2017 and the Big Pop Music Chill Out

As we head into the heat of summer, you've probably noticed how chilled out pop music sounds these days. The Billboard Hot 100 is less about four-to-the-floor bombast and more about light disco and singer-songwriter fair. Perhaps this year's charts owe as much to the 1970s as they do to the evolving trends put forth in 2016 by Justin Beiber, Zayne. Britney Spears, Selena Gomez, and the Chainsmokers, among others.

Here are three songs that represent this growing trend for laid-back pop.

"Bon Apetit" by Katy Perry

Katy Perry is a key player in pop's evolution. The first single from her Witness era, the excellent "Chained to the Rhythm," launched "woke pop" with gentle dance beats and satirical lyrics. Her latest tune, "Bon Apetit," builds on that trend to include sexual politics, especially when paired with its official video. The video's revenge cannibal feminism is both a campy and ballsy move. Perry makes pop music a more interesting art form, and her new album will be a game-changer.

"Malibu" by Miley Cyrus

After all of her hip-hop posturing on Bangerz and the nonsensical drug ramblings of Dead Petz, Miley channels Carole King on "Malibu." The most direct homage to 70s singer-songwriters on this list, the song could easily play along side anything on King's Tapestry (not to mention both are heavily influenced by the California landscape). There may be some balking at Cyrus's sonic 180, including valid claims that she used black culture for her own gain on Bangerz and then ditched it when it was no longer useful to her. That said, "Malibu" sets a new artistic benchmark for the star, stripped of her previous obsessions in favor of strong craft.

"The Cure" by Lady Gaga

I stopped listening to Lady Gaga a long time ago. With the pandering and artistic cribbing of "Born This Way," she lost me, and Art Pop followed by Joanne did nothing to regain my attention. However, her latest tune, "The Cure," is an exception. Working with a light disco sound similar to Perry's latest, "The Cure" is back to basics for Gaga, and her music hasn't been this pleasing since "Bad Romance."Again, what I like here is the lack of posturing in favor of clarity--a positive change for Gaga's music.

Pop music always changes to meet the public's needs. Singer-songwriter music and disco took hold after the political turmoil of the late 60s and a slew of rock star tragedies. Carole King, Joni, Mitchell, James Taylor, Donna Summer, Cher, and their peers eased those ills with soft rock and fun dance music, as well as explored the evolving social mores of their generation. 

Similarly, Perry, Cyrus, and Gaga are working in response to the upsets of 2016--a horrific election season, Brexit, anti LGBT violence, and racial tension. These events empowered Perry to get political, while Gaga and Cyrus seem to be turning their attention back to love. It will be the combination of these two complimentary approaches that reshape the music landscape. 

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