Believe It Or Not, But Pop Music Is Great Again

The Weeknd.
The Weeknd.
Photo by Julian Bajsel

It's time for us to talk about pop music. It's 2015, and the landscape today is a very different place than it was even just a few short years ago. With the emergence of so many streaming services and a populace ready to accept just about anything offered to them, we've finally hit a boom period.

This past weekend's MTV Video Music Awards were a perfect example of the new found growth of pop music. It may have taken a while, but pop music can finally be called “great” again. Let's take a look at some of the reasons for that.

First off, the VMAs were hosted by Miley Cyrus. We know she can sing, and since shirking her Disney roots, she has consistently shown herself to be an artist worthy of our attention. Immediately after the VMAs, she released a brand new album online for free — as is the current model for releasing albums, a brilliant step forward by all those embracing it — featuring production by Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips and guest appearances by Big Sean. It's not a typical pop album by any means, and it's a bold move for one of the most mainstream names in the business.

Big Sean.
Big Sean.
Photo by Francisco Montes

Big Sean himself released one of the most entertaining and intellectually stimulating pop/hip-hop albums in years back in February, Dark Sky Paradise. It featured a host of names who are also boldly pushing the genre forward and ensuring a resurgence in true artistry in the mainstream. Drake and VMA Video Vanguard winner Kanye West both appear on it, two of this resurgence's leading names .

Kanye has long been accepted as an artist, while Drake is at the absolute top of his game, churning out hit after hit. His next album, Views from the 6, should prove to be no exception. Meanwhile, Kanye has produced one masterpiece after the other. This year he has already dominated with “Only One,” featuring Paul McCartney, and “All Day,” without any release of an album even in sight.

Taylor Swift took home the Video of the Year Award for her song “Bad Blood.” Her music is just as immediately gratifying, but “Bad Blood” also features a guest spot for Kendrick Lamar, one of the greatest rappers the emerge in the last few years and pop's latest deep thinker to actually parlay his intelligence into something that can be appreciated by the masses. It's no wonder Dr. Dre and others have passed the torch to him, both figuratively and literally. He also snagged a Best Direction moonman for his “Alright” video.

Fall Out Boy's Patrick Stump
Fall Out Boy's Patrick Stump
Photo by Violeta Alvarez

Fall Out Boy took home the award for Best Rock Video, and while they long ago quit embracing any of the elements of hardcore punk and emo that their earliest albums displayed, they've cemented their legacy as one of the greatest pop rock bands of the entire generation. They're classic rock in the making, and they're one of the few rock bands in the past 20 years to figure out how to stay relevant in a changing landscape that has embraced electronic beats over loud guitars.

Meanwhile, even the underground is bubbling up. Bolstered by a Kendrick Lamar guest appearance, Flying Lotus managed to grab an award for Best Cinematography for the video for his song “Never Catch Me.” FlyLo may never be as mainstream a producer as Timbaland, but just by virtue of pop's embracing their weirdest, most artistic tendencies, he has managed to win an award underground DJs have very rarely been able to lay their fingers upon.

Beyonce grabbed one for “7/11." Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson staked their claim on Best Male Video for “Uptown Funk.” It may be a rip off of the Gap Band or Morris Day & the Time, but you can't deny that beat or Mars' voice. Fetty Wap was this year's artist to watch, and who didn't love “Trap Queen”?

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How about that Weeknd guy who performed at the VMAs? He may not have won one this year, but “Can't Feel My Face” is a hell of a song, and he's almost guaranteed to start picking up awards next year for his incredible Beauty Behind the Madness.

It all adds up to one of the greatest resurgences of pop in recent memory. 2015 could go down as one of the greatest years for pop music since the beloved '90s, and even then I'd argue that what's coming out now has far more artistic integrity than what was being churned out to the masses then. After all, if you're going pop-rock, Fall Out Boy beats the hell out of Smash Mouth. And if you're going pop, you picked the exact right time.


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