Catching Up With the Kids 6/24/11

Occasionally I browse the pop music world/charts/blogs and see what the kids are listening to. Sometimes I am pleased with what I find, most of the time I am not. This is a journal of my discoveries.

In the late 90’s, when grunge, alternative, and gangsta rap were the genres of relevance and, thanks to superstars like Garth Brooks, country was crossing over like never before, the pop world was struggling for identity.  Take a look at charts from the decade and you’ll find a diverse, albeit inconsistent string of hits from an array of forgotten artists. Divas, R&B crooners, softcore rappers, watered-down post-grungers, and Lilith Fair types all battled for airplay and notoriety while the majority of the music listening public had their ears elsewhere.  One genre stuck around for the vast majority of the decade, from the time the kids turned to Nirvana to the resurgence of the “boy band” in 1998.  That genre was “dance pop,” a club-ready sound from Europe that peaked (and almost abruptly disappeared) with the release of A Night At the Roxbury.  We all remember groups like No Mercy, Real McCoy, Aqua, Haddaway, and La Bouche dominating our local Top 40 station.

As I do on most trips away from home, while traveling, I reacquainted myself with the current playlist of conventional pop radio, and it seems, increasingly, this “dance pop” style has resurfaced, not because pop music is having another identity crisis, but because, this time around, it seems the kids really do enjoy this stuff.  While 90’s dance pop had female belters crooning about passion and devotion alongside growling male “rapping,” the new tracks don’t have a trying-too-hard vibe.  In fact, quite the opposite; the beats are loud, the production is slick, the composition is lazy, and the theme? Partying.  Hard. All the fucking time.

Sure, there’s still plenty of hip hop and Avril-types, and a few crossover country tracks, as well as some harder rock tracks from mainstays like Seether and My Chemical Romance.  But the focus is thumping bass, getting wasted, hooking up, and throwing glitter.  Even pop stars from other eras, like Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears, have adopted the new sound in their recent singles.  Pop radio has always been about mindless, simple escapism, but it seems the past decade it wasn’t as fun….glad to see there’s a change in the tides.

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