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Pop Music

As the trends in music evolve, as does the definition of pop music. Pop started as an abbreviation for popular; since the mid-20th-century, it has become the go-to term to define the music currently holding the most favour with the public. The evolving nature of pop makes it hard to pinpoint the pioneers; some say it all started when performers needed a catchy and memorable song in the Victorian area, while others say that pop began with the original crooners in the 30s.

The introduction of the pop music charts in 1952 allowed a cultural shift to form around music. It was at this point in history that teenagers became a massive target for the media. Before this new social reconstruction, there had been no in-between for children and adults. Just as it is now in the TikTok age, where teenagers can make an unknown artist go viral in minutes, teenagers effectively ran the music industry in the 50s too!

After Elvis Presley reigned supreme in the late 50s and early 60s, the Beatles dominated the charts for eight years until they disbanded in 1970. Throughout the 80s, synthpop took the pop limelight until the Boy Band era was born in the 90s. The selling power of East 17, Take That, Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync gave Bob and Chris Herbert the idea to manufacture the world’s ultimate girl group; with the Spice Girls, they discernibly succeeded. After the Spice Girls topped the charts, more manufactured pop acts, such as Britney and Mariah Carey, started to surface. Manufacturing is still a massive part of the pop industry, but more and more pop artists are becoming brave enough to break the mould (think Billie Eilish, St. Vincent and Lorde).

Even though the pop charts are more diverse than ever, with Ed Sheeran sitting next to the Weeknd and Dua Lipa next to Tom Grennan, there are still common factors in their pop tracks. Today, most songs that fall into the pop category follow the extensively tried and tested pop formula. Generally speaking, pop tracks are 3 – 5 minutes in duration, use just one key, contains melodically lyrical soundbites that include the title, have a repeating chorus and keep to 4/4 time signatures. Repetition is quite literally key.

Unless it is a ballad or a stripped back acoustic number, pop tracks usually unfold to danceable tempos and rhythms to complement the lyrical hooks. Elements from every genre can be pulled into pop, the main ones being rock, RnB, hip hop, country, Latin and dance. Indie pop was a force to be reckoned with at the start of the millennium, but two decades in, it has lost its foothold to hip hop and RnB, which have become pop genres in of themselves.

Reality is fiction in Rooftop Screamers cosmic pop odyssey, Another Life, featuring Tim Smith

After celebrating critical acclaim in his power-pop band, Throwback Suburbia, the Portland-based drummer and songwriter Mike Collins created his studio project, Rooftop Screamers to showcase his original tracks and create an opportunity to work with local and world-renowned vocalists, musicians, and producers.

Swapping guitar solos for the far more euphonic timbres of synth lines, he orchestrated an interstellar sonic fantasy in his latest single, Another Life, featuring Tim Smith, but those power pop proclivities still worked their way into the sticky-sweet synthesis that will enamour any fans of Butch Walker and Father John Misty.

It is all too easy to affix an ELO reference onto any track that could be branded as a cosmic pop odyssey, but the fusion of Beatle-esque pop, classical arrangements, and futuristic iconography necessitated the reminiscence reference regardless.

Something tells me that Another Life will be an earworm that doesn’t quit until you have pandered to it repeatedly.

Stream Another Life on Spotify now.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Angel Quintas – Feel at Home: Cosmically Cosy Indie Pop Worth Staying In For

If the Beatles entered their kitchen sink era while picking up a few Ziggy Stardust proclivities, their kaleidoscopically soul-affirming singles would be as cosmically cosy as the latest single, Feel at Home, by the Floridian adult contemporary singer-songwriter, Angel Quintas.

Rather than assimilating 60s and 70s icons, the self-taught musician and producer abstracted influence from their tonal palettes and weaved them into a tapestry stitched with more contemporary alt-indie production techniques to deliver a nostalgic sanctuary with modernist décor.

While it is all too easy to bemoan the lazy days that put few demands on your time, especially with the age of the influencer making you feel guilty for not living the lifestyle of the rich and famous every day despite being neither, Feel at Home, colourfully illustrates that few things can match home comforts while delivering musical theatre akin to the sonic performances of Father John Misty who always goes the extra euphonic mile to leave you fully consumed.

Feel At Home hit the airwaves just in time for Autumn on September 15th stream it on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Bree Gregory cut right to the emotional core with her orchestral ballad, See You Soon

The Adelaide singer-songwriter Bree Gregory captured the bitter-sweetness of impassioned goodbyes and the beauty of uninhibited vulnerability with her latest orchestrally arranged piano pop ballad, See You Soon, which strips the sonorous production right back to her vocals, piano keys and a string quartet.

Between the cutting crescendos and the steady strides in her dynamic vocal register that carries the same sense of beguile as Adele, See You Soon cuts you right to the emotional core.

Moving away from her RnB soul sound, which saw her peak at number 4 in the top 10 AMRAP charts with her single, Waiting, was a bold move, but discernibly, her talents lend themselves efficaciously well to more than one genre. We can’t wait to see where this Billboard & Grammy-worthy exposition of viscerally warm raw emotion takes her. Even greater successes are surely in the pipeline.

See You Soon will debut on September 22; stream it on SoundCloud.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Kayla Friend quelled the melancholy in her breakup track, Over, with enchanting ethearealism

Before putting down roots in Texas, the California-born, NY-raised singer-songwriter Kayla Friend forged a successful career in theatre before branching out as an independent artist following the pandemic; her experience as a music theatre composer lent itself effortlessly well to her sound. Her enchanting melodies and vivacious vocal harmonies create an otherworldly cinematic atmosphere you can easily lose yourself in before you find yourself in the all too resonant lyricism.

Her latest single, Over, follows the plaintively painful experience of separation; with the blossoming orchestral swells in the indie-pop score, the single is underpinned by a sense of rebirth to quell the melancholy in the perfectly emotionally rounded single. With the guitars that seem to pirouette around her celestial soprano vocal lines, Kayla Friend created one of the most stunning singles we’ve heard in 2023. It’s only a matter of time before she’s snapped up by a major label.

Over will be released on September 22nd; hear it on SoundCloud.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Mark Ben Wilson is searching on the other side in his compassionately warm folk-pop single, Horizons

Some tracks allow you to fall in love with a three-minute experience; others allow you to develop a deep kinship with the artist through their inviting warmth. After listening to Mark Ben Wilson’s single, Horizons, it is safe to say that he puts his listeners in the latter camp with the evocative resonance in his guitar work that is only matched by the compassionate honey that drips from his vocal lines.

His humble yet highly assured approach to passionately pure acoustic folk-pop is intoxicating from the first melodic breath; as Horizons continues to unravel, you’re taken along for the emotive ride as he searches for meaning on the other side of the kind of storm that leaves you alone holding up an umbrella. It’s a stunning vignette that will easily enamour any fans of Ben Howard, John Butler and Fink.

Horizons will release along with Wilson’s LP, Roots & Wings on September 22nd. Stream it on SoundCloud.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Jessamine Barham melodised marionette melancholy in her compelling vignette, Puppet Girl

Every time the dark indie folk singer-songwriter Jessamine Barham turns her creativity to the composition of a new baroquely imaginative piano score, complete immersion in her archaic vignettes is non-optional.

In her seminal avant-garde single, Puppet Girl, the San Diego-hailing artist melodied marionette melancholy by inviting you into a world of powerlessness, subjugation, and betrayal.

Taking the single at face value, you will enjoy a jaunty Evelyn Evelyn-esque cabaret tune; look a little deeper at what is written between the lines, and you will lock into an exposition on the limitations life can find a way of imposing on us. No matter how free we think we are, we all come with strings attached, making Puppet Girl a resonantly dark reflection of reality.

Puppet Girl is now available to stream on YouTube.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Ines Belayouni delivered a hit of pure wanton decadence with ‘Attention’

In her two-year stint away from the airwaves after dropping her debut single, The Way You Make Me Feel, in 2021, Ines Belayouni has been hard at work honing her sound into one that stirs the soul, mesmerises rhythmic pulses and epitomises the phenomenon of the perennial pop earworm.

With her latest single, Attention, the Tunisian LA-residing singer who has been ingrained in the arts from a young age and has dominated the live circuit in jazz and pop circles, unveiled a fusionist masterpiece which transcends genres and era hallmarks to deliver a hit of pure wanton decadence.

Even though we can all relate to the innate desire for attention, it took a brave artist with a sublimely soulful vocal register to turn the trait into a sonic experience of pure empowered seduction. Ines Belayouni invigorated the smooth 80s RnB pop motifs that proliferate the synthetics of the track to an addictively infectious degree. It is only a matter of time before she moves from criminally underrated to critically acclaimed. Be part of her ascent from the underground.

Attention is now available to stream on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

The Ecuadorian Pop Priestess NÍNIVE alchemised explosively ethereal ingenuity in ‘Solo En Ti’

Following the spiritually beguiling prelude of ethereal vocals and minimalist electronic melodicism, the transition into the high-octane installation of fierce feminine energy with body-slamming beats to boot you into rhythmic arrest is a broadsiding testament to the boundless ingenuity of the one and only NÍNIVE.

For her seminal single, Solo En Ti, NÍNIVE collaborated with the world-renowned music producer Enrique Gonzalez, who has worked with everyone from Metallica to Tina Turner to Nine Inch Nails; together, they sonically solidified the Ecuadorian alternative artist’s claim to the pop throne.

Put her on your radar and watch her ascend even further with her forthcoming album; the ingenuity that the LP will breathe was teased by the explosive alchemy within Solo En Ti. If Mitski swallowed an atom bomb, her avant-garde stylings still wouldn’t come close to this scintillating Tour De Force.

Clearly, her strong musical background has served her well. NÍNIVE began her musical education at a young age at the National Conservatory of Quito and furthered her vocal studies at the College of Music at Universidad San Francisco de Quito (a Berklee Global Partner). She also holds a Masters of Music in Songwriting from Bath Spa University.

Solo En Ti will break ground on the airwaves on September 15; stream it on SoundCloud.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

MØNA ripped up fabled tropes in her seminal art-pop hit, fairy tale

MØNA opened a portal to a fantastical realm with the otherworldly synth textures in her latest art-pop hit, fairy tale. Around the domineering oscillations of the basslines, theatrical motifs add a histrionically haunted air to the up-tempo release that challenges stereotypical tropes while narrating a complete story, with the singer-songwriter playing the villain protagonist.

After fairy tales become such a principal fixture of childhood and leave us with lofty ideals of how adulthood will unfold, it is hardly a surprise so many of us naively come of age, realise that sometimes the wolf will get us, and discover that white knights are often as nefarious as what they claim they will save us from. Encompassing all this and more, MØNA’s latest single rips up the fabled tropes in artfully beguiling style. We can’t wait to hear what the icon of Avant-Garde pulls out of the bag next.

fairy tale was officially released on August 18; stream it on Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Jay Hofman unveiled an enrapturing self-deprecating indie electro-pop earworm with I Can’t Sing

Thankfully, the title of Jay Hofman’s latest single, I Can’t Sing, isn’t a disclaimer for the dire vocal performance that will defile your ears as soon as you hit play. Instead, the self-deprecatingly sweet funked-up indie electro-pop hit shares a dilemma that every non-muso diehard romantic will have been stung by, the compulsion to write and sing a love song despite a discernible lack of musical talent.

Maybe ironically, maybe entirely purposefully, the Polish singer-songwriter who is currently residing in the UK crafted the kind of love song that everyone who is lucky enough to be head over heels will want to put on a playlist for the objects of their desire. By switching between rap-style spoken word verses and auto-tuned harmonies in the chorus, even if there was weight to the claim that Hofman can’t sing, it would never have soured the soundscape that is as electrifying as a Daft Punk hit.

I Can’t Sing debuted on September 8th; fall in love with it via Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast