Home LifeStyle One woman’s realization that there’s a reason why pop music is so … popular.

One woman’s realization that there’s a reason why pop music is so … popular.

by белый

One woman’s realization that there’s a reason why pop music is so … popular.

I was in ninth grade when I first discovered good music. I heard an obscure punk song coming out of the art room after school one day and it resonated instantly due to its raw emotion and erratic singing style. What was this unique sound and how could I get my hands on more of it? It turned out to be a short-lived riot grrrl band from Boston that hadn’t recorded much, but discovering it led me to other underground bands with feminist ideologies and a fast-growing obsession with punk rock in general. I was hooked. Soon, I was ordering records from tiny indie labels; taking the train from the suburbs, where I lived, to New York City to see these bands live; “finding myself” in this alternative world. 

Later, I took this infatuation to the next level, playing in punk bands in my 20s, becoming a writer and interviewing musicians I admired (Kathi Wilcox, Ari Up, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge). Punks can be kind of obnoxious — in addition to standing for a bunch of positive things (feminism, equality, etc.) — and I fell into this category hard: I was a punk purist, an indie snob. I prided myself on stanning bands no one else had heard of and defined myself by this genre I loved so much. 

As a result of all this, I had managed to ignore conventional music almost completely for eons. Which is why when I took up leisurely jogging (to call it running would be too generous) years after discovering punk and found myself putting pop tracks on my exercise mixes, I was … surprised. 

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My “running” playlists began like any others, with bands you’d only hear on college radio, tracks with an added upbeat tempo or emotional fuel: Austra, A Tribe Called Quest, Perfume Genius, Sleater-Kinney, and the like. Then, I added a Drake song with a high BPM that I’d heard somewhere. Soon, some Eminem. A little mainstream for my usual taste, but arguably fine. This turned out to be just the beginning, though, a mere gateway drug for much more basic, arguably cheesier — but catchy and melodic! — tunes. What followed was David Guetta, Pitbull, Maroon 5, The Lumineers, you get the idea … music I was embarrassed to admit I exercised to, let alone was starting to straight-up like. 

"You know, you don’t have to listen to Macklemore when you run,” my best friend said to me one day. “You can exercise to good music.” (We were all insufferable.) I could, but did I have to? Did I want to? These Top 40 songs — and by then I had fallen further down the rabbit hole and was continually searching Spotify for new ones — made me want to move. With their uptempo beats and fast BPMs, they were highly motivating, inspiring, energizing, fun.

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Singers crooned in my earbuds about bad breakups, meeting up on the dance floor, being better off on their own. I hadn’t been single in years or to a club since teen night in eighth grade, but the un-relatability was perhaps part of the appeal. It was the audio equivalent of binging two seasons of The Bachelor late into the night. 

Almost a decade later, I still hadn’t broken the habit, so I did the only logical thing I could think to do: I gave in. I took my Top 40 tunes — now with Harry Styles and Shawn Mendes added to the fold — beyond the running mix and just started listening to them whenever: when I was getting ready to go out, while driving to pick up my toddler at the end of a busy work day, during the rare minutes when I was home alone getting stuff done. I felt empowered by the beat and the energy. I found it motivating (there it is again! — clearly a big part of the attraction), refreshing, a way to temporarily wipe away all the nagging thoughts of what needed to be responded to, shopped for, washed, scheduled, planned. 


These “embarrassing” songs were great for running, but that wasn’t all: They got my heart rate up; my feet tapping to the beat; they offered a release that esoteric, heady music didn’t always give me, and I needed that. I wanted that. Finally embracing these beloved Top 40 tunes (and sometimes there’s good music crossover, too — hello, Lizzo!), I felt a sense of relief. I could like X-Ray Spex and Glass Animals at the same time, and that was OK. 

I still love good music, that won’t change, but what that means has expanded. I have a deep passion for the stuff — it makes sense that my love for it could cross genres, traverse barriers. Once a fan, always a fan. The only question is: What’s next?

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