What does lines think about pop music?

i listened to the global top ten on apple music for the first time in a while today, plus excerpts from some of their featured pop playlists.

my overall impression was that pop production is still steadily pushing boundaries, while pop composition continues to approach total stasis.

i particularly liked intentions by justin bieber, and particularly didn’t like break my heart by dua lipa.

what does lines think about pop music?

how often do you listen to it? is there anything technical you specifically like or dislike about it? are there particular pieces or artists you feel strongly about one way or another?


I think you’re on to something here, but this isn’t the whole story. Here’s an unordered list of things that are affecting contemporary pop music:

  • a cultural moment defined by nostalgia

Dua Lipa is trading on a specific nostalgia, which seems to make her music less experimental than some of her peers (charli xcx seems like the obvious comparison). I’m not sure that the nostalgia currency is completely a new thing, but I’d argue that it’s especially important in our culture in the past few years—perhaps more so in movies than in music, but still relevant.

  • the mainstream-ification of rap/hip-hop

This has to do with the stations I listen to, but I mostly hear pop-rap on the radio and these are some of the big songs of recent years. Old Town Road was a bit of a meme I suppose, but it was a huge & legendary record. I’ve only been driving about once a week at most these days, but I heard Roddy Ricch’s ‘The Box’ at least six times on Saturday. (And when he said he’s a 2020 president candidate, and he put 100 bands on Zimmerman’s shit, I registered to vote.)

  • fracturing of “mainstream”

Everyone used to listen to the same radio and watch the same TV and that’s obviously not the case anymore. This is related to the former point and to the next point, but defining “pop” is much more difficult when it’s not the beatles. St. Vincent’s last album was sorta pop in the traditional sense, but I’m sure she sold less than Drake. Are we talking about ‘popular’ or ‘pop’ and what do these terms even mean.

  • digital listening experiences/streaming vs radio-play

Speaking of Drake, great example of the trend of really short songs, really long albums to maximize streaming numbers and income. Kanye editing albums after release is also an interesting example of change in this arena.

Excited to hear what people have to say on this topic, there’s more thoughts brewin in my noggin but I’ll start with just this : )


I was weird in high school in the 80s, being into jazz and classical and electronic stuff far more than what was on the radio or MTV, though not discounting pop completely. By the mid-90s fizzling of grunge, I was completely oblivious to pop as I ordered industrial, darkwave and Scandanavian folk CDs from mail-order… then several other waves of non-mainstream stuff without ever getting back into pop.

Some of the pop songs that get overplayed in public spaces make me grind my teeth. Most of it I just don’t really notice.

I still like post-punk and 80s synthpop stuff, though.

Here’s how far out of it I am: I only heard “Old Town Road” once because I was curious after seeing several weeks of memes and parodies etc. I listened to a little bit of it on YouTube. But I don’t remember how it goes. And I’ve never even heard of Roddy Ricch or Dua Lipa.


I wonder how different things are now, really. Internet platforms have the same monoculture as TV. Maybe there are a handful of monocultures now based on market segments, but I’m skeptical there is on a large scale much difference between the TV of yesterday and the walled gardens of today.


Defining pop is elusive. While in a sense all popular music is pop music, part of the mainstream culture, there is plenty of music that is more obscure that follows what I would consider pop form. I think largely what defines pop as a form in an emphasize on “the hook” - a riff, vocal line, chorus, etc. - that is the centerpiece and supposed to borrow in your consciousness. An ear worm.

Also in my view, pop music doesn’t indicate a lack of ambition in comparison to more “serious” music. There are countless examples of pop music that is tonally sophisticated and has interesting production values. I mainly listen to extreme metal these days, but I also appreciate a well-made pop song.


I love LOVE pop music. Benee and the whole raft of bedroom pop in the shape of Superlonely is very much my vibe right now.

Switched on pop podcast is great. This recent Dua Lipa episode was… Eye opening

Nice that she’s flying the flag for the UK right now.


I’d be interested in hearing more about why you say that. The phenomenon I was referring to was mostly that Lil Nas X coming out was one of the defining moments of 2019 for me personally, while @Starthief only heard “Old Town Road” once because they voluntarily looked it up :stuck_out_tongue: This could, of course, have also been true of someone who didn’t know the Beatles went to India or whatever, but I think the equivalents of starthief and I would both have been aware of that… and Lil Nas X is not the Beatles but… is it possible for anyone to be the Beatles today? Is that musical genius or media environment (or both)? I’m not trying to suggest an answer here, because I don’t know…


interesting—i definitely hear the differences in production between those two, but compositionally, i hear them as virtually identical

perhaps, then, as a next-step from the original post—how do you define composition and production?

i personally like to say composition describes the notes and rhythms that one would transcribe to a score or a midi-roll, while production describes anything having to do with timbre, articulation, performance, engineering, and so on

dualistic truth to both of these—our platforms are certainly more decentralized than ever before, yet pop music as a business is almost inarguably more centralized than ever before as well

same—i listened almost exclusively to classical until i was around sixteen

now, i have two all-time favorite artists—one is classical, and one is pop

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I teach music business at Berklee… lots of my students self-identify as being into “pop”… I have a hard time sorting out exactly what the term means, but there is definitely some kind of “there” there… To my ears, when I can bring myself to listen to it, it’s often over-produced compared to the music I want to listen to, which is fine for what it is, but feels more commercially-oriented than the sound I crave… Also, the lyrical content tends to feel targeted to a different audience than my demographic…

So, contemporary pop isn’t my cuppa, but that’s cool…

I try to turn them onto Moroccan Gnawa, John Cage, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Velvet Underground, Kirtan, Spanish medieval, monome/lines, whatever happens to be rocking my ears and mind at the moment… Some of them are incredibly open-minded and have huge ears for their age, while some are already pretty calcified…

At any rate, it’s wonderful to be able to have them suggest things for me to listen to, sometimes the recommendations are truly amazing…


I don’t believe in beatles, I just believe in me!!

I’d be interested to see if anyone on lines produces pop music?

Norns Pop? Anyone, anyone?

Beatles. Ref 1 - My daughter came into my studio aged 3 with my father whilst I was obsessing on my 909 for too long for them. Her magical sentence. Was ‘Daddy I don’t like your music, I like The Beatles: White Album’ pretty happy with her taste then and still now.

She will hopefully get to listen to Jeff Mills once in her life as wizards are getting rarer now in clubs during lockdown.

I weep for the future…


i do sometimes—not for personal purposes though

i too would like to hear some lines-pop originals


Nine weeks of lockdown with a toddler have turned me into a foremost expert on the Trolls 2 soundtrack. A fine sampling of today’s leading genres and- dare I say- some enlightening interpretations of a few classics.



I don’t think I entirely understand the definition of pop music. It seems like it’s somewhat fluid, and also highly dependent on the time period in which the music is produced. Is a song that was a pop song in the 80s still pop, or is it now “80s pop”? I think the beatles were once pop but now they are classic rock. If you ask a young person what kind of music they like and they say “pop music,” I doubt they are thinking of madonna, michael jackson, david bowie, the bee gees, sade etc.

Maybe being pop depends largely on production quality, and following trends in production and instrumentation. Most modern pop seems to be electronic music these days, which kinda bums me out.

Also, I know “pop” is supposed to describe a sound, but I’m not sure if you can really think of it in isolation from the root word “popular.” Are you still pop if you make music that sounds like Dua Lipa, but no one has heard of you? I guess you are “indie pop,” or if the production quality is not as sparkly maybe it’s “lofi pop.” Does pop depend on big budgets?

I guess it makes me sad that pop music is not more diverse in sound. I feel like we’ve developed this ideal of what perfect sounding music is supposed to be, and it leaves out a lot of stuff that is perfectly catchy. Why can’t anything with a nice, pretty melody be considered pop, like music by Weyes Blood or Jessy Lanza?

I don’t know where I’m going with this. I like some songs people consider pop. To me, asking “do you like pop” is sort of like asking “do you like blockbuster movies.” Sometimes?


I think of it like pop music is music you can enjoy, and art music is music you can appreciate. The line can definitely be blurred to include both.


That’s an interesting question, I guess we’re basically saying can there be worldwide phenomenons now? I feel like, yes, for sure. What made me say this is just anecdotal of course, but as someone easily sucked into both TV and the internet I spend a lot of time detoxing from both of them. It feels palatable every time I re-integrate that there is “a conversation” happening, it seems to go quickly and attention spans are probably shorter. There’s a new Beatles every week I suppose?

The most recent example for me was coming back to the internet / news / media / etc world and seeing the phrase “ok boomer” everywhere.

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People have mentioned Charli XCX, but what about the rest of PC music? I think they really pushed boundaries in that “plastic sound” kind of way.

Older Sophie rules:

This Lipgloss Twins song is out of control:

Tommy Cash:

New Sophie is by far the most interesting of the bunch, IMO:

But then again, all of these represent “underground pop,” whatever that is.


Yeah, not sure what pop means anymore, given that “popular” includes so many things these days. ABABCB structure? Even that feels like it’s not a thing anymore. I’ve definitely heard songs in stores that just sound like BBBCB. Based on my interactions with “the youth of today” and what I’ve seen out there, they don’t seem as hung up on genre and classification. But what do I really know… :man_shrugging: In a lot of ways, (pop) music today feels like exactly what John Cage predicted. https://www.liberationofsound.org/words/the-future-of-music-credo/

I was obsessed with this song a few weeks ago. I think people would throw it in the pop category: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g4oXJzCWFRk


More on topic, for me pop music basically means songs produced in an attractive or compelling way. In other words, stories that are sung. IMHO the stories and the voices that sing them are the important thing, and everything else is just a kind of compelling (or not) dressing around that. Some degree of familiarity and consonance is probably always going to be a factor.

I may be WAY off here, and admittedly don’t listen to what I define as pop music anymore. I believe that pop music is ephemeral by design and definition, it’s fluid and constantly evolving. But more importantly, I think that pop music is a never ending chase for money. The things that get pushed are the things that will make the most money for the most people. And as purchasing habits change, so does pop culture. They cannot be separated.

I do still listen to pop music from my formative years, but that’s like saying I prefer the soda from when I was a child. That stuff is gone never to come back, sure they’ll repackage it and try to cash in on some nostalgia, but it never tastes the same, because YOU’VE changed, and the world has changed and the music is no longer relevant. It may still be good music and enjoyable, but it will never have that frisson moment again, nor can it.

In my darker moments, I do thoroughly enjoy Bill Drummond’s “The Manual”. Equal parts hysterical, enraging and tear inducing.


this is an interesting topic

i don’t know how pop can objectively be defined so if you really want my opinion then i’d need specific artists or song examples

folks above have discussed the blurred line between pop/mainstream music and all else

part of that is due to producers and songwriters that many “pop” artists collab with (for example my brother introduced me to Amy Winehouse years ago when half her band were part of lesser known group of musicians i already loved)

I listen to a balanced diet of fringe and pop from various decades and based off names you already mentioned have a favorable opinion of Biebers music (not heard anything by Dua Lipa that impressed me). Most music falls into different categories for me than most…i might like something enough to tolerate or listen once but not enough to buy or seek more from the same artist.

plenty of strong opinions on this :blush:

i feel compelled to start by saying that i can’t stand kanye west’s music…at all

happy to discuss this further if this is the kind of opinion you were hoping to dig up