract with the Warner Brothers, the indie spirit never dissipated from their music. It was simply the love for creating music, hearing something in the studio that never graced the ears of people. They did not try to chase after profits but better, creative and original music.

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5.The Jesus and Mary Chain

The Jesus and Mary Chain are a noisy indie quartet formed in Scotland by the Reid brothers. The band's marriage of melody and noise was as original as pop music could get in 1985 and to date, there is nothing like it.

The JAMC, as it is referred to colloquially, released a constant string of albums. "Psychocandy" (1985), was the most famous single and EP until their demise in 1998 (they reunited again in 2007). The new era of British indie music would not have emerged without the release of Psychocandy. Younger generations who have grown up listening to indie rock won’t understand the magic. There was a method to the madness of this album— a formula so perfect that it set off a standardization of indie rock.

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Music becomes the best vehicle to explain what it means to be indie. Indie is not just the absence of a label behind an artist. It has little to do with aesthetics. Indie is about music that provides a more human, original and soulful experience. At the end of the day, is there any better way to express art?

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