In Defence of Pop Music


We’ve heard it all before, it’s not ‘cool’ to like pop music. In fact, Urban Dictionary defines it as “unoriginal and boring” and only “people without any taste in music listen to it”. But how can all this be true, if these songs become so popular and generate thousands of streams and sales, can it really be that awful?

Pop music cannot always be defined as it really just means popular, but isn’t that the best part about it? Its primary task is to create pleasure, something it does so well. But, in art there is some sort of resistance to the feeling of pleasure. I’m here to tell you that’s all wrong, not everything has to be serious. It’s OK to listen to a song and just feel happy for doing it. We’re all guilty of being a bit snobbish with music. I could probably split my library into ‘good music’, the kind I’d want people to see, and ‘fun music’ that some would call bad or tasteless, but it is just that, fun. It’s about time we stop this and just enjoy what we enjoy.

Pop music has also been increasingly embracing newer genres such as grime, a genre credited for the increase in youth engagement in politics. During the 2018 Brit Awards, Stormzy, after winning the British Album of the Year award, poignantly asked Prime Minister Theresa May, “where’s the money for Grenfell?”. The importance of this is undeniable, artists like Stormzy are providing a voice for the masses who have been previously ignored. This right here is the beauty of pop music – it encompasses so many different styles and behind its seemingly innocent appearance it can highlight serious issues.

As well as this, the pop scene has also provided female artists a platform to empower through their music. Music has always been a secret ally for woman, a source of strength and confidence. Little Mix’s ‘Strip’ video includes women of all body shapes and sizes, a welcome change from the ‘norm’ of the media. Ariana Grande also provided a feminist bop in her hit song ‘God is a Woman’, as well as using the video to celebrate the female body. These songs make you feel like you could take on the world, what’s so wrong with that?

Pop doesn’t have to be perfect. Take ‘Green Light’ by Lorde, which got very mixed reviews on its first release with many critics just finding it weird. In a way, they’re right, it is weird, but it’s also an undeniably great song. It refutes the rules of the radio, changes keys in the pre-chorus (who does that in a pop song?) and drops the anticipation in the bass of the verse to a bar piano. ‘Green Light’ is a perfect example of a song that encompasses a catchy beat that navigates Lorde’s poetic lyrics, a theme that weaves through every track on Melodrama. Lorde shows how pop can break boundaries and doesn’t have to fit to a strict structure.

The ‘fandom culture’ that comes with many pop artists is often looked down and laughed upon. I spent the years of 10-16 absolutely obsessed with One Direction and I still love them, so trust me I know the feeling. Their music was a source of sheer happiness in my otherwise stressful school years. But, I was still hit with the same “you only go to their concert because you fancy them” (as if I’m going to spend 60 pounds on a ticket just because Harry Styles is hot). The underlying sexism within this assumption is what hits me now, because when a group of men attend a rock concert these comments just aren’t made – but a group of teenage girls can’t enjoy just pop music and be happy whilst doing it. These same people are the ones that take The Beatles seriously, but not One Direction? How is “I wanna hold your hand” any different to “I have loved you since we were 18”?  

I know I’m not the only one that loves a bit of escapism. For some, it’s putting on an episode of the Kardashians, but for others its listening to music. Pop songs are perfect for this as they’re casual and ditch complex and hidden meanings replacing them with slang and colloquial language. No wonder it has such a vast appeal, its relatable and people love that. I see pop music like a fiction novel, I like to escape into it and indulge in the utter fantasy of it all.

Seriously, how can you listen to “Dancing Queen”, an absolute tune may I add, and not want to dance the night away or at least have a small boogie? What about “Teenage Dream” or “We are Never Getting Back Together”, probably all songs you try your best to pretend not to like but will be found humming them for hours after listening. Don’t just claim these as your ‘guilty pleasures’, you have nothing to be guilty about. Own what you like, revel in it.

Ultimately music, like any art form, is going to come under some level of personal preference but this should never be done to demean other people’s interests. Take my Dad, a serious music guy who loves metal and rock. But, will admit to enjoying a bit of Kelly Clarkson or Britney. We should all be like this, stop pretending you only like all your cool indie tunes, and embrace that pop music is class. Don’t change your Spotify playlist when you know somebody’s looking. Blast your ‘pop classics’ playlist and enjoy it. After all, life’s too short to pretend not to like pop music.

[Grace Richardson@headcarz]

[Image credit: Fiona McKinlay]

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