I’m one of those people that fills every spare moment with music. I would rather be late for work than forget my headphones (and due to my unorganised nature, I often am). I’ve always been like this, ever since I can remember. Because of this, I have listened to a LOT of music and gone through many phases and albums. When I think about significant periods in my life, they are always soundtracked by a particular album at the time that I had on repeat; the music is part of the memory. However, as I’ve grown up, in more recent times I have found myself discovering a new love for something I didn’t think I would ever find myself doing – let alone openly admitting: I, Emma Jones, love pop music.
If you had known me through my high school years, you would know that I was a music snob. It’s okay, I’ve come to terms with it now. I was a downright snob when it came to music. If it had been played on mainstream radio or Channel V even once, or worse yet if my sister was listening to it, I didn’t want to know about it – but I also wanted to tell you why you were so wrong as well. How could you actually LIKE that stuff, when there are bands like The Shins, The Grates, The Beatles and Led Zeppelin waiting for your earholes? No, I did not understand the irony of that at the time, I was 14 and I didn’t care what you thought. All I cared about was that no way in fucking hell was I listening to anything on the top 40, and I was prepared to complain quite a bit if I was made to do so.
Now, some eight or so years later, something has changed. On the ever-rotating shortlist that is the music on my phone, of which I am constantly adding and subtracting albums and EPs to listen to for however long I deem necessary, there have been a few changes recently. “Cracks” beginning to show in my otherwise flawless musical taste. Aside from the fact that Kendrick Lamar‘s, A$AP Rocky‘s and Tyler, The Creator‘s most recent albums have had a permanent place on there since their release dates, I have somehow made room for the following: Ariana Grande, Rihanna, and perhaps the most shocking of all – Justin. Bieber.
tfw u realise what u have become
The fact that I am even admitting this shows how far I’ve come. I had a small party last Friday night and we played JB’s Sorry at least five times in just 3 hours, and I am not even going to pretend like I haven’t been following Ariana’s Instagram countdown for her latest single, Focus – which, for the record, is as amazing as always. No, I’m not even afraid to admit that I’ve been keeping an eye on Bad Gal Ri Ri’s tour schedule so I can jump on any surprise Australian shows. This is who I have become, and I’m okay with it. I have welcomed pop music into my life with open arms, and I am all the better for it.
Why, you ask? What does this saccharine nonsense bring me that The National can’t? Why do I have an itch that only Katy Perry can scratch these days? Well, I’ve put it down to one reason – because the teams behind these popstars know how to make a damn good song. They know the exact buttons to press, and they’re working with some of the most talented people in the industry. I don’t care if you don’t think Selena Gomez is “cool”, her song The Heart Wants What It Wants is incredible. It’s music perfected. It’s had hours poured into it to make sure it comes off exactly as it is intended to – emotional, heartfelt, just exposing enough, but most of all, relatable. There is a reason it’s called “pop” music. It’s popular. It caters to the masses. It makes you feel like you’re not alone and it makes you feel happy. Even the sad pop songs make you happy, because here is this billionaire singing about how someone broke their heart and you’re there thinking, “Oh my god, ME TOO.” When you’re all alone, heartbroken and miserable, or silently celebrating a personal triumph, who is there for you? Ariana fucking Grande, that’s who.
My love for pop goes beyond guilty pleasures. In fact, the love is so strong, I don’t even feel guilty anymore. I felt a little guilty for loving Justin Timberlake‘s 2013 masterpiece The 20/20 Experience, and I felt a bit more guilty when Miley Cyrus dropped the belter Wrecking Ball. Hell, I even felt guilty when I first had a taste of Justin Bieber’s What Do You Mean? came out earlier this year. However, I think I can pinpoint where my change of heart came from. Beyonce‘s sensational self-titled surprise album released at the end of 2013. Now, I have ALWAYS loved Queen B. She didn’t count when it came to my snobbery; she’s untouchable and always has been. But, it was this album that opened my mind to the sheer joy of pop and all that it stands for.
There is not one bad song on that album, and not one bad film clip that came from it. It was the Queen standing on her rightful podium, looking down at everyone else – formidable and fiery as hell, but with a sweet tinge in her eyes, behind the flames. There she was, not just embracing life, but embracing herself. She was literally telling everyone in the whole world that it’s okay to be yourself and like what you like. It’s okay to stumble; it’s okay to be jealous. It’s okay to love, and to love hard. It’s okay to be fierce and confident, and if you aren’t you definitely should be. In fact, she was just saying it’s okay to be YOU. That’s what I took from it anyway, and continued to on the second, third, 70th and 1000th listen through. It’s all okay, just do you.
Maybe I’m becoming less cynical as I grow older. Maybe I just don’t care anymore. I definitely do not have the same irrational rage when it comes to people “copying” me, or when a song I “found” gets played on the radio. In fact, I take pride in sharing music and learning from others. Admittedly, “pop” music often delves into other genres, encapsulating a multitude of styles into one song rather than your typical pop song a la Nikki Webster‘s Strawberry Kisses. Maybe pop has started catering to me more, and people like myself who just a few years ago wouldn’t go near an Ariana/Jessie J/Nicki Minaj all star track like Bang Bang. Popstars are digging deeper when it comes to collaborators and producers, from Bieber hooking up with Skrillex to Ariana linking with Cashmere Cat and a lesser-known The Weeknd. Perhaps it’s this “alternative” power that brings something new and more accessible to the game. Perhaps by doing that, they’ve broken down traditional genres and levelled out the playing field, making way for alt-pop stars like Grimes to look cool to the internet generation with her sugary sweet songs.
Indie pop, alt pop, electro pop, folk pop; the list goes on of “acceptable” pop, but what makes it so? If it comes down to accessibility, the megastars of the pop world have broken down those barriers, and instead sing about common themes and issues that just about everyone can relate to. They’ve let us in, not just in their film clips and their songs, but their Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, even self-managed Facebook pages. They slip up, they get angry, they show us things they enjoy. Whilst the indie pop bands could definitely be your mate who tours on the weekend but works in the local bottle shop, and it’s easy to find a common connection there, now the same could be said thanks to social media.
So here I am, world – an open and proud pop music fan. I am the woman who will cry when Foals play Spanish Sahara, or when Tame Impala play pretty much anything. I am the woman who pinpoints moments in her life with albums like Cloud Control or Local Natives, and who will feel music so incredibly much; more than most could understand. I am the woman who will have spiritual experiences in sweaty nightclubs, national festivals, DIY stages or a $10 gig in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley on a Thursday night. But I am also the woman who was probably jamming out to Rihanna’s Pour It Up or Beyonce‘s Drunk In Love on the way there. Pop music has somehow found it’s way into my music taste, and I am so glad I let it in.