Pop Music Isn’t Bad, You Guys Are Just Mean


Madee Sadozai

Chart-topping, mainstream hits are seldom acknowledged within the intersection of cross-genre ingenuity. Folk, alternative, and rock elements are at the core of every pop song, and the dismissal of the pop genre as a commodity rather than an art form is entirely inaccurate. Even though pop is usually synonymous with whatever is considered most “popular,” its consumable nature is what makes it most enticing to large audiences, especially with the genre’s more recent developments. With the growing number of subgenres – bedroom pop, dream pop, electropop, pop rock – pop still gets a bad name based on how it has been branded by the common culture in terms of unoriginal billboard charts and radio hits. There are a number of promising pop acts that deserve recognition for raising the standards of exceptional yet accessible music:

Red Hearse is the trio consisting of producers Sam Dew, Sounwave, and Bleachers frontman Jack Antonoff. Their debut project of the same name is a near-perfect pop concoction courtesy of the collaboration between these three songwriting and producing geniuses. Elements of the pop format exist in some capacity throughout each track, while still bringing an entirely unique edge to the album. The titular track, “Red Hearse”, and their second single, “Half Love”, are clean and consistent at surface level, yet are mind-blowing masterful expressions in sonic intricacy. Every song drills its way into your head in the best way possible. From “Everybody Wants You”, a crooning ballad perfect for accompanying heartbreak, to “Violence”, which is bass and drum-heavy with harmony-driven and hypnotizing r&b influences, Red Hearse packs extreme musical expertise into an otherwise unassuming eight-track pop album.

Kid Bloom is yet another underrated gem with an incredible range of groovy, melancholic tracks. Lead singer Lennon Kloser’s signature sound embodies what it means to live in the present moment, and he perfectly captures the ideal summertime feeling in his songs. Previous tracks such as “Different State of Mind” and “Sugarcoat” have a distinct appeal, and “Wounded/Surrounded” and “Sledgehammer” off of their latest EP, Blood Sugar, encapsulate the truly inventive of pop music. While some would be quick to pigeonhole Kid Bloom into the subcategory of psychedelic or alternative pop, presumably because of the normalized disrespect surrounding “acceptable” music, it would be a disservice to invalidate their existence as a pop group. Within the realm of pop, there is no question in my mind that Kid Bloom has limitless potential and mainstream appeal.

Belgian singer Angèle has exploded in popularity across Europe, specifically in France and other French-speaking countries, which is indicative of the ever-expanding international pop experience. On her debut album Brol, her soft and airy voice strengthens each track, exploding with creativity while also never having two songs that sound remotely similar. The record’s simple structure lays the groundwork for innovative production choices that elevate the entire listening experience. “Je veux tes yeux” and “Jalousie” are undeniable hits, and one of her most popular songs, “Tout oublier”, even features a collaboration with her brother Roméo Elvis, who is an accomplished Belgian rapper himself. Although “La loi de Murphy” is her only song with a majority of the lyrics in English, the popularity of K-pop and J-pop has proven that a language barrier should in no way restrict music consumption. While her American audience is still slowly growing, Angèle has all the makings of a global popstar and could very well dominate the pop scene, not unlike how LatinX artists have infiltrated the worldwide charts.

Cataloging an artist or record as pop adjacent has become more acceptable than the original, all-encompassing label of pop itself. Subcategories create differentiations from the customary conception of pop music, yet in reality, the entire genre should be celebrated rather than separated. There is no genre that has seen greater evolution, not only with what can be considered pop, but also within pop artists’ careers. Just in the past year, Rosalia has broken into the mainstream with flamenco-inspired hits while Harry Styles has subverted the precedent of an ex-boyband member, with his sophomore album Fine Line being compared by Stevie Nicks herself to the iconic Fleetwood Mac album, Rumours. There is a certain stigma around pop music that needs to end, and an open-minded tolerance towards the artists’ versatility should be the new norm. People are too quick to dismiss pop music because of the lazy formulaic attempts at fame that populate the mainstream, often forgetting the genre’s inventive and revolutionary potential.