College Essay Sample: Analysis of Modern Pop Music



In many ways, music has evolved alongside the evolution of humanity. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that it is ubiquitous, contributing vastly to countless daily activities. Whether it be in the grocery store or inside a car, there is a high possibility that there is a tune playing somewhere in the background. One of the most notable and favored genres of music is pop. The genre, by definition, is “something popular among the mass at a given time.” As time changes, people’s tastes follow suit. Consequently, popular demand would alter the music industry to suit what the majority would enjoy hearing. This has been a clear pattern of the pop market in the past few decades. Yet, with the introduction of new music trends, many pop artists have become less involved and idle in the writing process. Though music differs from genre to genre, pop music today lacks creativity and individuality. 

What is creativity in music? For the sake of this essay, it is the artist’s ability to create something novel and original. Generally, each artist has a trademark sound that distinguishes them from other artists. Compared to music from the last two decades, today’s pop music sounds rather different. However, glaring differences are expected when comparing songs from different time periods and as such, the problem does not lie there. To identify the issue, current pop music must be equated with one another. Take two of the top trending songs presently: “Positions” by Ariana Grande and “HOLIDAY” by Lil Nas X. If one were to look beyond the vocal melody, it is not difficult to notice how similar they are. Both songs have identical repetitive bass and snare that relatively follow the same beats per measure. Moreover, the two songs don’t have a change in tune, which means that the melody present is repeated throughout the song without it having any sort of progression. This musical decision is somewhat lazy, requiring less effort than composing an additional section for the song. The similar sound and recurring instrumentals are proof of the idea that pop songs today are not that different from one another, therefore lacking in uniqueness or even distinctiveness. 

In past decades, this was not a problem. Songs in the last five to ten years were still unique to that of the creator. Take Lady Gaga and Adele, for example, two of the most prominent artists in the early 2010s. Lady Gaga’s songs tend to be flashy and easy to dance to, while the piano-heavy and melancholic music typical of Adele is the opposite. If one were to look at their most acclaimed songs, “Bad Romance” and “Someone Like You” respectively, the contrast between the two becomes more apparent due to their distinct and differing sound.

It has been established that pop songs today are alike in many aspects, which leads us to the question of why it became that way. One of the reasons that this may be is the introduction of hip hop. The genre first rose to popularity in the early 70s amongst black youth as it allowed them to express themselves creatively. It gained large traction in the more mainstream market after the release of “Rapper’s Delight” by The Sugarhill Gang. Since then, the genre has steadily increased in notoriety, gathering a large following amidst the majority of the population. 

This boom in popularity did not go unnoticed. The pop music industry and its musicians took the opportunity to implement some elements of the genre into their songs. Currently, the most popular genre of rap is trap, identified by its simple snare and bass drum beats. The introduction of this type of song in the market amassed a huge following among current generations. Trap influenced songs became attractive to the pop music industry due to its simple process of creation. Since the writing process is straightforward, many artists do not need to put in much thought or creativity in the songwriting process. The simplicity of the process also allows artists to produce more music in a shorter span of time, which in turn will allow them to accumulate revenue quickly. This is why many songs on the market today are alike to that of trap and each other, at least instrumentally.

Additionally, some musicians will collaborate with rappers as a marketing strategy to boost their music because of how popular rap is at present day. Working together with a rapper will not only bring the two fan bases together, but they will also reach a wider audience. “Levitating” by Dua Lipa featuring Dababy and “34 + 35” by Ariana Grande featuring Doja Cat and Megan Thee Stallion are just a few songs on the charts at the moment where singers collaborate with rappers. This is a rather common occurrence in the music industry today, playing into the idea that there isn’t variety in the market because many will have the same “strategic” plan to reach a wider audience. 

Along with the piece as a whole, another major component of a song is its lyrics. Often, the lyricism of songs are written to recount a certain story that the writer created or lived. It could also be a message that the writer wishes to share with the listeners. One thing that these points have in common is that they all have some form of sentiment underneath, this is not the case for numerous pop songs of today. Current pop songs tend to lack depth. Musicians today are likely to write about material things such as wealth, sex, drugs, and alcohol solely for the purpose of showing their luxurious lifestyle.  This is not to say that songs of the past did not have superficial lyrics, it is just that many of the latest pop songs do not put in much effort in sending out their intended message. 

Justin Bieber’s “Yummy” is a good example of this issue. The song’s chorus is simply just the repetition of the word “yummy.” Furthermore, numerous parts of the song are just repeated chunks of lyrics. Compare this to Bruno Mars’ song “Locked Out of Heaven” which was released eight years prior. Both songs share the same sexual connotations about their partner, which can be shallow to some. What differentiates them from one another is how they approach and write about the matter.  Bruno Mars writes his lyrics like a narrative, creating a parallel to religion to describe his notion, thus creating a storyline in his song. In contrast, Justin Bieber’s lyrics, though still conveying the same message, is bland and plain showing his lack of effort in his songwriting. 

Now, some may claim that this only applies to a certain group of pop musicians and that there are other musicians who do not fit within the criteria. Musicians like Billie Eilish may come to mind when thinking about the few more alternative pop musicians. She does tend to have more genuine and thoughtful lyrics compared to others on the market, but her instrumentals fall back into the generic beats often heard in other pop songs. Her songs like “Therefore I am” and “you should see me in a crown” are a few that have the same trap undertones that are popular among the pop industry today. The difference is that Eilish adds multiple additional instruments that allow her music to sound different, but the foundation of her song is still the same as the others.  People may also consider artists like Harry Styles or Taylor Swift as being more unique, as they are the few that sound nothing like other pop songs. But as a whole, they are only a portion of a handful of musicians today who are uncommon in their field. 

Though taste is subjective, the current state of pop music does not live up to the legacy of its predecessors. The genre today has experienced a decline in innovation, originality, and variety and has drastically changed from the first time it was commercialized.  For better or for worse, it has formed into something new based on trends that are favored currently. As the trend continues to change, there is still a chance for the pop music industry to bring back its glory days.