Popular Music

by Shihang

I have been going through 3 sets of the Top 40 while reading a book, and I can with great authority summarise the major songwriting tropes in modern music:

1) Trampy singer-songwriter

Epitomised by Bruno Mars, Jason Mraz, Olly Murs etc. Their songs are mostly more mellow fare, and offer common expositions about how their love is spurned. Generally popular with the sort of people who imagine themselves fun, sensitive types. Examples include: Grenade by Bruno Mars and Lucky by Jason Mraz. Female variants include Colbie Caillat. I mean, some guy had the nerve to call his song “Please Don’t Let Me Go”. The idea is to disguise that desperation a little, fella.

2) Club cliche

Ooh look at me. I’m into this partying, grinding thing! If I’m male, I might have more animalistic and unsavory views of women. If I’m female, my sluttiness is an expression of the female sexuality! Wooh, I feel so good because I’m partying!

Egregious offenders include Flo Ri Da, David Guetta and Pitbull. And LMFAO. The anthem of this outfit is arguably Party Rock Anthem. Everyday I’m shufflin’!

3) Rapping

Just loads and loads and loads of words mumbled over a drone track. Sometimes mildly psychedelic, other times, boring and incoherent. And all so mundane. No examples spring to mind.

4) Spacey pop hip-hop

Rapper with choruses sung by female vocalists. In all fairness, a fairly enjoyable trope, almost a bit like the 12-bar blues of hip hop. Coming Home by Skylar and Diddy, Stan by Eminem and Dido, (Eminem does a fair few of these, with Rihanna, with Skylar again). Also Empire State of Mind by Jay Z and Alicia Keys. Makes you wonder why Jay-Z needs Alicia Keys when he has Beyonce.

5) Female beatpop

Rambunctious lyrics over a club beat. Hypnotising enough for us, mere mammals. Lady Gaga is a master of the genre. Run the World by Beyonce is a half-decent contender. Less overtly clubby versions spring from Madonna, were developed by Britney et al, and now are dispensed by Katy Perry

6) Female power vocals

Amy Winehouse pioneered this, but now Adele has a distinctly pop-ish take on this. I say Amy Winehouse, because the divas in the past were more generally fabulous and less intimately personal. Or if you prefer, their music was less claustrophobic. Or if you prefer, Adele sings tampon-pop.