Wikipedia will tell you:
Reggae is most easily recognized by the rhythmic accents on the off-beat, usually played by guitar or piano (or both), known as the skank. This pattern accents the second and fourth beat in each bar (or the "and"s of each beat depending on how the music is counted) and combines with the drums emphasis on beat three to create a unique feel and sense of phrasing in contrast to most other popular genres focus on beat one, the "downbeat." The tempo of reggae is usually felt as slower than the popular Jamaican forms, ska and rocksteady, which preceded it. It is this slower tempo, the guitar/piano offbeats, the emphasis on the third beat, and the use of syncopated, melodic bass lines that differentiates reggae from other music, although other musical styles have incorporated some of these innovations separately.
For most people, however, that's a needlessly long and confusing explanation, because reggae is simply:
To prove that statement true, all you need to do is ask most morons who sang a particular reggae song. As I've written about twice before, regardless of the right answer, hordes of people will say "Bob Marley," no matter how ridiculous. The theme song from Cops? Bob Marley. "Don't Worry, Be Happy"? Bob Marley! It doesn't matter that Mr. Marley had been long dead by the time both those songs came out. Quite simply, he owns the genre.
When did that happen? Probably in 1977, when Marley released Exodus. In truth, no one album defines Marley's impact on the entire genre of reggae, but many consider Exodus his best, so I'm going with that. It has more tracks on his greatest hits album Legend than any other, and Legend is the best-selling reggae album of all time. Why not just say Legend, you ask?
This pic is for you. Because greatest hits albums are for little girls, that's why.
But it's also the album with the song that most people hear in their head when they think reggae.
In 1978, Universal Pictures released a film directed by John Landis and written by Harold Ramis, Douglas Kenney and Chris Miller that would go on to be one of the most successful comedies of all time. In doing so, it would inspire countless films about high school and college students getting up to wild high jinks and having the craziest night ever, and most of those films would suck. And all of them would be inferior to Animal House.
Sure, there have been other good movies dealing with wacky students. I'm fond of PCU because it is a sadly accurate reflection of my college experience in the '90s. Fast Times at Ridgemont High has its place in '80s comedies, and everyone agrees that the first American Pie movie was enjoyable, but none really hold a candle to Animal House. Have you ever heard anyone fill in this blank, ever: "Oh man, you have to see ____. It's better than Animal House!" Have you? Is the person who said that presently throwing his own feces and asking you to sign a petition to liberate his genitals from his pants?
I'm not going to itemize all the hilarious moments or perfect performances. I won't recite all the lines that have become cliches. I won't even defer to others' opinions as proof. (Well OK, a little: Roger Ebert called it one of the year's best when it was released, and it's also been deemed "culturally significant" by the Library of Congress.) Instead, let's take a moment to see how it's raised the bar too high for any other similar film to succeed.
First off, while it was released in '78, it takes place in the '60s. Sure, that may have simply been because that's when its writers were in college, but setting it in a time past freed it from any trappings of the '70s, and that's why it's still not dated today. Also, for a stupid comedy, it had an incredibly broad range of characters. Everyone could relate to who the nerds Pinto and Flounder were while aspiring to be a ladies' man like Otter or an anarchist like Bluto. Animal House deals with the loss of virginity, peer pressure, ROTC, class stratifications, race relations and growing up. The film starts with clueless freshmen who learn to navigate a new world, but it also shows upper classmen moving into adulthood. And it ends well for everyone. College will be all right. Life after college will be all right. And the only frat you should belong to is one that's expansive enough to include every kind of freak and loser. It does all that and you never notice because you're too busy pissing your pants. Nothing can beat it. Not even Jason Biggs fucking a pie.
Hey, who wants to see my best HATE BY NUMBERS in like forever? Also, be sure to follow me on Twitter and stay up-to-date on the latest regarding Notes from the Internet Apocalypse. And then there's my website and Tumblr, too.
For more from Gladstone, check out 5 Artists Who Stopped Sucking Out of Nowhere and 5 Things That Are Much Sadder Than They Ought To Be.