Just over 12 years ago, Lady Gaga released “The Fame.” If you don’t remember that album, yes you do. Songs like “Paparazzi,” “Just Dance” and “Poker Face” are so deeply imprinted in the minds of older Gen Zers that forgetting the lyrics to any of those songs is rarer than a Lorde album.
And almost exactly 12 years later from Gaga’s release, Billie Eilish dropped a new track titled “My Future,” complete with her trademark feather-soft vocals and crisp production.
One quick listen through Gaga’s “Just Dance” and Eilish’s “My Future” would be enough to know while both songs are summative of the pop trends of their time, they are vastly different pieces of music. So how did we get from there to here?
As college students, we’ve witnessed a lot of changes in the tides of pop music — enough to know that when our parents told us that music was better in their day, sometimes they were right. But more often, they were dead wrong. Here’s a look at a few of the pop trends, past and present, that have shaped our adolescence and young adulthood.
“TiK ToK” by Kesha should win a Pulitzer or something. No other song could ever sum up the hedonistic, party-til-you-drop culture of the late 2000s nearly as well as this masterpiece. Thanks to ladies like Kesha, Gaga and Pink, flashy dance pop was the music of our preteen years and many awkward middle school dances.
Skrillex became a phenomenon when his EP “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” merged the wobbling bass lines of dubstep with characteristics of mainstream pop in 2010. And in 2014, Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories” won Album of the Year at the Grammys. This heralded the astronomical commercial rise of all types of electronic dance music, giving artists like Avicii, deadmau5 and Marshmello the level of fame once reserved for rappers and singers.
Taylor Swift. Carrie Underwood. Taylor Swift. Miranda Lambert. Taylor Swift. Kelly Clarkson. And don’t forget about Taylor Swift. These ladies had us singing along with feigned country accents and a vengeance in our hearts for the cheating boyfriends we didn’t have.
Somewhere in the early to mid 2010s, rap music went from only being featured at the tail-end of a mainstream pop song to being mainstream pop songs on their own. Much of this is thanks to Drake, who meshed moody lyrics with hip-hop beats and created a new musical phenomenon. Figures like Post Malone and Travis Scott are proof that pop-infused rap is still very much on trend.
When One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful” infiltrated American radio, our generation was finally blessed with the British boy band invasion we deserved. Back then we were jamming to 1D, Big Time Rush and The Wanted, and today we’re fawning over K-Pop groups like BTS. It looks like we’re never going to get tired of boyish charm mixed with four-part harmony, but honestly, what’s not to love?
Remember when Billie Eilish was considered indie? Now she’s the mascot for a new type of pop star that has formed in the past couple years. Largely led by young women, a new wave of soft, angsty and oftentimes dark pop has emerged. Taking cues from indie dream pop and leaning into more self-reflective lyrics, artists like Clairo, Maggie Rogers and girl in red are coming out of the woodwork.