Music defining an era: The future of music during a global pandemic

Music defining an era: The future of music during a global pandemic

The future is now

Text: Yong Le Man

Musically, what will 2020 be remembered for?

There are all kinds of music roaming the airwaves in this present day. Anything from Haitian-influenced drum beats you'd hear on Montreal-based indie-rock band Arcade Fire's 2013 critically acclaimed LP Reflektor to Doug E. Fresh & Slick Rick's classic way back in 1985 La Di Da Di, it's safe to say that we're well spoilt for choice in 2020.

With over a 100 million songs produced blessing our ears since the dawn of time, one might wonder how musical artists continue to set themselves apart, creating beats and genre-bending tracks that both express what they want to say whilst keeping it fresh.

We'd say the advent of Digital Audio Workstations (DAW) such as Logic Pro and Ableton Live has a large part in that. Gone are the days of big record labels and producers. Recording a beat? Plug your guitar into your computer and start playing. Need a drum kit to add rhythm and tempo to your chord progression? Download your favourite drum loop and layer that over your chords. Lacking some spice and flavour? Snag a sample from a Youtube video you watched recently of a Hindustani sitar quartet. Slap on some audio effects like reverb or chorus while you're at it. DAWs gave people the ability to collect sounds from all parts of the world, and synergise them into their own production — this is what we call the globalisation of music.

Riding the new wave of music production, 2019 saw the rise of an entirely new genre of music amidst the wide variety and assortment of genres already available: bedroom pop.

So, what is bedroom pop, exactly? You could say it's the product of singer-songwriters looking to express themselves and put out their music on a platform within a budget. You can write a song, record it in your bedroom (where its name came from), and release it onto Spotify or Soundhound all in a week. Clairo's Pretty Girl — one of the first songs we would consider to be bedroom pop — wasn't stellar. It featured a cheesy drum machine beat, poorly recorded vocals, and straightforward lyrics. However, it has over 140 millions streams on Spotify alone, and for good reason; the rawness, intimacy and do-it-yourself mentality made us want to listen more. Well, and not forgetting Clairo's ridiculously soothing falsetto harmonies, of course.

What is more intriguing is the ramifications it has on music as a whole. There's a whole new following and study on music production and research with record stores making way for online music streaming platforms, as well as ever-mounting tension between individual and collective efforts when it comes to musicians and their once-beloved producers.

However, this article isn't about last year. As some of you may know, COVID-19 happened. If 2019 was the year of bedroom pop, what is 2020's biggest music trend and in our new normal?

To begin, Spotify has noticed more “chill” music on users’ playlists in general as people add songs that are noticeably more acoustic, less danceable, and have lower energy than songs they’ve added in the past. Similarly, Pandora is seeing increases in the following categories: Cleaning, Wind-Down, Focus, and Family.

Many artists have taken a hint of the world's sombreness. Indie-electronic duo HONNE released a mellow and home-recorded mixtape titled no song without you — a distinct departure from their upbeat and high energy tracks in the past. Oxford-based indie-pop band Glass Animals also followed in the same vein with their melancholy-inducing LP Dreamland, released just last week.

Most importantly, if there's any takeaway from this year, it is that musicians realised the full potential of their music. That is, the power they possess to not only say what they feel, but also to influence generations and cultures of a world imagined.

We're talking, of course, about #Blacklivesmatter. An important cultural milestone for equality, discrimination and prejudice worldwide, musicians prove empowered to use their voices for social justice. Logic has been no stranger in talking about social issues throughout his discography, while Anderson .Paak took this opportunity to release Lockdown, a catchy R&B beat with powerful and thought-provoking lyrics that keep the BLM movement at the front and centre of people's minds.

if 2019 was the year of bedroom pop, 2020 is, simply put, the continuation of lo-fi, mellow sounding music that has been appealing the masses as of late. Lyrically, this is the year where musicians worldwide discover the power in their voices. More than ever, songs produced in this pandemic-stricken year have been brutally honest. Matt Maltsese cries for help in his Ballad of a Pandemic, Alicia Keys speaks strongly of her empowerment in So Done alongside Khalid's silky smooth baritenor, and Miley Cyrus doesn't spare any detail in retelling her turbulent personal life in the past year in her latest disco-infused endeavour, Midnight Sky.

In a world ridden with political turmoil and a global pandemic, here lies our silver lining. 2020 will be the year of power, with music not only acting as instruments for self-expression, but for cultural revolution, to talk about things bigger than just you and me. But what does this mean for the long term future of music, and the way we consume it? Only time will tell.