"Update your glossary: Pop music no longer means 'music that’s popular'"
May 17, 2019 12:02 PM   Subscribe

 
"...it seems bizarre she isn’t a bigger star. "

I've been saying this for years.
posted by SonInLawOfSam at 12:09 PM on May 17 [8 favorites]


What does the sentence above the fold mean?
posted by Nanukthedog at 12:22 PM on May 17 [4 favorites]


Is it a sign o' the times, that pop(ular) music is now a sub-genre of music, directed towards the "highly specific constituency bridging the indie-rock club and the gay video bar"?

Color me a little confused by this as well. Would appreciate some clarification from the OP.

Anywho. I'm probably not the only person for whom this is true, but I was turned into a CRJ fan by Griffin McElroy's unabashed enthusiasm for her music.
posted by lazaruslong at 12:32 PM on May 17 [8 favorites]


She’s talked, for this album, about wanting to make “chill disco” and about becoming “more confident in my weirdness.”

It's definitely a chill album; the songs kind of flow one to another and nothing grabbed me too much on first listen. I liked it, and I think it accomplished her goals, but I really wanted a "Boy Problems" or "When I Need You" to come along with a little more punch.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:34 PM on May 17


If anyone would have told me ahead of this release that there existed the musician who could turn the "He Needs Me" Olive Oyl song from "Popeye" into a fuckin' jam I'd have called them a goddamn liar.
posted by Ipsifendus at 12:35 PM on May 17 [3 favorites]


Anywho. I'm probably not the only person for whom this is true, but I was turned into a CRJ fan by Griffin McElroy's unabashed enthusiasm for her music.
posted by lazaruslong at 3:32 PM on May 17 [2 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]


I was already on the edge but Griffin convinced me to take that plunge. And E•MO•TION is the best pop album of the decade.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:43 PM on May 17 [2 favorites]


I would like to see a graph or a table showing how many pop songs have been on the Billboard top 100 since this time two years ago. I would be perfectly happy to use his rather good definitions of pop: "clubby thump, breathy wails, mathematically engineered hooks, rhyming fire and desire and higher," and "paying tribute to the wildness of human emotion in a controlled, reassuring format." There may have been more pop songs charting in the past, but there sure are a lot of them now: https://www.billboard.com/charts/hot-100. Spotify's "Today's Top Hits" chart shows about the same songs: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/37i9dQZF1DXcBWIGoYBM5M

Where on the top 100 are the "drowsy defiance and anything-goes looseness of the rap and rap-influenced artists who constitute what’s actually popular lately?" Or does he mean by popular something other than played on the radio or streamed often, perhaps songs that he likes?

I listen to a lot of pop music for the same reason I read a lot of poetry, because wildness of human emotion in a controlled format is just exactly what I like. One thing I will say is that there are suddenly a whole lot of really good woman singers. Jepsen is the peak of a very large iceberg.
posted by ckridge at 12:52 PM on May 17 [2 favorites]


Does Taylor Swift know about this?!
posted by Brocktoon at 1:07 PM on May 17


Is it a sign o' the times, that pop(ular) music is now a sub-genre of music, directed towards the "highly specific constituency bridging the indie-rock club and the gay video bar"?

Admittedly a jumbled question.

I was reiterating the title: that the pop music conventions that we're used to back in the 80s to early 2000s are found less and less in the mainstream Top 40 today (synthy beats, positive-leaning themes of love, aim towards mainstream appeal [or white, teen, and hetero audience, perhaps?] ). Seems like that the fan bases that are focusing on the type of music conventions are the hipster crowd, the music press, and the more fervent crowds of the LGBT community (like Robyn or the 1975). So "pop music" isn't what's generically popular necessarily, but a specific genre with it's own specific fanbase now? Hopefully that clarifies things.

And relevant to ckridge's comment, based on the current Billboard Top 10 you posted, I'd say The Jonas' Brothers, Taylor Swift, and Shawn Mendes are working in those usual pop conventions. Logic, Lil Nas X, and Post Malone work in current rap / hip-hop conventions. Ariana Grande, Halsey, and Billie Eilish are "pop", but are taking a lot more cues from trap music and underground hip-hop. So 7/10 songs I'd say are rap or rap-influenced, and a lot more from 11-100.
posted by galleta monster at 1:13 PM on May 17


So "pop music" isn't what's generically popular necessarily, but a specific genre with it's own specific fanbase now?

Wasn't this always so? 'Pop' has generally been parsed as what's popular with a certain subset of suburban white people in the U.S. It was never just 'what most people like', if you include all kinds of people.
posted by signal at 1:21 PM on May 17 [10 favorites]


In my opinion, the 'pop charts' (which has included rap/hip hop since the mid '80s) and dance tracks since the 1960s has always been a mix of different styles. I haven't listened to that Little Nas X track and there has always been outliers of rap, pop, and metal that have made it into the pop charts but aren't 'pop', but 'pop' the genre has included multiple genres of music for a very long time.
posted by The_Vegetables at 1:46 PM on May 17


There has always been 'unpopular' pop music too -ie: the 2nd single from many one hit wonders.
posted by The_Vegetables at 1:48 PM on May 17


It's been a very long time since Pop exclusively meant "music that's popular"; it's the usual term for music that follows a conventional verse-chorus-verse-etc. structure and leans on hook-filled melodies. Jangle-pop was a genre term in the early 80s for a subset of indy rock bands, most of whom (aside from REM) never got record deals or played to rooms bigger than a bar. K Records championed the International Pop Underground in the 90s, pressing records that sold in the hundreds or small thousands, and I could find another example but I don't feel like playing the rule of threes right now.

None of this has to do with Jepsen's music, but it really undermines the Atlantic's music critic's credibility if they're going to be this arbitrary with their dictionary.
posted by ardgedee at 1:51 PM on May 17 [4 favorites]


now a sub-genre of music, directed towards the "highly specific constituency bridging the indie-rock club and the gay video bar"
I may be a little off, but I'm pretty sure Depeche Mode was the originator of the indie rock/gar bar cross-over genre, not as in first band to appeal, but first band to actively court these two groups.
posted by The_Vegetables at 1:55 PM on May 17


"Pop music" and "popular music" are two different things. Wikipedia, for whatever it's worth, says:
Pop music is a genre of popular music that originated in its modern form in the United States and United Kingdom during the mid-1950s. The terms "popular music" and "pop music" are often used interchangeably, although the former describes all music that is popular and includes many diverse styles. "Pop" and "rock" were roughly synonymous terms until the late 1960s, when they became increasingly differentiated from
Pop borrows liberally from other genres (including rock and, more recently, hip-hop and electronic music) – but it's been its own thing for quite some time now.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 1:55 PM on May 17 [2 favorites]


'Pop' has generally been parsed as what's popular with a certain subset of suburban white people in the U.S. It was never just 'what most people like', if you include all kinds of people.

that wasn't really true 50 years ago - it tended to skew towards the taste of while people, who were much more in the majority then, but anything could be a pop record, from james brown to jenny c riley, from bagpipe renderings of amazing grace to cute relics of dirty songs from the late 40s - not only that, but there were local and regional factors at work - the SRC, bob segar and several other groups had hits in michigan that weren't hits anywhere else - ike and tina turner's river deep mountain high was a nationwide flop and a #3 hit in my hometown

from what i can tell, the kind of music pop stations play these days is very much a genre although various stations have different takes on that - the local one includes pop punk with the r&b stuff - there's nothing like the diversity and possibility that pop music had in the late 60s
posted by pyramid termite at 2:20 AM on May 18 [3 favorites]


Popular music could be defined as what people stream, what people play on the radio, what people play in grocery stores or what people play in clubs. It's been hard for me to find a club that plays primarily pop and not rap/EDM so maybe that's what the writer's talking about?
posted by storytam at 7:37 PM on May 18 [1 favorite]


I would say it's pop music if it shows influence from what Madonna and Michael Jackson were doing in the '80s. It's a know-it-when-you-see-it thing. Sure, there was pop music before Madonna and Jackson, and those two had their own influences, but it's like how the Beatles weren't the first rock band and NWA didn't invent rap.
posted by riruro at 7:24 AM on May 19


there's nothing like the diversity and possibility that pop music had in the late 60s

I think that's just because radio no longer exists the way it did back then, though. Like others have said, pop has been completely divorced from "popular" and "popular" and "radio" have been completely divorced as well. The iTunes charts, the Billboard charts, those don't necessarily speak to what's hot on Soundcloud, etc. I think what you're speaking to is proof of a shared listening experience that is listening to diverse styles. Now that may be happening, but because genres have exploded, everything has balkanized, and radio is all Clear Channel, there's no real surefire way to get a sense of that shared experience, and if that shared experience involves a diverse sampling of genres.

That said, I think it's very common for most people who really like music to listen to "everything"; if you rummage through the files of anyone on Soulseek (admittedly a self-selected sample), people have every genre imaginable.
posted by pelvicsorcery at 8:39 AM on May 19


Pop music in my life has never for a moment been just "popular music. If anything, you just had a TIL moment about Pop in pop music not literally being shorthand for popular and is a genre not just a description. The real discussion is in how worthless and destructive genres can become.
posted by GoblinHoney at 8:36 AM on May 21


Just checking in to say that I got a slow-ish start on the album and it hasn't established the same "dang, every song on this is the best song on this" iron grip that Emotion did, but man Dedicated is really solid and I'm finding a whole lot of different songs stuck in my head or running through it first thing in the morning. It gets more interesting as a followup to Emotion on re-listens since the details in production differences start to come out a little more with familiarity.

It's possible my mind will change eventually but I do think the first two songs is a bad pacing for the start of the album; the second one feels almost like a coda to the first at the start, but not quite, and not in a way that feels like it has an interesting frisson so much as like someone didn't stop and say "uh, these two are in the same key and have samey feels, let's move stuff around" that feels like sequencing 101. Like it'd be one thing if Julian were a shorter, simpler track where a one-two punch with it and track two felt right, but since Julian goes on such a thorough mixing journey with the draw downs and the filter moves and so on it doesn't need to keep going once it's done. I also like the deliberately slightly obnoxious opening synth on Julian more than the song itself and wonder if it was up front partly just to showcase those open bwomps as an echo to the sax riff on Emotion.
posted by cortex at 8:15 AM on May 28


(Obviously there's no reason to believe that a huge followup to a huge album by an extremely successful pop artist was haphazardly sequenced, so the real answer is "they were going for something else than I would have", but I'd be interested to see a, like, oral history of the sequencing on this to better understand what the reasoning was.)
posted by cortex at 8:17 AM on May 28


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