By Ken, guest contributor
While I was growing up ‘pop’ music was a dirty word to utter if you considered yourself a music fan. “How can a song written by so many people be good?” and “what about authenticity?” are phrases you’d usually hear people say when pop music was brought up, but something I’ve noticed is how that mindset is beginning to fall to the wayside. This has largely due to how indie bands have taken in pop music with open arms but it also has a lot to do with experimentation. What makes a pop song great (if it is in fact a good song) is that it can connect with various people for a variety of different reasons. I love pop music and rather than go into some long and ridiculous rant on why you should as well I figured that sharing some examples of how pop music has become interesting over the years. These are ten songs that are shamelessly pop tunes that simply kick ass.
Man Like That – Gin Wigmore
This tune was used a promotional single for the Heineken/Skyfall commercials a while back yet once you hear this tune again it’ll be stuck in your head for days. Gin Wigmore is an artist who strives to shake things up while still allowing her music to be as accessible as possible. ‘Man Like That’ showcases how she can delve into ballroom style and display various range with her voice in less than three minutes.
Elevate – St. Lucia
You’d be hard pressed to find a harder working band than St. Lucia and their packed live shows are a grand byproduct of all that hard work. Along with stellar live shows they also have highly infectious songs as well, ‘Elevate’ being a shining example as to why they’re a band you’ll end up falling for even before the song is finished playing.
Jamaica – Theme Park
It’s a brave thing for a rookie band to take on a softer approach with a single but luckily for London based group Theme Park ‘Jamaica’ is one of those songs that instantly puts your mind at ease and continues to hold your attention as the guitar chords soar in an immensely sharp manner. If dancing happens while you listen to this song don’t feel bad, you won’t be the only one feeling the urge to move.
Dance Apocalyptic – Janelle Monae
Fun. That’s the sole word that could be used to describe this bombastic display of sounds. Janelle Monae has proved time and time again that she has expansive range, whether it be subtle and somber tracks or explosive electric tracks, each of her songs are filled with character and personality. ‘Dance Apocalyptic’ is a great introduction for those unfamiliar with her work and are curious what all the fuss has been about.
Girls – The 1975
It’ll probably sound quite pretentious but I love the fact that The 1975 don’t look like the type of band that makes the music that they actually make. If you were to judge them from their press photos you’d probably assume their songs to be a barrage of teenage angst and aggression but their music borders much more on observational emotions, and when they do skirt introspective waters there’s always a sense of softness applied. ‘Girls’ is a great example of this, a song that tries to fight against being a pop tune yet glows as a pop number the second Matty Healy’s voice begins to echo.
Hearts – Dan Black
Something pop music gets criticized for is being a genre void of any creativity. An artist like Dan Black is a shining example of how untrue such a statement is. Black describes is own brand of music ‘Wonky Pop’ (a self-invented genre).
Cough Cough – Everything Everything
This song marked the return of Everything Everything and talk about a way to make a bang in the music world. Again, this is an example of pop music being more then just bubblegum and catchiness. Cough Cough is a song that’s verbose and expressive yet still retains a repetitious structure that bolsters the track rather than hinders it. This is one one of those tracks that’ll be stuck in your head for weeks and you’ll actually enjoy the fact that it is.
Money On My Mind – Sam Smith
Probably the most conventional song on this list, in terms of structure, yet this tune is still a song that combats the ‘pop is formulaic’ stigma in more ways than one. It’s a challenging song in fact because of how the chorus dramatically changes the tone of the song itself. Yet somehow this works in the songs favor rather than against it. You can hear the R Kelly and Prince inspiration all throughout this track but it’s the crippling honesty and drastic tonal change that allows Sam Smith to stand completely on his own with Money On My Mind.
Deepest Shame – Plan B
Oddly enough, it’s rare to see contemporary musicians utilizing skills learned from past albums in future tracks and albums. Deepest Shame is a single taken off of Plan B’s third album, Ill Manors, an album which is vastly bleak and explores the underbelly of Britain’s estate culture and the harrowing experiences people in those areas deal with every day. This track in particular is a somber pop song, where Plan B utilizes the talents he explored in his second LP, The Defamation of Strickland Banks. With ‘Deepest Shame’ Plan B is able to approach the subject manner of the song in a more somber way while still making sure the power behind his lyrics is felt throughout the songs entirety.
Powerless – Rudimental
A great example of an emotional track that has no restraints from the word ‘pop.’ Powerless is a track that soars while never letting go of your heartstrings in the process. Rudimental are craftsmen when it comes to producing songs with powerful beats but it’s truly Becky Hill’s vocals that shine on this track above most of the tracks you’d find on the Top 40.