Feeling nostalgic for the days of the Spice Girls and Britney Spears? Michelle Ryan argues the merits of modern pop music.
When a friend recently asked what music I’d been listening to lately, it took me a minute to come up with an artist or a song that had been released within the past 5 years. Eventually, I answered with Calvin Harris and Frank Ocean’s ‘Slide’ but while that’s a current release, neither artist is new on the scene. After thaT conversation, I thought a bit more about “modern music” and wondered if it had any merits.
Too often, when a new artist comes on the scene or something unfamiliar comes on the radio we’re quick to put on the rose tinted sunglasses - or headphones in this case - and think that music just isn’t like it used to be. Back in the 90s and early 00s, we thought we had it all. Britney was blaring, Avril Lavigne was cool and Will Smith was a rapper; what more could we have wanted? Now you have the likes of Zara Larsson, the Chainsmokers and Clean Bandit filling up the airwaves with their songs of Lush Lives and Symphonies.
Maybe it’s because I’m in my mid 20s, but I seem to get stuck in my musical ways listening to the same artists over and over. I can name a Beyoncé or Justin Timberlake song from any one of their albums within 5 seconds and in my eyes they can do no wrong. But there’s a world of new artists and modern music out there to obsess over that I’ve been letting pass me by.
With that in mind, I’ve taken to the “New Hits Ireland” playlist on Spotify to hear what else is out there. It starts with Justin Bieber and DJ Khaled, who recently released a song with Beyoncé and Jay Z, so I’m on board already. Bieber gets a lot of stick because he can be a bit of an eejit but his music shouldn’t be discounted. Everyone went crazy for “Sorry” last year, not believing that it was one of his songs but he knows how to do R&B very well. His “Journals” album was sadly overlooked and underrated so if you want to be pleasantly surprised, believe me, it’s worth the listen.
The Chainsmokers pop up a couple of times with their new Coldplay song and the always popular “Paris.” Their music is quite anthemic , the lyrics make you daydream and think of grander times and how movie-like life could very well be if you weren’t stuck in your rural Irish town. It’s escapism at its best.
For the pop fans, Little Mix are one of the best and only decent pop groups around right now. If you don’t sing along with “Shout out to My Ex” whenever it plays then you need to re-evaluate your priorities. Alessia Cara, Anne-Marie and Dua Lipa are also on the playlist and are linked to those songs you sing along to in the car without ever really knowing the name of either the artist or the track but enjoy all the same.
Then you have the boyband members like Harry Styles and Zayn who are actually doing a pretty good job in their respective solo careers. Harry’s “Sign of the Times” has a Rodd Stewart vibe to it which, if you think I’m mental for saying that, you need to listen to.
Spending some time with it, I’ve come to appreciate modern music for what it is and that’s exactly how you have to listen to it; for what it is. You cannot compare Little Mix to the Spice Girls or Zara Larsson to Britney Spears, they’re not the same because they’re of their time. While it pains me to think that some kids will grow up never knowing JoJo’s “(Leave) Get Out” or Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles” or even J-Lo’s “Jenny From the Block”, they will have their own anthems and their own nostalgic tracks in years to come.
Modern music gets a hard time by people who are stuck in the past and set in their ways. Don’t be a music snob, open your mind and your ears, truly give it a chance and if you still don’t understand it then go back to your throwback playlists
Note: That last sentence was typed as I switch back to my 'Easy 90s' playlist.