12 Music Genres That No Longer Exist

By: Charles Rogers
Young female musician singing into a microphone.
Pop punk hit the mainstream in the mid-90s with the likes of Green Day and the Offspring. GeorgePeters / Getty Images

These days music fans don’t necessarily care about what genre the music they enjoy falls into but this wasn’t always the case. There was a time where much of your identity was tied to the music you listened to. Case in point: the rock vs. disco debate that dominated the late 1970s. Throughout the past 50 years of music, it seems that every genre has its counter-reaction, such as the case of 90s grunge being a reaction to the excess of 80s glam rock. There are some genres of music that will never die; rock, hip-hop, R&B, reggae are here to stay but others have come and gone, often in a short period of time. Here are 12 genres of music that have essentially become extinct over the past five decades.


12. Glam Metal

The glam metal genre is known for flashy clothing, heavy makeup, and large teased hair, and in a post-MTV era, bands were often more concerned with their image than their sound. This led to the demise of glam metal, with its short-lived time in the spotlight lasting from around 1983-1990. A subgenre of heavy metal, glam metal has a distinct sound that featured pop-influenced hooks and guitar riffs, borrowing its aesthetic from 1970s glam rock.

After bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam brought grunge and alternative to the forefront in the early 90s and popularized counterculture, the excess of glam metal quickly fell out of favor. Bands like Poison, Skid Row, Cinderella, and Warrant were synonymous with the genre, though a few survived into the decade by adopting a harder sound then they had in the 80s. Glam metal saw a resurgence in the mid-2000s with bands like The Darkness and Steel Panther having a few years of success between them.


11. Disco

Disco emerged in the early 1970s from the urban nightlife scene, reaching its peak in popularity between the mid-1970s and early 1980s. In the summer of 1979, disco was dominating airwaves and acts like Donna Summer, Chic, and Gloria Gaynor were at the top of the charts. Dance styles like the Bump and the Hustle were trending in clubs everywhere and a few months earlier, the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, headlined by the Bee Gees, had won Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards.

Radio stations across North America were switching to all-disco formats in order to ride the new fad into financial success at the expense of rock and roll. Perturbed by this, Chicago disc jockey Steve Dahl organized an event at Comiskey Park that would be known as “Disco Demolition” where White Sox fans could bring a disco record and get in for $1. After the Sox lost a giant crate full of records were placed in the outfield and blown up scattering pieces of records high into the air. This highly publicized event marked the beginning of the end for the disco genre.


10. Grunge

Grunge is both a subgenre of alternative rock and a subculture that emerged in the late 80s-early 90s in the Pacific Northwest as a counter to the excess of 80s glam rock. Pioneered by Seattle bands such a Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden, the Grunge movement became mainstream by the early 90s, with new bands emerging across America. Grunge combined elements of punk rock and heavy metal, featuring distorted electric guitars and vocals that made up the signature 90s sound that some would refer to as “ugly.”

Characterized by dark and angst-filled lyrics, grunge music gave 90s youth an outlet to express their frustrations with society. After the death of Kurt Cobain in 1994, the genre was unable to recover and began its slow decline. Bands like Pearl Jam and Soundgarden prolonged their careers by modifying their sound and image but with the recent passing of Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell, that leaves only Eddie Vedder as the only remaining frontman from the Seattle scene.


9. Pop Punk

Pop punk is a genre of music that combines the fast tempo and power chords of traditional punk with the melodies, vocal styles, and choruses of pop music. While it’s not entirely clear when the term “pop punk” was first used, pop-influenced punk rock has been around since the mid-to-late 1970s, as seen with bands like the Ramones. Pop punk hit the mainstream in the mid-90s with the likes of Green Day and the Offspring breaking through, with millions of record sales and loads of radio and television exposure.

In the late 90s, bands such as Blink-182 and Sum 41 provided party anthems embracing a fun, light-hearted image, whereas many earlier bands adopted an overly melancholic and serious sound. In the mid-2000s the mainstream success of pop-punk began to wane and was eventually supplanted by the rising popularity of emo-rock. For many who grew up in the 90s, pop-punk was the sound of the time and was a vital part of our memories for decades to come.


8. Britpop

Britpop is a UK based music and culture movement that produced brighter, catchier alternative rock, in contrast to the edgier, darker music coming out of the grunge movement coming out of the United States The genre rose to popularity in the mid-1990s and emphasized “Britishness” with the most popular bands in the movement being Oasis, Blur, Suede, and Pulp, who would later be known as the Britpop “big four.” These bands’ guitar-heavy anthems drew inspiration from the rock of 1960s England and blended alternative rock trends to create a unique sound that became popular around the globe.

Britpop’s global popularity didn’t last long, as the genre’s lifespan is generally considered to be 1993-1997, with 1994-1995 reaching a fever pitch with a chart battle between Blur and Oasis dubbed “The Battle of Britpop.”  While Oasis continued to see success through the late 90s, infighting between bandmates and brothers Liam and Noel Gallagher slowed the band’s momentum and by 2000 the genre was all but dead.


7. Nu-Metal

Nu metal reached its height in popularity in the late 1990s, with bands and artists such as Korn, Limp Bizkit, and Kid Rock all releasing multi-platinum albums. Producer Ross Robinson is often credited with helping to bring nu metal into the mainstream and onto radio station playlists. Nu metal’s sound fused alternative rock, rap, funk, and punk rock with metal, threw them all into a blender, and poured out everything from Rage Against The Machine to Crazy Town. Known for its intense and angry lyrics, off-pitch guitars, and heavily amplified beats, nu metal’s sound resonated with angst-filled youth.

The popularity of the genre continued into the early 2000s, with bands such as Papa Roach, Staind, and P.O.D. all selling millions of albums, coming to a peak with Linkin Park’s diamond-selling album Hybrid Theory in 2000. Following on the heels of the 90s grunge scene, nu metal dominated airwaves and MTV and the decline in the 2000s was due to over-saturating the market.


6. UK-Garage

UK garage is a genre of electronic music originating from England in the early 1990s and after more than 20 year,s the influence of the sound is still very much present. Also known as UKG, UK garage was incorporated into other styles of music and production through the mid-2000s, including 2-step, bassline, grime, and most recently dubstep. The UK garage sound featured sub-bass lines, ragga vocals, spin backs and reversed drums. From its early incarnations around 1994, UK Garage has had a huge impact on urban music in the UK with artists like Dizzee Rascal, Burial, Wiley, and The Streets all being influenced by the genre.

Classic garage undertones are still being felt in the present underground music landscape with the new wave of artists like SBTKRT, Jacques Greene, Disclosure, and CRST all paying homage to the roots of UKG. In recent years, there has been a small resurgence in popularity with the pirate radio broadcasts of Kurupt FM featuring MC Grindah and DJ Beats providing “Lyrical Blows to Your Jaw” out of Brentford in west London.


5. Boy Bands

Loosely defined as a vocal group consisting of young male singers, usually in their teens or early twenties, the term “Boy Bands” can be applied to many groups and encompasses a variety of sounds. Defining exactly who can be a tough task but most people would agree that the genre began way back in the mid-1960s with The Jackson 5. Other R&B based boy bands such as New Edition and Boyz II Men have gained popularity since then but most people think of groups like The Backstreet Boys, N’ Sync, and One Direction when they hear the term.

The popularity of Boy Bands has come in three waves: the 1960s, the 1990s and early 2000s, when acts such as the Backstreet Boys, and *NSYNC among others, dominated the top of the Billboard and pop charts, and in the early 2010s with the emergence of new boy bands such as One Direction. In the 90s and 2000s, a larger emphasis was placed on dancing and good looks over vocal talent, which led to a watered down product that wasn’t given much respect by music fans. With One Direction disbanding years ago now, we may have finally seen the last of the Boy Band genre (hopefully for good this time).


4. Coastal Lifestyle Acoustic Rock

Popularized by former professional surfers Jack Johnson and Donovan Frankenreiter, this acoustic lullaby sound hit the peak of its popularity in 2005 with Johnson’s release of In Between Dreams. The album peaked at number 2 on the Billboard Top 200 charts and made the sound of a popular summer soundtrack for those dreaming of life on the North Shore of Oahu Hawaii.

Characterised by acoustic guitar, soft vocals, and the coastal lifestyle, the music highlighted listeners desire for something a little more simple and stripped down in an era of overproduced music. Although acoustic music will never die, the coastal lifestyle genre quickly faded from mainstream popularity and albums sales dwindled for its signature artists.


3. Dubstep

Characterized by half‑step rhythm and an emphasis on bass and drum elements, Dubstep is a style of mostly instrumental electronic music, originating in London, England in the early 2010s. The style emerged as an offshoot of UK garage, drawing on a lineage of related styles like dub reggae, and jungle. The earliest appearance of dubstep dates back to 1998 and was usually featured as B-sides of 2-step garage single releases. These tracks featured darker and more experimental sounds with less emphasis on vocals and attempted to incorporate elements of breakbeat and drum and bass into the UK 2-step aesthetic.

The presence of the dubstep sound permeated the American pop music scene throughout 2010, peaking with the release of the Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites EP by producer Skrillex reaching number 3 on the US Top 100 Dance Billboard. This release is generally considered the birth of the North American Brostep movement. It’s now 2018 and we haven’t heard the familiar “Wub wub” in some time, so it’s safe to say that the Dubstep era may be on the way out.

2. Third Wave Ska

Third wave Ska is an offshoot of Ska, a music genre that originated in Jamaica in the late 1950s and was the precursor to rocksteady and reggae.  The third wave ska scene became commercially successful in the mid-1990s with popular bands of the time including Less Than Jake, and Reel Big Fish, and early No Doubt. Although some third wave ska has a traditional 1960s sound, most third wave ska is characterized by dominating guitar riffs and large horn sections.

The first third wave band to break through was Rancid, while the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, who were one of the leading figures of the scene in the early ’90s, just missed out on the wave of commercial success seen by groups like No Doubt and Sublime. By 1996, the third wave of ska revival was one of the most popular forms of alternative music in North America; unfortunately, like most of the genres on this list it didn’t last long and by 2000 the fun was over.

1. Gangsta Rap

In the 1990s, gangsta rap was popularized by the West Coast rap group N.W.A. and rappers like Snoop Dog, Ice Cube, Tupac, and Dr. Dre. later launched successful solo careers. The genre, which featured themes of violence, gang life, crime, misogyny, and homophobia, found itself obsolete by the mid-2000s. In the new millennium, gangsta rap has been displaced by the kind of rap popularized by artists like Drake, Kanye West, and Eminem.

The most popular figure from Compton, California, is no longer Ice Cube or Dr. Dre, or The Game; it’s Kendrick Lamar. Compton is no longer the American inner-city in decline and filled with danger as portrayed in 90s gangsta rap. With violence in decline overall across America, the sound of the 90s shifted into 2000s party anthems and rhymes about cars, money, drugs, and women. While there are plenty of tracks that feature common themes seen from 90s gangsta rap the genre has faded and become a form of nostalgia for hip-hop fans.