Don't dismiss pop music just because it's mainstream

A Demi Lovato-spurred defense of the popular music genre

Screenshot from YouTube

Gone are the days when emotional pop songs from artists like Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men topped the charts AND received public acclaim. In today's music landscape, if you want your music to be considered 'good', the typical advice is to avoid the pop genre at all costs. But why is music considered ‘bad’ just because it’s made for a majority of people to enjoy?

Since it's one of the only times I won't feel guilty about dedicating my time purely to music, I download a new album before every train ride I take. Last week before boarding my VIA Rail, I was in a rush and randomly clicked Apple Music's first album on its new release list: Demi Lovato's Tell Me You Love Me.

I’ve never been opposed to listening to pop music, but it certainly differs from my music taste in general. I normally spring for an unheard rising R&B star, or a buzzworthy new rap album. And yet here I was, jamming my brains out to Demi Lovato. 

Tell Me You Love Me contains 12 undeniably catchy and diverse vocal showcases for Lovato — she can belt about father issues over an EDM track or serenade about unsatisfying relationships over a piano. Either way, that girl can sing. Her songs are fun, intense and emotional. But they're pop.

Over the past weekend, I was asked by friends for music recommendations three times. I typically suggest songs found at the edge of the Apple Music stratosphere, but this week I suggested a few songs from Demi Lovato's album. And not one of my friends listened.

When I pressed one friend why she skipped over my recommendation, she claimed she’d rather listen to 'better' music than that of pop star Lovato. She said something similar earlier in the year when I suggested a Calvin Harris song, and an Ariana Grande song before that.

There seems to be an unspoken understanding that whatever 'good' music is, it isn't pop. The argument is essentially that for music to be popular, songs must be so condensed and emotionally weightless that they fit into tiny boxes record labels can shoot out to radio stations across the world. Often when these pop songs are reduced to nothing but a catchy hook, they carry no real significance or uniqueness. 

This stance can also largely be applied to mainstream media as a whole. The whole idea of 'mainstream', at least in the eyes of those who seek 'better' music is that the quality of art is cheapened in order to extract a dollar and 29 cents from as many people as possible. It’s believed that being mainstream is bad for creative mediums because it requires artists to quiet their message. Yet, on her lead single — which, yes, has already sold a million copies — Lovato lets us know that we are "f***ing with a savage." I don't know about you, but I hear her message loud and clear.

I'm not trying to solely defend Demi Lovato. I'm also not trying to defend mainstream media as a whole — the number of pop artists who do claim their record labels want a popular hit over a meaningful message is absurd. I'm also not even trying to convince you to listen to pop music. All I want is for us, as a community, to keep an open mind towards it.

Mainstream media, like top-of-the-charts pop music, is mostly created by massive companies pouring even more massive amounts of money into projects to gain an unspeakably — you guessed it — massive profit.

But let's look at this process in a different light. Powerful companies are endlessly funding some of the most talented people in the world to create the best media they can. Doesn't it make sense that occasionally, some of that media is bound to turn out well? Maybe even better than other media?

Everyone has their own specific music tastes, and no matter how hard "Despacito" tries, one song will never be able to please the entire world. It's pretty impressive, then, that a genre of music is consistently able to charm large groups of people on the regular.

All I ask is that we don't dismiss pop music simply because it is made for the masses. And, for goodness' sake, give Demi Lovato a chance. That girl works hard.

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