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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.

Jennings Couch speaks for the overtly headstrong in his Americana-Esque Indie-Pop-Rock amalgam, No Hands

NYC-born, London-residing alternative artist Jennings Couch is putting every artist in the assimilation game to shame with his viscerally unique approach to genre-fluid ingenuity.

If you can imagine what it would sound like if Post Malone and Imagine Dragons met somewhere in the middle, you will start to get an idea of the innovation that melodically sparks through the entire duration of his transfixing track, No Hands.

The Americana-Esque instrumental amalgam of indie, pop and rock, creates a solid platform for the deadpan yet rhythmically sharp vocals that will tattoo themselves in your mind from the first hit. Lyrically, the track is for the overtly headstrong so intent on making their own way they don’t realise the distance they’ve created from the people that leave their hands outstretched to hold. The way the singer-songwriter approaches the lyrical concept is nothing short of genius.

No Hands will officially release on January 27th. You can catch it yourself on Spotify and SoundCloud.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Nikol spoke for the outliers in their electroclash hit, Not Like You

The Nashville Alt-Pop trio, Nikol, seared their authenticity across the defiantly autonomous latest single, Not Like You. After hearing the disjointed electroclash instrumentals pulsate against the hypersonically sticky sweet vocal lines, you will never think of individually the same ever again.

After a turbulent storm of distorted electronica sets an instantly anthemic tone, the confessional lyricism fed through effect-laden pop vocals affirms that true outliers don’t colour outside of the lines through an edgy wanton desire to create a difference from the mainstream. The lyric “It’s not that I don’t want to fit in, life is better with imagination” poignantly says it all.

Any fans of Dead Disco and Shiny Toy Guns will undoubtedly want to discover Nikol before they get even bigger. So far in their career, they’ve hit the stages at The Vans Warped Tour twice and secured multiple licencing offers, which placed their alt-pop hits on hit shows, including The Real World and Keeping Up with the Kardashians. If any act has what it takes to blow up like an atom bomb in 2023, it is Nikol.

Not Like You was officially released on January 6th. Stream it on SoundCloud.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

 

Mike Marnelakis laid bitter-sweet affection intimately bare in his pop hit, I Can’t

Greek singer-songwriter, Mike Marnelakis, released the most superlatively bitter-sweet love song with his latest pop hit, I Can’t – definitively proving that the line of light and dark appears within us all, every emotion, and every phenomenon.

Starting with an acoustically strummed and stripped-back intro, the prelude and first verse laid affection down with intimately bare candour. His loaded with emotion vocals harmonically drift into the chorally polished tones, allowing you to drink in every ounce of apathy that inspired the carresively pensive single.

After the proclamation that there is no truth without pain, the progressively seamless single builds into an 80s jangle pop hit that will swell the hearts of The 1975 fans.

I Can’t is now available to stream on YouTube.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Interview: Naia Lika tells us all about her incredible debut single Gas Station Bouquet

After appearing to sing in her Mother’s womb, Naia Lika sat down with us recently and we had a chat about her upcoming new release which drops on the 10th of February called Gas Station Bouquet. Eloquently inspiring and showing us what it takes to do what you love, we found out more about singing in the choir, self-awareness, and what it was like living all over the USA.

Hello there Naia Lika. We appreciate you having a chat with us. Where in the world do we find you and what do you usually have for breakfast?

Naia Lika: Hi! I am so excited to connect with you guys. I’m currently living in Los Angeles and I hate to disappoint, but I’m actually not a huge fan of breakfast food. It’s been a weird thing about me since I was a child. My parents would get so mad at me because all I ever wanted for breakfast was a sweet treat, like an ice cream sundae or brownie or something.

Do you feel like you were destined to be a musician after appearing to sing in your Mom’s womb?

Naia Lika: Growing up, music always felt right. My parents put me into dance, vocal lessons, singing groups, and theater – it was all I had ever known. In high school I spent most of my time in choir, musical theater, and doing classical singing competitions; I had always felt so confident and sure of myself and where I stood in my art. I ended up attending the Boston Conservatory at Berklee for musical theater and that was the first time in my life where I wasn’t sure if I was in the right place. I decided to drop out and I experienced this really confusing transitional period. At first, I was convinced I wanted nothing to do with music. I distanced myself as far as possible from it; I almost felt ashamed to even be associated with that part of my life. It wasn’t until the pandemic hit that the boredom made me pick up my guitar again. I was lacking a community during COVID and I started using songwriting as an outlet to explore my thoughts and emotions.

It took me about two years to find a sound that I really resonated with. I put thousands of dollars into an entire album that I have no plans of releasing. In the moment, I was so proud with the work, but after really taking a step back, I realized it didn’t feel true to me or the sound I wanted to create. I went on to do another project and that’s all the music that will be released this year.

Art is all I have ever known, whether that be through music, photography, movement, or any other creative endeavor I dip my toes in. I don’t know exactly what my ultimate destiny is because we can never know, but I do know it will for sure be something where I hold the power to create and express myself through art – I will make sure of that.

Please tell us all about your debut track Gas Station Bouquet which is due to drop on the 10th Feb.

Naia Lika: I’m so excited! The song derives from an eight-song project that was created in August of 2022. I worked with a team of two producers and two co-writers which definitely helped speed up the process. We were completing songs in about 1-2 days each. This song was the second one we wrote and it’s become one of the most special to me. This was the first one that I felt we had actually been able to crack the surface and discover a hint of my sound. The longer we started working on it, the more I felt I could truly resonate with it.

I had spent most of my time during the pandemic writing about traumatizing, heavy topics because I was convinced that music had to be like that. But “Gas Station Bouquet” acted as a catalyst that allowed me to see happy moments with just as much value as “sad” moments. This really built momentum in my daily life; I started to become more present in mundane activities and I learned to appreciate them.

How much of an influence have your parents had in your music career?

Naia Lika: I definitely wouldn’t be sitting here today if it weren’t for them. From the day I could speak, they threw me into a world of music. It became natural for me and I never even questioned a life outside of it for the majority of my upbringing. They had always expected it from me, which I blindly followed.

It wasn’t until I hit college where I started to gain self-awareness. I learned to question myself and challenge my beliefs. Doing so gave me the space to realize that I wasn’t in the right place. When I dropped out of college, they were so upset with me. My dad could barely speak to me because we all assumed I would never touch music again. Like I said earlier, though, the pandemic forced me to pick up my guitar again and I haven’t stepped away from music since. For the first time in my life, I actively made the decision to engage in my art without any external factors telling me to do so.

My dad actually ended up convincing me to do my first artist project after hours of arguing. I wanted to make that decision for myself without being pushed to pursue it, since songwriting had become something that was mine and only mine. I gave it a lot of thought and went through with it and fell in love with the entire process. This is a side of the entertainment industry I had never gotten to experience before because I had been immersed in theater and the classical side of things my entire life. I’m so grateful I took the leap. This space feels right for me.

Creating the song was an impactful moment for me. I had just experienced one of the toughest years of my life and it was such a valuable opportunity to actually sit down and write about something positive in my life amidst all the negativity swarming my mind. I don’t think I take enough time to appreciate what I have in my life.” ~ we love how inspiring this quote is. Have you found that by making music, your mind had calmed down from your tough experiences?

Honestly, at this point in my life, I think it’s made me more anxious. I used to be really good at avoiding the spiraling thoughts that constantly swarmed my mind, but songwriting doesn’t let me do that. Creating art forces you to face everything going on inside, which can definitely be overwhelming at times. I’ve really been digging deep and culminating in a force of self-awareness for over three years now, but it’s not a linear process. I sometimes have the tools I need to calm my mind as I write, but at other times, it feels like I have lost all my tools and allow my songwriting to exacerbate the chaotic thoughts until they become too much to deal with. I think it’s a learning process. Taking a step back to write about your life and experiences can be extremely eye-opening and I think it’s important to have the resources to take care of yourself when something challenging may come up.

You’ve lived in Las Vegas, Michigan, Boston, Hawaii, Vegas again, and Los Angeles. Do you feel like these experiences have broadened your mind?

Naia Lika: For sure. I grew up in a decently conservative area in Michigan where my beliefs did not align with the majority of people I was surrounded by. I felt so isolated and alone here; people were so shallow and surface level that any ounce of emotion I showed was considered “sensitive” and “crazy”. Boston was a complete 180. There, I was able to discover my bisexuality and flourish in an environment that let me be unapologetically myself. I moved to Hawaii, where I had to come to terms with my mistakes. Hawaii is an overly colonized kingdom where native people are fighting for their land every day as they get pushed to the streets. Los Angeles is now where I call home. It’s a place that has re-opened my eyes to a world of motivation and drive, something I was lacking in Las Vegas. The environment here is constantly pushing forward and I honestly love it so much.

Last, what do you hope for humanity to learn after all that has happened recently?

Naia Lika: That’s such a big question and it’s so difficult to pinpoint one thing. I don’t like to sit around and wish for things to be different because I was taught that wanting something to be other than “what is” will only bring you suffering. However, I am also a firm believer that we must stand up and speak out against the things that need change. I think mainly, I want humanity to learn to care for others: other people, other animals, other environments, and the earth they walk on. The issue here is people that who didn’t grow up with love and care often can’t emulate it because they didn’t have the opportunity to receive it. I wish I could make everyone children again and teach them that the world is a safe and good place, but you can’t change people’s past. And unfortunately, sometimes people’s past affects everyone’s future.

Pre-save her new release here. Follow her journey via IG.

Interview by Llewelyn Screen

SMAIBLUE drops soulful new release Fire Up Your Spirit

With a calming energy which will take many breaths into new waters, SMAIBLUE sizzles our attention with an elevated new release to stoke up those flames when we needed it most on Fire Up Your Spirit.

SMAIBLUE is a UK-based indie pop singer-songwriter who makes those transcendent songs which will fill the hearts of many who love something different to the norm.

In the deepest part of the Indonesian jungle there lies a dilapidated home; this being houses speaking if rusting music equipment. Multi-instrumentalist and varied songwriter Smaiblue began here in 2016.” ~ SMAIBLUE

Calmly holding our hands and flying us into something rather genuine, SMAIBLUE shall inspire many a soul to take charge of whatever is slowing down the progression. Saturated in realness and giving the world a beautifully composed effort to remember, this is a reminder that music can heal anything.

Fire Up Your Spirit from UK-based indie pop singer-songwriter SMAIBLUE is the type of track which will change many moods around. Moulded so sweetly and taking our spirits into a much better place, we find an experience which will surely give many a daydreamer-like daze to cherish for its terrific pureness.

Turn this up on Spotify.

Reviewed by Llewelyn Screen

nasir mf. turned up the heat for electro heads in his hyper-pop exposition of obsession ‘romantic fury’

nasir mf. won us over with his emo hyperpop debut in 2022; for 2023, the queer icon in the making reached stratospheric heights with his sophomore single, romantic fury. It is impossible not to feel the heat while revelling in the affirmation that there is nothing sane or rational about passion.

The independent Brooklyn, NY-based artist created a world of carnal pleasure through the cascade of luminous synth lines and beats built to body rock to – crafted by Flame Yuppie. For any fans of PC-adjacent music in the same vein as Charli XCX, Namasenda, Caroline Polachek and SOPHIE, the ECHOVALLEY remix may be more your hyper-sonic 8-bit cup of tea.

“This track is a hyper pop banger with rap verses for the electro-loving hopeless romantics. I made this track about experiencing limerence – that obsessive, unhealthy feeling that we often get for someone. I wanted to appeal to all the people who have someone who fucks with their mental state. It is super unhealthy, but hey, it happens… it is honest.”

Stream romantic fury and the ECHOVALLEY remix on Spotify now.

Connect with nasir mf. on Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Chloë Lupton is set to lift the collective mood with her intoxicating amalgam of RnB, Funk, Disco and Pop in ‘Midnight Radio;

Chloë Lupton

RnB Funk Pop fusionist, Chloë Lupton, has transmitted the ultimate soundtrack to intoxicated euphoria with her latest single, Midnight Radio.

The catchy disco grooves that pulsate through old-skool-inspired production are seductively efficacious in their ability to reflect the heat when sparks fly from a chance encounter on the dancefloor as you connect through music.

The 22-year-old Suffolk-based artist is a creative powerhouse after spending the last seven years studying and working in music, acting and dance, including training in performing arts and musical theatre.

After realising she has an ear for soul, jazz and RnB, which also happens to be where her stylish signature vocals lie best, she worked on adding her own individualistically amalgamated sonic style to the airwaves. Now signed with Radical Lounge Studios, there is no telling where the soulful prodigy will be a year from now. She’s definitively one to watch.

Midnight Radio will officially release on January 20th across all major streaming platforms. Check it out via this link.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

One More Weekend will meet you at the crossroads in their latest alt-rock hit, Opportunity

Melbourne’s premier alt-rock outfit, One More Weekend, has unveiled their latest chill-inducing single, Opportunity. The opening pop-rock vocals are thick with insular malaise but there is plenty of sanctity in the jangle pop guitars that counter the ennui before the progressive track bursts into a fervid feat of riff-driven rock that will reel you in, overdriven hook, line, and sinker.

The only thing more visceral than the emotion within Opportunity, which offers an olive branch of resonance to the disenfranchised, is the distinction in their sound. The luminary outfit pays homage to Birds of Tokyo, Foo Fighters and The 1975 before stratospherically blasting into a distinctively refreshing pop-rock amalgam.

After performing hundreds of shows across Australia and racking up their streaming stats to achieve almost viral status, One More Weekend is one to watch.

Opportunity will officially release on January 19th. Hear it on SoundCloud.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

solos has unveiled his innocently sweet star-crossed indie-pop single, only mine

Recently, there has been a lot of demonising rhetoric about people crushing on their friends; the up-and-coming Boston-based artist and producer, solos, proved that it is completely possible to respect the friend you want to go further with through his single, only mine.

The melodic indie-pop single that pushes the accordance from the acoustic guitars to the front of the mix is an extension of resonance to everyone who finds themselves lamenting over the lack of mutual attraction but maintaining gratitude for the friendship.

The ornately mellow short and sweet track, complemented by the music video, is one of the purest things you will see and hear all year. His crystal-clear RnB-tinged pop harmonies against the mellifluous flow of the instrumentals are wholesomely transcendent.

The official video for only mine premiered on January 13th; watch it yourself on YouTube.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

Umberto Bravo pulled the purity out of salaciousness with his sophomore synth-pop single, Sacred Sinner

Italian independent singer-songwriter and composer Umberto Bravo has unleashed his synthy sophomore single, Sacred Sinner, which modernises the 80s pop tonal palette with explorative vision and lavish layers of soul.

The mid-tempo ballad embellishes the 80s pop sound with gospel traditionalism through the vocals as the instrumentals push lush synth cords against consistently evolving guitars, which know just where to transfuse the gritty and transcendent tones to make the peaks and valleys of the emotional rollercoaster infinitely steeper.

Some view lust as a cardinal sin, but if anyone can make the case for the purity of salaciousness, it is Umberto Bravo in this carnally magnetic earworm that could rouse even the most sexually repressed puritans.

“Sacred Sinner is not a love song, let alone musical pornography. But it certainly goes against the traditional dynamic of the relationships of equality that exist between two people dealing with intimacy.”

Sacred Sinner was released on January 14th across all major streaming platforms, including Spotify.

Review by Amelia Vandergast