the coming of age of bedroom pop

Alana Brown-Davis

If you’re an aficionado on all things contemporary music, then you would be remiss if you didn’t include Bedroom Pop in your musical discussions. Nine times out of ten, you’ve probably heard it as the accompanying soundtrack to one of your favorite teen-oriented Netflix shows, or in a lo-fi playlist recommended to you by Youtube’s algorithm. Bedroom Pop had begun to generate a large fanbase prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the emergence of singer-songwriters such as Clairo, girl in red, and Beabadoobee onto the scene. Part of its name draws from this DIY model that allows artists to just “be.” That’s because Bedroom Pop is a genre made by young people who made music without considering the possibility of record deals. Perhaps that is how the careers of many of our favorite singers and bands have started, but in this era of social media saturated artistry, it is vital for musicians to have that art-for-art sake’s mentality that has been missing in popular music. Although the help of the Internet and online platforms has propelled bedroom pop artists into stardom, the nexus of this genre revolves around the ideology that anyone can create music. Being able to create music with the help of one’s own devices and instruments, gives artists intimacy with their art. In any other day and age, it would be a pain for young amateur artists to be able to afford making music and promoting it in a large arena. By knowing how to use musical softwares to your advantage and being able to navigate the confusing realm of the Internet and its little sister: social media, the idea of putting out content doesn’t feel as daunting. 

Bedroom Pop is Gen Z’s garage rock. It has an infectious kinetic energy that pulls influences from everywhere. The lyrics revolve around typical young adult topics like anxiety, and longing. It’s rare to hear any Bedroom Pop songs that sound contrived or watered down. You can practically pick out a Bedroom Pop song when you hear it. Why? It doesn’t have the definition of a studio sound supported by a wide array of mixers and engineers. That characteristic isn’t a bad thing, but more of an aesthetic choice. Some bedroom pop tunes have dreamy, ethereal shoegaze influences while others contain mixtures of industrial trap and indie rock. It lets us know that the creator isn’t concerned with the mainstream reception of their music, and rather, using music as a medium of self-expression. Technologies such as SoundCloud and GarageBand granted young people the liberty of creating art in an unconventional space. It’s flawed, yet polished in such a way that makes the listener marvel at its playfulness and refusal to cater to musi A most recent example is Steve Lacy’s hit song “Bad Habit” from his sophomore album “Gemini Rights.” The album was recorded at The Village, a studio in West L.A., but many of the tracks have a distinct, fuzzy flair to it that feels very much like Bedroom Pop.  Looking back at his artistic history, this is no surprise. In an interview with WIRED, Steve Lacy demonstrated how he produced music with the help of his iPhone, Garage Band, and his guitar. His production technique resulted in a Grammy nomination for his band The Internet and their 2015 album Ego Death. Around this time Lacy was also producing for household names like Kendrick Lamar, Ravyn Lenae, and Tyler, the Creator. To top off his achievements, Steve Lacy was able to accomplish all of this all while only being in high school. 

One’s bedroom is usually their sanctuary. A small, yet inviting place where one can go to cry, take deep breaths, or simply take a nap. You can even make a few songs with the help of a production software such as Garage Band, like singer/ Youtube vlogger Conan Gray once did. Gray documented his journey from a central Texas military kid into a UCLA art student through his videos as well as his music. He released his first EP Sunset Season in 2018, and two years later dropped his debut album Kid Krow, which spawned two TikTok propelled singles “Maniac” and “Heather.” Perhaps one of the most well-known forerunners of Bedroom Pop are the brother-sister duo Billie Eilish and FINNEAS. Finneas wrote and produced the majority of his sister’s catalog in the comfort of their childhood home. Eilish’s debut album “When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go” won six Grammys in 2020, not counting FINNEAS’ win for Producer of the Year. Bedrooms provide us solace and most importantly, privacy. Privacy and solitude are fundamental to the creation of art, because it forces us in a way to sit with our emotions and discover the roots of the way we feel. Places like bedrooms ,which can function as safe spaces, allow this to happen.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of Bedroom Pop is the way that it connects to the youth. It’s not perfect music and has never tried to be. Although many Bedroom Pop artists have shown a disdain for the label, it does welcome an idea of ease and flexibility. One of the reasons for the dislike of the name is because it is a misnomer. The genre isn’t only meant for people who make music in their bedrooms, nor is it strictly composed of independent artists. Singer Still Woozy voiced his sentiments in an interview with Complex stating, “You don’t have to worry about wasting people’s time or feeling uncomfortable in a studio… but nobody wants to stay static or be put in a box.” He adds, “There seems to be a less pretentious attitude in a lot of current music which feels like a breath of fresh air.” There seems to be no idealism involved in Bedroom Pop. When you look at pop in the past and present, a lot of times the focus is on what makes a hit which could possibly get the artist that special award or platinum record. This type of rigidity can hinder artists from exploring other areas of music that they may be interested in – a reason why a lot of newer artists have adopted the term “genre-fluid” as their artistic identity. I wouldn’t necessarily say that this group of artists operate with an “I don’t care” attitude, because they have a sincere care for their fan base’s response to their music. However, in a time where pop music can often feel contrived and watered-down, this approach is beneficial. It reminds these artists of their individual “whys” – why they began to create music and why they continue to create music.

The COVID-19 pandemic helped cement Bedroom Pop’s status in contemporary music discussions. With the closure of many artistic spaces including studios and other venues, artists beyond the juggernauts of this genre had to return to the simplicity of making music in confined areas. At the same time, TikTok had begun to dominate the music industry even more than it did before. With TikTok and Bedroom Pop music gaining popularity at the same time, they combined in a way that has made the two defining parts of the Gen Z experience in the 2020s and beyond. 

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AUTHOR BIO:

My name is Alana Brown-Davis and I’m a young black writer from Mississippi. I currently attend Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College where I major in journalism. I enjoy writing about all things music, pop culture, and literature. I love anime, college football, and poetry so if you want to chat about any of those things hit me up on my socials!!

AGE: 18

LOCATION:
Mississippi

SOCIAL MEDIA HANDLE 

IG: @__.allanaa.__

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Sources:

https://www.acpsk12.org/theogony/2019-2020/the-rise-of-bedroom-pop/

https://bippermedia.com/bedroom-pop-music-and-its-influence-on-gen-z/

https://www.complex.com/pigeons-and-planes/2018/04/bedroom-pop-diy-artists/

Image Sources:

https://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/steve-lacy-gemini-rights/

https://themarias.bandcamp.com/album/superclean-vol-i-2

https://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/omar-apollo-apolonio/

https://michaelseyer.bandcamp.com/album/bad-bonez

https://open.spotify.com/track/1BYZxKSf0aTxp8ZFoeyM3d

https://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/cuco-para-mi/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/When_We_All_Fall_Asleep,_Where_Do_We_Go%3F

https://open.spotify.com/album/5bo68qHIH6DqSGqmJs6Yky