Upon surface glance, it is easy to dismiss pop. Often associated with the charts, pop draws connotations of carefully constructed bands like Little Mix and even the recently revived Jonas Brothers. Pop isn’t known for its authenticity – one of the biggest criticisms of the Spice Girls back in the 90s was that they weren’t ‘real’ enough in their origins. But under the bright, bopping façade we have come to associate pop with is a thrumming underground of innovative female artists creating a new kind of pop, deeply associated with electronic production, sexuality and making the genre fundamentally theirs.
Pop is being widely reclaimed with a rise in electronica, to an extent where the music coming out in the genre feels almost dependent on its production to gain success. The best example lies in the brilliant, frenzied work of Grammy-nominee SOPHIE. One of the best producers of the last decade, her work revolves around deeply layered soundwaves mixed in with the giddy beats of classic pop music. Simultaneously surreal and danceable, her tracks offer an insight into this new and unfamiliar realm of pop. Upon being asked her genre by Billboard, Sophie replied ‘advertising’, and perhaps this sums up the new world of pop music well: it revolves, predominantly, around making music purely to sell it. It’s commercial, it’s broadly appealing, and it’s satisfyingly pure pop. In the rise of this marketable and yet simultaneously innovative and new style of music, we are introduced to a realm which is not created by managerial executives and men in offices but by the artists themselves. This production-focused artistry can also be seen in other members of the PC music scene such as Hannah Diamond and GFOTY.
The rise of women making the scene their own can be seen again in the likes of Charli XCX. A well-known collaborator of SOPHIE, the singer appears to be everywhere at the moment while still not attracting the same attention as her male counterparts arguably would – and yet, this claim lies uncertain. Because there are no male counterparts, which is what strikes me as most interesting about this emerging pop scene. The work of Charli XCX is inherently female – it dictates a world of female empowerment and sexuality. Songs like ‘Babygirl’ and ‘Femmebot’ are inherently songs written for women, by women. It wouldn’t be possible for a man to make the same style of music. In a similar manner, friend and co-worker of Charli XCX, Tommy Genesis drenches her songs with female empowerment such as on ‘You Know Me’, which croons “I’ll leave you, cause that’s what girls do”. Whether or not men are involved feels a little irrelevant. In the way male singers have been doing for a long time, these women are discussing sex as something that belongs to them.
Again, we are introduced to this candied and synthetic new world in the form of Slayyyter, who began her career on Soundcloud. An appropriately self-made pop queen, it seems only right that some of the most innovative music I’ve heard this year has its basis online. With a sound that feels simultaneously 90s and ultra-modern, Slayyyter sings bubblegum-drenched bops revolving around sex and love and technology. It’s not full of deep meaning – it’s a simplistic formula that revolves around the idea of a good time. Likewise, musician Tove Lo has made a career on simple pop songs about sex from the female perspective. Her most well-known hit ‘Cool Girl’ is about the no-label relationships that seem to be so commonly only discussed by male artists, while recent single ‘bitches’ is engrained with tales of female sexuality. The normalisation of sex as something not only for men but women is deeply important in the world we currently live in, and to see these young artists taking it upon themselves to project that message feels authentic and groundbreaking.
As this world of new pop emerges, it feels like we’re on the cusp of some of the biggest and brightest female artists’ career breakthroughs. This a world created for women like them – it’s fundamentally young, authentic and refreshingly honest. These artists – and they are artists – are making music that revolves around our lives, our sexual experience, our nights out. It might all be wrapped in an inherently pop bubble drenched in production but ultimately? This one’s for the girls.