Music festivals are often the subject of criticism. Lists are constantly being made summarizing the crowd at festivals such as Watershed (Taylor-Swift-wannabes and rednecks), Coachella (rich white kids), Bumbershoot (hipsters) and Burning Man (stoners).
But Jay-Z’s Made in America festival challenges the ability of social-media lovers and website contributors everywhere to create lists of gifs and 140-character stereotypes. The festival has an enviably diverse and star-studded list of performers.
Old school hip-hop? Public Enemy will be there, and I can personally attest that they are still killing it in concert. Chuck D can still flow, and Flav just doesn’t seem to age.
R&B? Miguel, Solange, and Emeli Sande make appearances.
House/electronic music? deadmau5, Porter Robinson and Calvin Harris are on the lineup.
Rock legends? Nine Inch Nails is the main performer on the second day of the festival.
New hip-hop? A$AP Rocky, Wiz Khalifa, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and 2 Chainz will all perform.
Medley of hipster, alternative rock bands with strange names? The Gaslight Anthem, Diarrhea Planet, and Fitz & the Tantrums are slated to perform.
Not to mention Mrs. Carter herself, headlining the first night.
This is the only festival that actually understands the point of music.
That might sound like a sweeping declaration, but it seems that an overly-specific genre festival contradicts the purpose.
Perhaps the most notable music festival of all time is Woodstock, and one would think that a 40-year-old festival should have long been forgotten. But it continues to get discussed today, which begs the question: What makes it so special?
Woodstock was entirely about the music. Of course illicit drugs were involved, but that wasn’t the importance of attending. There was no constant news feed, telling everyone where we are and what we’re doing or listening to. It was just the people and the music.
The relationship to music has evolved. Music is now a status symbol, an opportunity to show how obscure your taste is and how truly relevant you are. With the narrowness of the genres included at each musical festival, the crowd is less diverse and less passionate. There is an enormous difference between a country lover, rap lover, rock lover; and a music lover.
In a social climate where lines are constantly being drawn, separating each person into a category and defining them by their skin color, political affiliation, sexual orientation, religion, or income, music is one of the constants that allows for cross-barrier connections to form. Made in America brings together as many genres of music as it possibly can (with a notable lack of country music), and therefore as many different kinds of music lovers as it can. There is a true passion behind those willing to pay $100 to listen to multiple kinds of music, including things they have probably never heard before or care to ever hear — a passion that is likely lacking in a festival that targets a specific listener.
This move toward diversification, bringing together open-minded listeners of all ages and personalities, is what music is all about. And that is why "Made in America" is the only music festival that truly understands its purpose.