Today, hip-hop and rap dominate the music industry. The former pure pop princess have released songs recently but to little success and varying degrees of quality. Katy Perry gifted us the sublime “Never Really Over” to minimal fanfare while Taylor Swift scored success, and the scorn of critics, with “You Need to Calm Down” and “ME!” Our brightest pop stars, Ariana Grande and Billie Eilish, are making pop music that is very different from the candy-coated confections that were “Teenage Dream” and “Shake It Off.” Ariana’s most successful album so far, thank u, next is drenched in glittery trap beats and R&B harmonies. Billie’s debut, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?, is an industrial collection of hip-hop influenced alternative indie pop. There are, however, three ladies who are releasing excellent pure pop music for those who appreciate the deceptive simplicity of the genre.
Carly Rae Jepsen. Kim Petras. Ingrid Michaelson.
Carly Rae Jepsen
E•MO•TION is undoubtedly one of the best albums of the 2010s decade, and Carly didn’t slack off on 2019’s Dedicated. Carly has a knack for tapping into the euphoria of pop music. The verses in her songs are the framework for a steady build of emotion that reaches a bombastic catharsis with the chorus. On Dedicated, Carly blends the rich power of 80s synthpop with her smart lyricism. “No Drug Like Me” is a delicately crafted ode to maturation; it’s a sexy song that flutters with confidence. There’s also the joyful “Now That I Found You”; that track is brimming with ecstacy as it bounces to a disco-inflluenced beat. Carly will always put you in a good mood, and isn’t that the main goal of pop music?
Now, Kim has experienced her fair share of criticism and controversy following her very public support and continued collaboration with Dr. Luke after his alleged rape of Kesha. If you are able to put that aside, Kim crafts extremely great pop music. Kim essentially released her debut album, Clarity, one song at time. This method expertly built up anticipation for the final product of her dark and sinister pop tunes. Clarity houses cheeky and playful tracks like the trap music-biting “Got My Number” and the swaggering “Meet the Parents.” What makes Clarity so great is how cleverly Kim reinvents the ballad. The standard pop ballad is usually a booming moment where the artist shows off their vocal range and expertise. In Kim’s case, she packs the emotional weight of ballad into explosive pop songs like “Do Me” and “All I Do Is Cry.” Kim isn’t particulary gifted vocally, but she has a knack for packaging emotion into a sub-three minute pop song. She draws influences from genres like trap and glam rock (“Personal Hell”), but at it’s core Kim’s music condenses the complexity of human emotion into a single track, yet another goal of pop music.
Just last week, Ingrid released Stanger Songs a collection of tracks inspired by Netflix’s Stranger Things. In short, Ingrid is a master of starry-eyed lovestruck paeans, and on Stranger Songs she is able to anchor her emotions in a preexisting narrative. She embodies the Stranger Things character Eleven on the spunky “Pretty Girl” and one of the show’s main narratives on “Christmas Lights.” Furthermore, Ingrid crafts incredibly cohesive albums that rise and fall with a calculated intensity. If Kim channels the complexity of human emotion, Ingrid explores just how universal those emotions truly are. If you appreciate songwriting above anything else, Ingrid Michaelson is the indie pop songstress for you.