words by Jayda Jasmine
Music has slowly been evolving into a new style; there is a clear shift from the 2010s as we enter a new decade and a new era for music. Surprisingly, despite the world situation that this decade opened with, the music has been rather upbeat. This is reminiscent of the escapism during the roaring 1920s, maybe we’re headed in the same direction for the 2020s. We’ll go over 5 things in music and the industry that we will probably see more of during this decade.
The lines between genres are becoming blurred and painted into songs that seem to defy category. Some artists, such as the Weeknd, BTS and Silk Sonic, are trying to bring back the groovy styles of the 80s and 70s. Others have adopted a mix of hip hop, pop, and EDM; Lil Nas X, The Kid Laroi and Halsey are all examples of this. Although there is usually an overarching style in the music, there are countless subgenres present. Music production has gotten much more sophisticated over the years, allowing for more experimental music. Being confined to one genre could also be a disadvantage for artists, which may explain the urge to include multiple genres in one song. This appeals to multiple audiences and creates a whole new sound. With music being more accessible (and less profitable) than previous decades people can listen to many genres without investing in a collection for a specific one. Gen-Z, the largest consumer of music, is also more adventurous with their music taste. We individually listen to more foreign music and more genres than young people from previous decades. This is likely due to the advent of social media and the internet which connects us from all around the globe. This socia and technological phenomenon is likely the reason for our fascination with mixing genres. Going into the 2020s we will likely see more innovative tracks, and genre mixing will be a large part of that. Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” which blended hip hop and country kicked off the decade, which should have been a sign of the wave to come.
The danceability of tracks has become more important to modern popular music. This started after the disco boom in the late Seventies, after which danceable songs were more likely to become a hit. House music and 4/4 time became more prevalent in the 90s, and with the addition of new drum machines and quantization more structured “perfect” beats became more common. Today each pop song has a similar drum pattern and is (almost) perfectly quantized. This could be due to the small circles of producers who rule the top 40 by chasing trends because that’s what the audience wants right?
Hyper Pop, a new genre, is also being diffused into mainstream pop. Taylor Swift’s new album Evermore had a few songs with the plucked synth and Halsey’s “If I Can’t Have Love I Want Power” was basically an ode to hyper pop and industrial styles. The average song in previous decades were around 80-105 bpm. This is significant because “The average tempo of 2020’s top 20 best-selling songs is a pulse-quickening 122 beats per minute”. This has risen within the last 15 years, as the 2010s actually saw a trend in more leisure songs. Think Sam Smith’s “In the Lonely Hour” and Adele’s “25” and “21”. Perhaps it’s quarantine boredom, but there’s no denying that dance tracks are becoming more popular.
Louder and shorter:
Music has been getting louder every year, and unless you’re a producer you likely haven’t been focusing on the decibels of music. If you’ve never heard of the “Loudness War” I suggest reading up on it. It’s super interesting, and perfectly explains what we’re seeing with modern music. It’s a “trend of increasing audio levels in recorded music”. Engineers and producers do all that they can to make the music loud without sacrificing quality. The process of mixing and mastering becomes a super complicated chess game for this reason. Concerts are also getting louder, which is not great news for audio professionals attempting to preserve their hearing. If you’re curious, this article goes through the details of why we like loud music and why concerts are getting louder.
In addition to getting louder music is also getting shorter. This is due to streaming apps like Spotify and their low payouts which averages “between $0.004 and $0.008 per stream, which gives artists an incentive to create shorter tracks”. So, the reason for shorter songs can be chocked up to business and money. The thought process is why dedicate resources to a full 4 minute song when you’re going to get the same money and effect from a 2 minute track. This is definitely not helping our dwindling attention span, but it was bound to happen. Many people don’t listen to full albums anymore, which is also why artists (aside from some rappers) have shortened their albums. Fan dedication isn’t what it used to be, and artist dedication doesn’t seem to be either.
It is also impossible to ignore the growing influence of Kpop; Western music had all but done away with intricate choreographies but they appear to be resurfacing with the global kpop scene. Artists like Janet Jackson, Britney Spears, Ciara, and Usher were some American performers of the past decades who dominated the stage with intense choreographies (the modern equivalent would be Beyonce). While we had a few performers who carried on performing, there was a clear dip in dance in the music industry. Cheer up though, it’s definitely having a comeback. The VMAs provided hope this year, at least for the pop power girls. Artists like Chloe Bailey, Normani, and Doja Cat gave us show-stopping performances that included performing while singing and dancing. Normani’s performance was influenced by Janet Jackson and Aaliyah, and Chloe is Beyonce’s protege. There is a clear legacy line taking place, so perhaps these young stars are bringing back the power of live performances due to their mentors. It is impossible to ignore the global success of kpop when discussing choreographies in music. Most of kpop is influenced by American music from a multitude of decades. Sometimes there are multiple genres and decade styles within one song. The dances that go along with the tracks range from super intense to intricate to an easy follow-along. Fans learn dances and use choreographies as a way to work out, socialize, and form a community. American labels are definitely taking notes of the music industry overseas, especially because of how successful they are, and the world-famous reputation of their loyal fandoms. We can’t say for certain what the resurgence of dance in music was sparked by, but whatever it is we’re glad choreographies are making a comeback. Hopefully, we’ll see more western performers embrace dance!
With in-person concerts slowly coming back, artists and labels will likely adopt a hybrid approach for marketing. This means that some activities will be held remotely and others in venues. During the peak of the pandemic, we have seen top artists such as BTS lead the way in online concerts and content. The success of the band, and others with a similar approach, lead us to believe that this mixed approach is likely to continue. One of the social media platforms that have brought success for independent and major artists alike is TikTok. During the pandemic TikTok became an inescapable portal of creativity; the exposure potential for artists was through the roof. While the TikTok interaction machine has inevitably slowed down, it is still a major platform that new artists should embrace and use to their full advantage. There is a direct correlation between viral videos on TikTok and streaming numbers. Artists are also growing loyal followings on the app, and the numbers in their streams and sales are their proof of concept. Ole Obermann explained the reason for this best when he said that “TikTok is a platform that is about music engagement – not consumption. It’s a new form of fandom”. According to streaming statistics “video streaming still leads the pack and will make up 82% of Internet traffic by the year 2022”. For this reason, we will likely see more emphasis on music videos and other visual elements that accompany music. Keep an eye on Youtube and TikTok, as these video-sharing platforms will be key throughout the next years. People also began to stream content more over the pandemic, while this may slow down as things gradually start to reopen there is still an unprecedented number of people now active in these social media spaces.