(Re)Discovering Pop Music

2011/12 were the first years I remember actively listening to pop music. Away from the music I was subjected to from Radio 2, which my parents had on for what feels like my entire childhood, the charts in the early 2010s were my best friend. Dominated by the likes of Bruno Mars, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, amongst many others, every song on the chart was the perfect soundtrack to all Year 6 discos across the country.

Then 2013 hit. The Wanted were still on my playlists, along with other pop favourites like P!nk, but I had discovered, for the first time, a genre that would haunt me for the remainder of the 2010s: pop-punk.

The first song I heard near this genre was You Me At Six’s ‘Stay With Me’. I have such a vivid memory of watching the video over and over again after returning home from school, obsessed with the angry vocals in the song (compared to tunes from The Wanted which I had consumed too much of). From discovering YMAS (who I now know are a lot more tame compared to the vast majority of pop-punk bands at the time), I moved through Sleeping With Sirens, Pierce The Veil, Black Veil Brides, and also discovered Twenty One Pilots in the same year (who are, to this day, probably my favourite band). Discovering all this new music, after years of Radio 1 and 2, felt amazing – but I started to despise the pop music I loved just a few years prior.

This hatred only intensified in the later years of secondary school, as I listened exclusively to anything ‘alternative/indie’ (yes, I had a list of bands in my Instagram bio, but didn’t we all?!). The likes of The 1975, Circa Waves, and Bon Iver dominated every playlist of mine, and I had a tendency to complain whenever my brother played the ‘bad’ music in the car (aka anything by Drake). Despite still liking all of these bands to this day, I’m glad I left behind this judgemental attitude towards anything that wasn’t “edgy” enough, or “depressing” enough.

2020 was the year I started to once again appreciate pop music. It was TikTok which got me hooked on some pop tunes. Listening to Doja Cat and Willow made me feel instantly happier, and rediscovering some of my old faves from the primary school discos made lockdown more bearable. Who knew years of hating “happy” music and only listening to music that makes you “feel” things could have such an impact on your outlook on life…?

And now we come to the present day. My most listened to artist at the moment is Willow, and it is only now that I’m realising how male-dominated my previous playlists were. Nowadays, I listen to less of the same male-dominated indie bands and more of the likes of FKA Twigs, Angel Olsen, Little Simz, and Vagabon. Although not all of these fall into the ‘pop’ genre, I am not ashamed to say that ‘Kiss Me More’ by Doja Cat ft. SZA and ’34+35′ by Ariana Grande have been played more than enough times on my phone this year.

At 21 years old, I can finally say I am no longer a music snob. Pop music, indie music, alternative music, rock music, classical music, and anything in between, I am open to. Let me know of any of your music suggestions and I will not take the same judgemental tone I would have taken aged fourteen.

Image courtesy of Jason Leung.

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