A decade ago, pop music reigned supreme with a whole slew of now-legendary jams topping the charts — P!nk’s “So What,” Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl” and Rihanna’s “Disturbia,” just to name a few.
This week, Maroon 5 assumed the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 with “Girls Like You,” featuring Cardi B. This was the first pop song at the top of the chart since Camila Cabello’s breakout hit “Havana” the week of Jan. 27, ending a 34-week steamroll of rap tracks dominating the list.
Rap’s popularity has been undeniable in recent years, aided by the rise of music streaming platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music. On the Sept. 25 top streaming charts of all genres for Apple Music, 46 of the top 50 were rap songs.
Some of the most powerful and recognizable names in music — rappers like Drake, Cardi B and Post Malone — have been large contributors to the dominance of the rap genre.
But what caused pop music to go dormant?
Two significant factors stick out: the dilution of traditional pop sound among different genres and the absence of definitive heavy-hitting pop artists.
The lines that sector off what counts as pop have always been fluid. From the folk-inspired ballads of Ed Sheeran to the bubblegum radio-friendliness of Ariana Grande and all the boy bands in between, the genre encompasses a vast array of styles and inspirations. Pop music has more of a feeling than a cut-and-dry definition.
Many budding pop stars straddle the lines of the genre, like Halsey’s alt-pop style or Anne-Marie’s pop-EDM synths. Rap has also rubbed off on one-time pop-purists like Grande in her recent hit, “God is a woman.”
Few names besides Grande come to mind when you try to picture a 2018 pop star — her songs are the few and far between glimmers of the withering genre.
In the early 2000s, pop greatness was led by powerhouses such as Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears; by the decade’s end, the torch was passed to divas such as Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. As the end of the 2010s nears, the absence of these clear leaders of the genre is evident.
Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga have each dabbled in country music with their latest albums “Younger Now” and “Joanne,” respectively. Rihanna is busy with her Fenty business empire, and Beyonce has been focusing more on her R&B/hip-hop roots with her latest Jay-Z collaborative album “Everything is Love.”
Relying on B-list pop stars like Cabello or Halsey for greatness seems futile — for every smash hit like “Havana,” there’s a multitude of wannabe chart-toppers that never get there.
Maybe I’m just nostalgic for the days when pop hits like “Bad Romance” or “California Gurls” were being released more frequently. While the diffusion of pop into other genres opens more doors for artists, it still leaves me longing for the glory days of the genre that once was.