Every generation has a distinct soundtrack; a genre of music that defines the culture of the time period and has the ability to teleport listeners backward in time, through song.
The genre of today is not EDM, or trap or hip-hop; it is pop music.
Last week, the band Paramore announced their new album After Laughter, and debuted a new single that Rolling Stone Magazine described as “bubbly synth-pop.”
The week before, pop supergroup Dreamcar — fronted by AFI’s Davey Havok — released a music video for their new song “Kill for Candy,” inspired by pop music of the ‘80s.
Diverse bands and artists like Lorde, The Neighbourhood, Bring Me The Horizon and Tame Impala, have relatively nothing in common phonetically but have each been labeled in recent years as “pop.”
A term that once represented a specific genre of music and cultivated icons like Michael Jackson, Madonna, Britney Spears and Justin Bieber, is no longer exclusive to music that is popular.
Pop is not a label we place on a specific type of song or musician, but instead is a label we place on very unspecific songs; the music that doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere else.
How else would you describe an artist like Childish Gambino? The guy was nominated for Best Rap Album at the Grammys and then released an album with eleven tracks of falsetto, clavinets and layered choir harmonies reminiscent of 1970s funk.
Slowly, but very successfully, pop music has completely dissolved conventional genres – taking the most attractive parts of rock, rap, folk, country, R&B, soul and everything in between and developing them into one universal brand – pop.
The separate genres and sub-genres that formerly were so exclusively listened to by niche audiences now no longer require the listener to immerse himself or herself into the culture of the scene.
The lines that divided country music from hip-hop, or rock from rap, have been blurred, combining groups of listeners that previously got along like oil and water, to appreciate music for more than just the label that describes it.
In my middle school, there were two types of people: those that listened to rock music, and those that listened to rap. We labeled ourselves “Rockers” and “Rappers” and hung out exclusively with other kids who listened to the music genres we associated ourselves with.
We segregated ourselves based on the music we listened to.
Unfortunately, that usually meant the white kids listened to rock music, and the black kids listened to rap.
The culture of the genres divided us, cultivating racism without even mentioning skin color.
That sounds absolutely absurd to us today, but only because the divide between those two genres of music has been removed.
Now, I’m not saying that pop music has eliminated racism, but I do think it has broken down walls that previously contributed to discrimination. I think that as we continue to appreciate the crossover of conventional genres, we will see that progress continue in our culture.
And twenty years from now, when we listen to the music of today, we will appreciate it for what it is: pop.