As we cross off the last days of lockdown, it’s possible to look back with a certain kind of fondness for the wacky haircuts, endless Zoom calls and long walks to which we have been subjected. A backtrack to all this madness is music, pumping through our veins 24/7 as we groped our way through the past few months, and with life changing so drastically under restrictions it is inevitable that methods of creating music have changed accordingly. Indeed, it fits snugly into the changes the overall narrative of music-making has undergone – accounting for the rise of Social Media and the consequent wave of music coming in from all over the world. The new mixing and mingling of languages has resulted in a whole new sound indicative of the unprecedented global character of our current world.
The external influences of social media, and its ability to interlock its users into a network of endless cat-videos, have naturally made their way into the popular music industry and the way music is created. Case in point, TikTok. Considering the massive 800% uptick in users since 2018, you would be hard done by finding a Gen-Zer with absolutely no knowledge of the app. The platform is constantly gushing out new sounds and artists into the world, a result of being built on an algorithm that constantly filters out a mass of new clips averaging at 15 seconds to its users. Given the time span of the average TikTok, songwriters have been inspired to create ‘soundbite’ songs so that they might have viral opportunity. Feeding into the legend of Internet Memes, dance challenges and similar trends result in the popularity of songs that feature addictively repetitive hooks that can be consumed in small 15 second morsels – snippets from Cardi B & Megan Thee Stallion’s smash-hit WAP and Rex Orange County’s wholesomely sweet Best Friend are both prime examples of this.
In addition, TikTok has played a part in the search for more innovative approaches from artists in order to differentiate themselves from the hundreds of other songs that pour in each day, as evidenced by Spotify’s New Music Friday function. It has resulted in the cross-pollination of genres in the pursuit of ‘something different’ from the traditional cookie-cutter pop. This pursuit could account for the success of Lil Nas X’s Old Town Road ( and a plethora of remixes) with its strong Country twang over a hard-hitting trap beat.
With regards to languages, recent hits and the rising popularity of international acts in Anglo-America represent the desire of those scattered around the world to hear their own languages on the radio or on TV. As the world has opened up on the screens of younger generations it has become much easier to access media in languages they would hear at home, or to activate an interest in a culture they previously had no ties to.
Through music in particular, it is easy to identify yourself within the melodies and rhythms of a song, regardless of lyrics. Even without any understanding of the language being crooned, it is still natural to move in time to the vigorous beat of Aya Nakamura’s Copines. Whilst this has simultaneously opened the Anglo-American market up to more overseas acts, it has also stimulated English-speaking acts to tap into their roots or cultures of interest. Take for example, Selena Gomez’s explorations into Spanish with the dreamy colours of De Una Vez, a reflection of the wider movement towards recognising and celebrating one’s cultural heritage within the Anglosphere.
Furthermore, songs have long blended languages within their tracks, creating partnerships across language barriers. The Beatles’ sweet ode to Michelle and the vast majority of Kpop songs tie into this broader legacy. In fact, the presence of English is so prevalent that it has now become an identifiable characteristic of Korean popular culture. In more modern contexts this can be found in collaborations between artists worldwide, such as Dua Lipa & Angèle’s feathery Fever, or Super Junior & Leslie Grace’s bold Lo Siento, in which the different syntaxes and vocabularies of each languages relax into each other.
All in all, it is easy to forget that music doesn’t just come out of nowhere. Music cannot exist without human input and with it the experiences and reasonings of each individual who decides to divulge these sensitive topics with the world. In modern society, identity and social media have a profound and far-reaching impact upon our lives, and it is only natural that this is reflected in the way in which music is both created and consumed.
Featured Image: Tech Board by Creative Commons.