In the last year or so, pop has 'popped.' All or most of the boy bands have split up, and most of the pop divas have lost populatity. It's safe to say that the trend is gone for another few years. However, something has to replace it. I think that there are two kinds of music to replace the boy bands and the divas.
Before i get into it, I'll provide the definiton of "pop" that i am working with. Rather than simply "popular music" I will (in this article) refer to pop as music that is geared towards a mass audience, with no intent to offend anyone. "Radio-friendly" is a good way to describe it.
Hip-hop is the obvious answer here. Justin Timberlake is doing songs with Nelly (one of the biggest rappers in the business these days). Junior high kids are buying Eminem's CD's in record numbers. Hip-hop radio stations are springing up all over the place (I live in Calgary, and we got two rap stations in the last year). The ideal of the boy band has been replaced by the hip-hop "crew." Just a bunch of black guys instead of white guys, wearing big jeans and shiny shirts, rather than tank tops and leather pants. Instead of Britney Spears, people like Ashanti.
This boom in the rap business is leading to the ruin of good rap. Songs are becoming more and more radio friendly, many are actually using the sounds of radio editing as a part of the song. It's becoming formulaic, and dull. Take 50 Cent for example. Dr. Dre and Eminem basically built him a career from the ground up, because he fits the image. The fact that rap has always been about selling out doesn't help. By this I mean, the ideal life of a rapper is to get rich, quick, and never look back. NOT to sell out to the record label and become another clone. A different definition of "selling out" applies in this case. Sadly, we ARE getting these clones nowadays.
This is exactly what has happened to regular pop music over the decades. The Beatles (although their entire career escapes categorization) started out as a pop band. They sang songs about love and holding hands and happy things, and they were damn good at it. Then they came out with the Monkees, and countless other bands trying to recreate the formula, and it got ruined. In the 80's Michael Jackson recreated pop, and did a fantastic job of it. Pretty soon, any bonehead with a catchy phrase and a rythm in his head was in the recording studio, ruining pop once again. The New Kids on the Block redefined the idea of a boy band, and then along came 4 other boy bands, and ruined it all. Madonna created the image of a pop diva, now we have them all over the place.
Now, we see the same occurrence in rap. I would argue that Nelly, Jay-Z and Ja Rule (to name a few) have redefined rap to be more radio-friendly and have a mass appeal. Now, countless others are jumping on the bandwagon and ruining it for the good guys.
But, just as the Beatles had the Rolling Stones, Rap needs an opposing, yet equally popular alternative. You guessed it. Nu-metal. Think about this. How many kids do you know who listen to Korn? Slipknot? Mudvayne? Thousands. Millions. And it's becoming popularized. Every time I turn on my radio, I hear Chevelle, Disturbed, Opeth, Trust Company, Linkin Park etc...
But how can this be? Nu-metal is so dark. So contoversial. So inappropriate. Your parents hate the stuff. When my mom's parents discovered a copy of The Rolling Stones' "Sticky Fingers" album in her room, she was grounded for a month. It's all perspective. Nobody in the mainstream made music about drug use (Dead Flowers) violence (Street Fighting Man) and death (Paint It Black) back in the early 60's, until the Stones did it.
Now, we have Nu-metal bands singing about suicide, hatred, abuse, pain and anger with more blatancy than ever before. And the pop progression apples. Nine Inch Nails and Korn did it right, and now everyone else is diluting the talent pool. I'm not trying to rip on Nu-Metal here, I just want to point out how rapidly it is becoming popularized. The old "Beatles vs the Stones" debate could soon become "Justin vs. Slipknot"
And many may be asking: "Where does pop-punk fit into all of this?" I would lump it in with nu-metal, simply because it appeals to millions of kids, the songs are about pain, relationships, depression, politics, etc... and it's also a good alternative to hip-hop. The sound is just a little peppier than with nu-metal. I know the two genres are quite different, but in this case, their few commonalities are what I'm looking at.
So we see the revolving door of popularity has once again turned, and a couple of new genres are getting their five years of fame. I wonder what will be next? Hopefully a classic rock revival of some sort...
Just my thoughts. Take them as you will.