Have You Noticed How Glum Pop Music Became in 2017?

Pop music tends to be happy-sounding stuff, songs constructed to make us sing along, dance or, at the very least, tap our toes. But something seemed amiss with the pop world in 2017.

Those who analyze such things tell us that the average BPM of Top 40 songs has slowed and that more songs are written in a minor key. Things, in general, seem more reflective and, well, glum.

Why? Is this the Trump Effective? A general uneasiness about the world? A sense that things aren’t getting better for the Gen Y and Z? Racial issues? Natural disasters? The New York Times takes a look.

“Push me to the edge/All my friends are dead,” Lil Uzi Vert intones in “XO TOUR Llif3,” at first in a matter-of-fact chant and later in a slurred, raw singsong. The backing track is a bass line going nowhere slowly, oozing to bind together twitches of electronic percussion and little tinkles and twangs that drift in and out. The lyrics, rapped and sung in an assortment of scratchy voices, juggle the bitterness of a crumbling relationship alongside career boasts and druggy, suicidal ramblings.

“XO TOUR Llif3” isn’t some avant-garde obscurity or oddball cult discovery; it’s a major hit. Since its release in February, it has been streamed half a billion times on Spotify alone, with more than 130 million views of its YouTube video.

The tone of that song — mournful, dazed, sullen, traumatized, self-absorbed, defensive, remote, morbid — was pervasive in the pop of 2017. Hit radio and popularity-driven algorithmic playlists lingered on bleak, bummed-out sounds and scenarios, stringing together music that shares the feeling of being alienated, unprotected and besieged.

This is fascinating stuff. Keep reading.

 

 

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

One thought on “Have You Noticed How Glum Pop Music Became in 2017?

  • December 23, 2017 at 9:49 am
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    “Hit radio and popularity-driven algorithmic playlists lingered on bleak, bummed-out sounds and scenarios, stringing together music that shares the feeling of being alienated, unprotected and besieged.”

    So…exactly like grunge music from the early ’90’s?
    And then the post grunge fad?

    Reply

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