The Holy Trinity of Anti-Pop: A Genre of Musical Fluidity

by Edward Lucano

Staff Spotify and Chill

I love pants. Jeans, chinos, joggers – you name it, I wear it. The allure of showing off my prize-winning calves in a pair of shorts on a hot summer day pales in comparison to the way my denim-clad string bean legs contrast with the crisp golden hues of Fordham’s fall foliage. Personally, I like to cuff the legs of my pants twice; one cuff would cause my trousers to ride low on my ankles and awkwardly graze my Stan Smiths, but three cuffs would expose too much ankle, thereby compromising my warmth and masculinity. All cuffs aside, the headphones I hold in my left pocket are the most crucial component of any walk around campus I have ever found myself on, and nine times out of ten I could have been found listening to the same genre: anti-pop.

Anti-pop is an ever-growing amalgamation of songs and artists with musical styles that do not conform to one particular genre of music. For instance, an anti-pop record could derive its sound from alternative, jazz or hip hop either individually or all at the same time. Ironically, anti-pop’s subtle rise up the charts is rooted in its ability to fly under the radar at the same time. Although this overarching term was coined by Spotify’s namesake playlist, its fluidity leaves its contents up to individual interpretation. Therefore, in an effort to reflect the diversity of its artists, here are three acts that I think give anti-pop such an interesting reputation: Rex Orange County, Boy Pablo and Brockhampton.

Alex O’Conner, otherwise known as Rex Orange County, is a singer-songwriter out of Surrey, England. Although he is only twenty years old, Rex has taken the music scene by storm with starry-eyed ballads such as “Best Friend” and infectious piano bops like “Loving Is Easy,” which actually earned him over fifty million Spotify plays and a live performance on The Tonight Show. Whenever I see a girl from my high school post a Huji selfie on Instagram with a quote from a Rex song as its caption (this has only happened to me twice but it is still worth noting) I cannot help but think that I started listening to his music way before he even had a bandwagon to hop on. There have been numerous songs written about love and longing over the course of songwriting history, but the bare instrumental approach and honest lyrics Rex uses allows his message to be more relatable than that of an overplayed pop song whose chorus is only a Zedd feature.

Our next act spans the globe by drawing its roots all the way from Chile to Norway to form an indie-rock project known as Boy Pablo. Lead singer and rhythm guitarist Nicolas Pablo Muñoz offers a unique insight on love and loss through his seamless fusion of melancholy vocals and invigorating chord progressions. In my opinion, each song off of the band’s 2017 EP, Roy Pablo, has made me want to stand outside in the pouring rain and profess my love to the girl of my dreams by holding a boombox outside her bedroom window. It is almost as if Boy Pablo’s music could be the soundtrack of the emotional journey of every 80’s teen movie protagonist combined. For instance, “Ready / Problems” helps the band’s audience cope with one-sided feelings and a subsequent lack of conflict resolution while “Dance, Baby!’ characterizes the hypothetical triumph of winning your former sweetheart back at the big homecoming dance. Nostalgia aside, Boy Pablo’s inherent sense of yearning and uncertainty is what anti-pop is all about.

Keeping the flexibility of this musical genre in mind, anti-pop is no stranger to high-octane club bangers and bass-thumping rap tracks. By this token, Brockhampton replaces the peace and quiet of Rex Orange County and Boy Pablo with fourteen energetic rappers and producers whose sole intention is to make the foundation of any concert venue quake and crumble. Led by vocalists Kevin Abstract, Matt Champion and Merlyn Wood, Brockhampton took the 2017 hip hop scene by storm with the highly anticipated release of their three-album Saturation project. For example, Saturation III’s “BOOGIE” combines an early 2000’s Slim Shady dynamism with blaring sirens and thumping bass while Saturation II’s “TOKYO” is like a jazz concert fueled by Red Bull and Pop Rocks. Despite the youthful exuberance of the group, the underlying message behind Brockhampton’s music tackles social issues such as sexuality and race relations in America. Either way, this self-proclaimed boyband is not going anywhere anytime soon.

Essentially, any song can be part of the anti-pop family because the whole genre is all about finding one’s own voice through those of artists with a platform of autonomy. Hopefully one day the world will love this type of music as much as I love to wear pants.

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