As I’m sure most of you might be sick of hearing about Adele‘s ongoing achievements each and every week as I am, she may be the single most important factor in music right now for other reasons other than her success on the charts. I’m referring to the actual basis of mainstream and pop music as we know it right now.
The music industry seems to go in cycles in regards to what type of music to obsess over. Ever since about 2008, we’ve been stuck in the electro-pop phase led by Lady GaGa, Ke$ha and the Black Eyed Peas. Nearly every major pop hit for the last three or so years has had some sort of electronic influence and in order to stay relevant and popular, you had to adapt. Many rappers went electro, as did singer-songwriters and even a lot of rock bands allowed some slight variation of synths and beats into the songs. Before that was the heavy hip-hop and rap period led by Lil’Jon, 50 Cent, Usher and Eminem, which was offset by teen-drama songwriters like Michelle Branch and Vanessa Carlton. The turn of the century was dominated by the bubblegum pop of boybands like ‘N Sync, Backstreet Boys and 98 Degrees as well as pop singers like Britney and Christina while before that, lighter rock music from Matchbox Twenty and Hootie & The Blowfish ruled.
This begs the question of what’s next? As I mentioned just above, I think Adele might be the key to the answer. First off I’ll point out an observation of mine. It’s odd that there hasn’t been any Adele-copycats since her domination began a year ago this month. Usually when someone breaks out in a huge way, there are others quick to follow a similar path but so far, there’s only been one Adele which is likely why she actually has no competition at the moment. (also note that I’m completely omitting the suggestion that Adele herself is merely a pop-friendly replication of Amy Winehouse.) I think that because of the lack of anyone able to be a replica of Adele meant that we’ve had to endure an extended period of the current “era” in music – the electro-pop era.
Gotye (photo from Billboard.com)
But within the last several months there has been some new acts appearing in the limelight. While they are not like Adele in the traditional sense, they do follow the perceived blueprint that she has passed along, one of an organic texture. So perhaps while I was looking for a young woman with a big voice singing break-up songs to come along and compete with Adele, I should have looked at the bigger picture and taken notice to musicians that are less like Adele but rather more like her in relation to everything else at the moment. Take, for example, Gotye. His runaway hit Somebody That I Used To Know is rather simple in nature. Not relying on heavy beats but instead on the vocal offerings and the catchy musical oddity in the xylophone. Bon Iver was a big winner at the Grammys the other week who specializes in a specific brand of folk music that would never stand a chance of getting noticed outside of Paste Magazine prior to last year. Another newish band called fun. has emerged to earn a #3 Hot 100 hit last week called We Are Young. It’s folky, poppy but realistic and authentic – and a great song. The songs from each of these artists are nothing alike but might get grouped together because they don’t fit in with the rest of the current pop music landscape…for now.
fun. (photo from Billboard.com)
It might be some time before the electro-pop phase dies down a bit but it seems like the next phase may be focused primarily on the organic sounds of indie rock and vocal pop types of music. It would make sense after nearly half a decade of computerized, beat-heavy music. But be warned, when mainstream music picks up a new toy, it plays with it incessantly. With every great electro-pop song of the last few years came a whole bunch of crappy ones. It happens with every period so be prepared. While I personally did like the last few years of pop music, I’ll also be with most people when I breathe a sigh of relief as I welcome in the new era of music.