I love pop music. I always have, ever since I started listening to music back when I was nine years old. I started out by listening to people like Debbie Gibson, Tiffany, and New Kids on the Block, and then that sort of morphed into an expanding love for all types of music. But pop music always stayed near and dear to my heart. It’s fun, it’s catchy, and it makes me happy.
But what I’ve noticed as I get older is that while I still love pop music – and I’m talking about the current stuff you hear on the radio today – other people my age have sort of drifted away from Top 40 and ventured on to other, more adult-like types of music. Which makes me wonder…does pop music have an expiration date?
For some reason society seems to think that Top 40 music belongs to the youth. That’s kid stuff, right? The stuff you hear on the radio? Isn’t that for teenagers? Even college students seem to have moved on to more “serious” types of music, what with their Black Keys and Foster the People and what-not (or back in my day, if you were in college, you liked the Dave Matthews Band).
So why do we as a society stop listening to pop music? Is it just because our tastes our maturing? Is it the same reason why we stop watching cartoons and reading kids’ books? Do we stop because we really don’t like it anymore, or we just figure that we should have more grown-up taste in music?
I had a brief conversation with a friend about what music she’s been listening to lately, and she told me that she really likes the new Fun album, which is more of a rock-pop, but still pretty poppy. And then she quickly added that it just makes her happy and yes, it’s pop, but she still really likes it. It was almost as if she was embarrassed to admit that she willingly listens to something that gets regular airplay on our local Top 40 radio station.
Of course I find nothing wrong with that. I own two Justin Beiber albums. I think Lady Gaga is a genius. I know the whole Katy Perry Teenage Dream album by heart. Kelly Clarkson is my favorite singer. I love to blare Ke$ha’s Animal album when I’m getting ready to go out. Britney Spears is better than ever. I’m 33 years old and I continue to love most pop music that’s being released today. Am I one of the odd ones out?
I have a distinct childhood memory of riding in my mom’s car one day and her listening to the local oldies radio station. She was singing along to some Beatles at the time (of course back then to me The Beatles were just The Beatles. They weren’t The Beatles) and I remember asking her why she didn’t listen to any current music. She told me that she just likes music from her era. I then told her that I was going to always listen to whatever’s current; that I wasn’t going to be stuck listening to old music all the time.
I think of that conversation and laugh, because I do listen to a lot of old music. I love music from every era. I could easily give you a list of my favorite songs from every decade. Hell, I could easily give you a list of my favorite songs from every year, but that’s for another day. But that doesn’t mean I completely shun what’s popular today. Not only do I like what’s popular today, but I feel that it keeps me in touch with the world. We’re such a social and connected society these days, and in order to stay connected, you have to know what’s going on. And that includes what’s going on in the world of music.
Now, I understand if pop music just isn’t your taste and never has been. My husband, for example, has never been a pop music fan (although he’s totally guilty for listening to Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” more than once on his own), and couldn’t care less about who Carly Rae Jepsen is. But what about the people who used to love it? Do they really not like it anymore? Have they lost touch with their childhood and finally decided to grow up?
Pop music is going through a transition stage right now, and sort of trying to figure out where it belongs. Ever since pop music was created back in the 50s, it’s had its high points and low points. The 50s were definitely a high point, while the 60s tended to see more rock emerge. 70s pop turned into disco and adult contemporary pop, while rock still dominated. We saw pop rise again in the 80s with Madonna and Michael Jackson, but by the early to mid-90s pop music had been overtaken by rap and grunge.
Thanks to acts like the Spice Girls and Hanson, we saw pop back on top in the late 90s and suddenly people like Britney Spears and boy bands like Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync ruled the world. But acts like that don’t last long, and once again pop music fizzled away, especially when iTunes started and consumers began to see that there was so much more music in this world besides what you hear on the radio.
And now, because we’re so exposed to so many different kinds of music, no one’s really sure what pop music is anymore. Rhianna and One Direction are definitely pop, but so are Adele and Gotye. Bruno Mars was up for Album of the Year (AND SHOULD HAVE WON), but a lot of “adults” probably aren’t going out and buying his albums.
So when did we start putting age caps on pop music? And will pop music be forever doomed to live a short life?