Alternative is often used as a blanket statement to describe anything that sits outside of the mainstream. This could include Punk, Grunge, and Emo. Sometimes, if a subculture is particularly popular, for example, rock, alternative rock would be it's own sub genre outside of 'mainstream' rock.
It is important to note that, nowadays, most aesthetics could fall under the alternative label. Additionally, the line between alternative and mainstream is becoming very blurred due to the power of the internet in promoting "underground" artists.
Alternative originated as a genre of music, described by Merrian Webster as "music that is produced by performers who are outside the musical mainstream, that is typically regarded as more eclectic, original, or challenging than most popular music (such as conventional rock, pop, or country), and that is often distributed by independent record labels."
Due to this, in music terms, alternative and indie (individual) can be used interchangeably, as they both have the same meaning.
Alternative rock is the most popular genre of alternative music, and is what most people think of when alternative is mentioned. Alternative rock gained most of it's popularity from 1991 to 1996 when Nirvana released "Smells Like Teen Spirit", as described in this article.
The title "alternative" has developed to often be used as a label for clothing that is outside current fashion trends. The label "alt" is also being used a lot on TikTok to describe the darkest themed fashion that doesn't fit into other categories.
Alternative originated in the 1960s, when Rock was one of the most popular genres of music, with artists such as The Rolling Stones. Alternative rock differed to this, and could be said to have started when Velvet Underground first got together in 1965, as this article states. Alternative music most often aims to sound different to whatever the current popular music model is.
Some claim that the origin of Alternative Rock can be traced down to The Velvet Underground's album "The Velvet Underground & Nico". Genres featured within this album include art rock, punk, garage, shoegazing, goth, and indie.
Alternative rap and hip-hop started around the late 1980s when artists such as De La Soul began to create hip-hop music that was influenced by multiple genres. Some genres that often featured in alternative hip-hop were jazz, pop, rock, funk, and soul. Alternative rap gained more popularity around the 1990s. The sound of alternative rap made a return with Kanye West and Childish Gambino. Alternative rap/ hip hop emphasises musical elements, more so than gangsta rap.
Alternative Country - or outlaw country - is more linked to Cowpunk.
Since alternative culture is built around alternative and independent artists, supporting small artists is a large part of alternative subculture. Followers of alternative culture generally choose to support individual artists over larger companies whenever they can. Additionally, since alternative celebrates what is outside the mainstream, alternative people are supportive of marginalized people who are often seen as "not normal", people who are often attacked by the mainstream media. Alternative people also support other subcultures that are seen as "weird" by the mainstream, such as furries and cosplayers.
Overall, members of alternative culture tend to have left leaning views. One reason for this is because they support individual artists and often steer clear of big producers where possible. Alternative music often covers themes and political views that mainstream culture avoids - such as the Smith's Meat Is Murder being about vegetarianism and veganism.
- The Velvet Underground
- The Dream Syndicate
- The Bongos
- 10,000 Maniacs
- The Feelies
- Violent Femmes
- Peal Jam
- Red Hot Chili Peppers
- The Smiths
- Linkin Park
- 30 Seconds To Mars
- Rage Against The Machine
- 3 Doors Down
- Alice in Chains
- They Might Be Giants
- Camper Van Beethoven
- Lana Del Ray
- The Ting Tings
- Lilly Allen
- Kate Bush
- Florence + The Machine
- A Tribe Called Quest
- De La Soul
- Queen Latifah
- Arrested Development
- The Roots
- Kid Cudi
- Kanye West
- Childish Gambino
Artists (Alt-Country, Outlaw Country)
Key Albums (Alt-Rock)
- The Velvet Underground & Nico - The Velvet Underground
- Daydream Nation - Sonic Youth
- The Queen Is Dead - The Smiths
- Nevermind - Nirvana
- OK Computer - Radiohead
- Murmur - R.E.M
Key Albums (Alt-Pop)
Key Albums (Alt-Rap)
- The Low End Theory - A Tribe Called Quest
- Aquemini - OutKast
- Things Fall Apart - The Roots
- All Hail The Queen - Queen Latifah
- southernplayalisticadillacmuzik - OutKast
- Gorillaz - Gorillaz
Key Albums (Alt-Country, Outlaw Country)
- Wanted! The Outlaws - Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Jessi Colter, Tompall Glaser
- I'm Jessie Colter - Jessi Colter
- American Recordings - Johnny Cash
- The Adventures Of Johnny Cash - Johnny Cash
Alternative fashion is similar to that of punk and goth. Music is the central element, while fashion and visuals are optional. However, the label "alternative fashion" has evolved to mean any fashion outside of the mainstream. When most people think of alternative fashion, they think of Punk, Goth, or Emo fashion.
Alternative fashion is often a combination of these genres. However, it is not limited to them. For instance, Fairy Kei could be considered alternative fashion since it is outside the mainstream. Since alternative supports small artists, this is often mirrored in the fashion, with places like Etsy and small businesses being good places to shop for alternative clothes. Thrifting is also encouraged, along with DIY alike Punk.