Popular music is always roiling with cycles, trends, and fads. Things come into favour and just as quickly discarded. And we can’t forget that music culture is downstream from whatever is happening in society at the time and quickly ends up articulating the zeitgeist of an age.
Vanity Fair wonders if we’re in one of those periods of transition right now. They ask “Has 2018 Killed the Pop Star?”
For most of the last century, “pop music” has been a durable single phrase with two distinct meanings: a statement of fact about the most listened to music of the moment as well as a genre with specific traits. And for a majority of that time, the two definitions have neatly intersected. Pop songs from “I Want to Hold Your Hand” to “Umbrella” have also been the most popular songs of their day.
And especially since the 1980s, pop has been the domain of a particular type of entertainer: a virtuoso performer, visual artist, cultural maven, pop arbiter, and chart baron known as a pop star.
But thanks in part to the pluralizing forces of the Internet, pop—like so many other things—has splintered. In the last two years, the popular-music ecosystem has proven more hospitable to SoundCloud rappers, novelty E.D.M./country hybrids and a freestyle from Cardi B than it’s been to once-indomitable pop stars like Taylor Swift. Meanwhile, former and would-be pop stars like Kesha, Troye Sivan, and Carly Rae Jepsen have grown into artists with devoted cult followings as opposed to global superstars. While there are exceptions—Bruno Mars in particular mimics the established pop-star formula to massive success—something novel is clearly afoot: pop music is no longer the most popular music in 2018.
Keep reading. Rock is once again in the ascendant. Watch.