The criteria for popular music has always fluctuated: just when you think you have it figured out, it changes again.
The criteria for popular music has always fluctuated: just when you think you have it figured out, it changes again. In the past few years, we have seen some dramatic changes in musical trends which we would never have expected.
Among other things, the 1960s are known for the British Invasion: a time when the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and the Who gained international fame and set a precedent for success. Now, a new wave of British artists has invaded the music industry.
Alex Withers ’17 said, “I feel as if a lot of the excitement that surrounds British artists like Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, and Adele comes from their exotic nature. That being said, they are all very powerful artists who are well-deserving of their fame.”
James Speer ’16 added, “When you hear Adele or Hozier sing, they sound completely American. Even in foreign American Idol-like shows, the contestants mostly sing American songs in their best American accent. Maybe it’s because America is leading the rest of the world when it comes to the music industry which is why all these great artists are flocking to the U.S.”
Artists from Canada like Justin Bieber, Drake, and Carly Rae Jepsen gained influence on American pop music. Matt Spence ’16 said, “Honestly, Drake and Justin Bieber are so woven into American music that sometimes I forget that they’re actually Canadian. It almost seems like they are American with the influence they have.” Jen Levine ’16 said, “I think it’s very interesting that these artists think they can’t make it in their own country, but make it big here.” TJ Bordeaux ’17 added, “I think Americans may finally be starting to join the global community when it comes to music. Many foreign countries consume a lot of American music already.”
Another recent trend is the rise of high male voices. Singers like the Weeknd, Adam Levine, and Jason Derulo are known almost solely for their high ranges. Thomas Halverson ’16 said, “I think that high tenors have been popular for a while. It started out with Steve Perry, Michael Jackson, Freddie Mercury, and Stevie Wonder, and now it’s getting more and more popular. Singing high notes takes practice and having a big range is both impressive and entertaining to listen to. It also defies the norm (the norm being that men have low voices and women have higher voices). You see the same thing with women...many popular female artists are low altos who can sing high on occasion.”
Withers added, “I love Sam Smith’s high voice because it’s unheard of and unique.” Singers like Shawn Mendes have gone viral in the past year simply because of their high voices.
NPR recently produced a podcast about high male voices. During the conversation, a philosophy professor at UNC, Robin James, said this trend is the result of a new centering of the gender spectrum: “Kind of like the man bun,” she said. “My masculinity is so secure, I can even wear a traditionally women’s hairstyle and still be seen as masculine and macho.”
At the same time, we are also seeing a comeback of boy bands in popular music. In the 90s, The Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC were all over the radio. In the past few years there has been a steady rise in boy-band popularity.
There are mixed feelings about this change. Anees Patwa ’17 said, “I’m not a fan of boy bands because they just sing about the same things over and over again.” Katrina Tiktinsky ’18 said, “People often hear the word boy band and associate it with something negative or childish. But personally I love boybands. The Beatles were technically a boyband, and the world fell in love with their music. So why do bands like One Direction get so much backlash for what they are, even though they have managed to produce music that has touched millions of people?” Emma Banks ’16 added, “I just want the Jonas Brothers to get back together and start producing hits!”
In recent years, the music industry has transformed the way people experience music, causing changes in the types of music people appreciate. It is only a matter of time before current trends are “sooo 2016” and we find ourselves in a completely new musical environment.