In past years, I’ve made lists of drone and xenharmonic music. This year, I’d like to review examples of “outsider” music. Also called “naïve” or “incorrect” music, it’s frequently defined as music made by people who lack formal training, or who come from outside the musical establishment. I think the definition is a bit bogus though, because many of the most famous examples don’t actually fit. I would describe it as music with unconventional appeal, often standing diametrically opposite to what is considered “good” in music. And usually there’s a narrative (true or not) about how the artist is leveraging their lack of skill or experience in order to produce something especially unique or authentic.
This is not the sort of article where I praise each and every artist, or advocate for the value of the outsider genre. Rather, my goal is simply to listen to outsider music and give my honest opinion. This list was compiled by looking through other people’s lists (such as this list on RateYourMusic) and selecting those who were most frequently cited. I also threw in a personal favorite.
I think it’s easy to form a self image of being Not Like Other Music Fans, where your favorite music is the weird stuff, and the weirder the better. And that’s me, I have been that guy. But this is hardly a coherent preference, because there are just so many different ways to be weird. And one thing I have learned from writing this article, is that the outsider genre spans quite a large range. What I personally find valuable about the outsider genre is its ability to reveal where one’s preferences actually lie.