Recapping the 2010s and the so-called decline of pop music

It’s easy to miss the days when you turned on the radio and the first song blaring through the car stereo would be Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok” or when the most talked about fashion trend of the Grammy’s was Lady Gaga’s meat dress. The “Glee” soundtrack was dominating the iTunes charts and the biggest stars of today such as Ariana Grande and Zendaya were just making their first appearances on TV. 2010 was undoubtedly a good year.

Pop music was at its peak that year, but in every decade the dominant music genre has to change to please an ever-changing audience. That’s not a bad thing. I would sure get sick if the only song ever played at a high school formal or club event was “Dynamite” by Taio Cruz.

Pop music isn’t dead; it’s just different. The genre doesn’t exist as the bright, bubblegum art that is Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” or Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” anymore. Rather, we have the hard-hitting trap beat of Ariana Grande’s “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored.”

I will never forget the time on the middle school playground when I first watched Miley Cyrus swing on a wrecking ball. Cultural moments like these defined this generation of music.

I say without a doubt that this decade was the era of the largest social change for the industry. Trap is the new standard of mainstream music. Hip-Hop has most definitely come out as the leading genre in music today, and this has helped bring more and more diversity into the industry.

The 2010s introduced us to The Weeknd, Nicki Minaj, SZA, Frank Ocean, Ty Dolla Sign, Lizzo, Cardi B and Childish Gambino. On albums such as Beyonce’s “Lemonade” and Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly,” the essence and struggle of black life in America was in everyone’s ear. They were powerful forces.

In 2019, we saw Lil Nas X, the first openly gay black man to top the music charts, break the record for the longest-running number one of all time. Cardi B, a stripper from the Bronx, knocked Taylor Swift off the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Established artists such as Sam Smith broke barriers on a mainstream level, coming out as nonbinary and announcing that they prefer they/them pronouns. No longer are pop stars required to be thin or white or straight. We are ending the decade with Lizzo dominating the charts. Pop stars are now able to just be themselves.

This is in part due to social media and streaming. It takes me ten seconds to look up a track on Spotify or connect with a new underground artist on Twitter. Many of today’s famous artists, from Cardi B to Billie Eilish to Lil Nas X, should thank social media for their speedy mainstream success.

Stan culture was born this decade from the surge of pop stars on social media. I’ll never forget my first interaction with this phenomenon: getting attacked and called degenerate on Twitter because I wasn’t a fan of Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do.” It’s great to see fans forming such strong bonds on social media, but we can all agree that the Cardi B and Nicki Minaj drama probably would’ve never happened if stan culture and the media wasn’t pitting them against one another.

There is a lot of inequality in the music industry. Take for example the fact that in 2018, there were only two solo women to reach the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100. In the past ten years, only ten black artists have won Album of the Year, despite there being no difference in the quality and talent within their work.

As we close off the decade with powerful forces such as Normani, Lizzo and Lil Nas X becoming phenomena on social media and streaming apps, maybe award shows will finally start reflecting the true diversity that is our country. We’ve only seen a fraction of what’s to come in the industry, and I am sure ready to see even more.

Jarrod Houseknecht is a sophomore majoring in communication studies and public advocacy.

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