Have you noticed how emo, angsty, and nihilistic pop music has become over the past couple years?
The new big releases by Taylor Swift ("Look What You Made Me Do") and Katy Perry ("Swish Swish") sound like crappy rap/bling "music" from the 2000s, not the high-energy anthems of five years ago. I didn't even recognize that that annoying materialistic song about "If I were you, I'd wanna be me too" was by Meghan Trainor until I looked up who sang it -- totally different attitude from her cheerful debut of three years ago (again, the new song being more in the style of the 2000s, a la "Don'tcha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?").
So I went looking through the Billboard year-end charts to see if I was crazy, and no I was not. In the hit songs of 2012 and 2013 there was a peak in tone that was cheerful, carefree, upbeat, and bouncy. I'm talking about the music more than the lyrical content. Several years before, several years after, they sound more melancholic or phlegmatic than they sound sanguine or choleric ("fiesty").
As much as I dislike music after the '80s and hardly ever write about it, even I recognized something was different around 2012-13 and gave credit where it was due. Here is a post from January '13 giving a rare shout-out to a contemporary hit, "Treasure" by Bruno Mars. As this phase was winding down by 2015, I also mentioned "Shut Up and Dance With Me" by Walk the Moon. I kinda liked "Can't Stop the Feeling" by Justin Timberlake from last year, but evidently not enough to post about it. And this year, absolutely nothing.
Going back further in time, I noticed peaks of cheerful carefree music roughly every 15 years -- the late '90s, the early-mid '80s, the late '60s, and the early-mid '50s. Boy bands reliably show up during these peaks, while girl groups usually fall during the more melancholic and nihilistic phases. This left both the 1970s and the 2000s as decades without any concentrated peaks of cheerful wholesome music. But those many periods are the topic for future posts.
For now, a brief look-back at the last peak in case you missed it. I didn't know most of the titles or artist names of these songs until I went from the Billboard chart list to YouTube videos, but I do remember hearing most or all of them. If you were outside the home at all, they were playing on every retail store's sound system. I just thought of it as "H&M music" based on where I heard it the most.
Taylor Swift, "22"
One Direction, "What Makes You Beautiful"
Paramore, "Still Into You"
Icona Pop feat. Charli XCX, "I Love It"