In recent months, popular radio networks have swollen with new Indie genre hits such as Hozier’s “Take Me to Church” or Tove Lo’s “Habits (Stay High),” not necessarily replacing their more upbeat or pop-driven counterparts such as Meghan Trainor’s “All About that Bass” or Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off,” but nevertheless holding a more viable presence in contemporary popular music than in past years.
This is not to say that Pop as a genre has been replaced completely, but as someone who prefers to listen to CDs in my car rather than the local radio stations geared toward my particular demographic (female, early twenties, college crowd), I have noticed an emergence of songs that I actually like making their way onto the airwaves.
Allow me to provide some background. However stuck up it sounds, I am not a fan of a lot of Pop music. I’ve heard Pharrell’s “Happy” more times than I thought I would need to in 10 lifetimes, and I will never understand the appeal
of Pitbull. Though a few catchy tunes like Jason Derulo’s “Talk Dirty to Me” will always hold a place in my heart, I think it’s generally safe to say that I’m probably going to change the channel when anything by Iggy Azalea and or Ariana Grande starts assaulting my ears.
Recently, however, my musical antennae have been perking up for some of the songs playing on the big youth-geared radio stations. We’ve got artists coming on from Bastille to Vance Joy, both of whom I have purchased the albums by after hearing their singles in the car. One of my favorite artists to really make it big in the last year is 18-year-old New Zealand native Lorde, who I can’t help but feel would’ve been too dark a sound to be played on American Top 40 a few years ago (tell me “Royals” isn’t scorning the very people these big radio shows cater to).
At the beginning of a new year, I always find myself looking back at the trends of the previous months in order to see if I can guess what’s coming—I never can. In 2014, though, I’ve been especially off the ball, seeing the charts topped with The Neighbourhood and KONGOS instead of predicted favorites like Usher or Lady Gaga. So, what can I gather from this? Is Pop music actually on the decline?
My answer: no, it’s not. From my perspective, pop music is simply evolving. It’s moving from the grunts and moans of lewd lyrics and visuals. It’s moving towards a more mature sound, encompassing subjects of more depth within the lyrics and musical compositions of the songs that really hit it big.
Of course, I’m not saying there aren’t outliers to this hypothesis (see Jason Derulo and Snoop Dogg’s “Wiggle,” which made it to number 40 on Bilboard’s Top 100 Songs of 2014 list), and I don’t think we can expect to see electronic music or party anthems decline just because some artists are choosing to branch out with their sounds. I am saying that I’ve noticed the trend of songs that actually deliver messages, such as the controversial lyrics from Macklemore or Meghan Trainor, and I am consciously choosing to recognize the inclusion of actual musical instruments in top hits as opposed to computer-synthesized sounds that are less than harmonious. I hear actual guitars being strummed in Vance Joy’s “Rip Tide” and actual piano keys in music by John Legend and Sam Smith; I would be lying if I said this didn’t excite me.
Basically, if you’re looking for some type of conclusion about what you’ll be hearing on the radio in 2015, my crystal ball is still a bit foggy. However, I can tell you that I’m hopeful about this year’s prospects, whatever they may be.
I am exhilarated by the buzz surrounding Taylor Swift, Nicki Minaj, and Beyoncé’s feminist movements in music, and the idea of a sultry Lana Del Rey seducing me from my stereo with a new album on my way to work honestly doesn’t worry me too much. I have no idea where Dubstep will be thrown into the mix (please have mercy on me, Avicii), and I can’t begin to predict how long “Stay With Me” will remain a thing.
All I do know is this: I like music, and I liked 2014’s music. I’m not freaked out by it or anything; I really do enjoy hearing songs I know the words to on the radio. I just really hope that my Darwinish Theory of Musical Evolution can come true, and that 2015 will have some good surprises in store like last year did (possibly including the mysterious disappearance of a certain bald-headed sunglass wearing rapper).