But I’ve come to realize that bedroom pop, as it has evolved, has evolved with a tragic flaw. Genericness. Whether melodically, sonically, vocally, or lyrically, most bedroom pop artists and songs are plagued with being too generic in at least one of the aforementioned categories.
Warning: about to get a little nerdy here.
There is a term in trademark law, genericide, that describes when a trademark loses its distinctive identity as a result of being used to refer to any product or service of its kind. We’re familiar with this concept. It’s when we say Kleenex instead of tissue or when xerox was bigger and replaced copying. Through genericide, you can actually lose your legal claim (and the right to protect) your trademarks, leaving the trademark useless.
I believe bedroom pop and its artists are facing its own version of genericide. No, it’s not as if Clairo is becoming synonymous with bedroom pop and we’re going to start saying Clairo when we mean bedroom pop. This is more of an inverse genericide. What once was a fun and exciting (at least I thought it was—at the very least different) genre has now become rather boring and increasingly over saturated. Bedroom pop artists are losing their distinctive identity and pretty soon each artists will become perfect substitutes for each other. Rather than the artist becoming synonymous with the genre, the genre will replace every artist because they are indistinguishable from each other. If you’re not following, I apologize. I’m almost done.
I realize I have only mentioned female artists so far, but the male artists in this genre are party to this shortcoming. Every girl or boy or gender neutral individual that’s all in their feelings can sit in their bedroom literally and write this music, and I’ve just become increasingly unimpressed with the next bedroom pop artist that is gaining traction.
I first realized this driving home one night when I decided to check out the artist Griff. She had been gaining considerable traction online, so I figured it’d be worth checking out. I was unimpressed. It wasn’t bad. I just thought it was more of the same which led me to the thoughts expressed in this post.
Now, there is one exception that I’ve found. Clairo, who I have mentioned in this post and started out as one of the most significant and more recent breakout bedroom pop stars, has evolved into something much more, and it’s delightful. It’s also arguable that Billie Eilish started in this genre, but I’m not going to count her. Clairo took something and then teamed up with pop super producer and genius, Jack Antonoff to transform into something that’s proven to be so much more elegant and beautiful than anything Clairo has ever done before. And therein lies the key. I mean, it definitely helps when you team up with the hottest pop producer, but still, if the bedroom pop stars can then continue to evolve, they can rise above the inverse genericide that has emerged in their genre. Because god, the first chapter of each of these has become so derivative and unoriginal and… generic.
I also don’t believe that bedroom pop is the only genre suffering from this malady. I recently had a talk with Chuck, frontman of the band Brother., about how it seems that everyone just sounds so either similar or unoriginal. Genericness is a virus that had infected just about every band trying to make their way in the music industry. If you don’t believe me, just listen to any artist/song that only gets big on social media. I want to blame TikTok for this, but at the risk of sounding geriatric, I won’t.
And even though streaming has helped save the music industry from certain ruin with illegal downloading, it has caused new problems. While the internet makes it possible for anyone to make it big, it also makes it near impossible to really gain the traction of a loyal fan base. It has guaranteed that unless you have a certain amount of luck of getting heard by the right people or having the right connections, you are a very small fish in a very large ocean.
You can see the effects this has had on songwriting. In pop, unless you are part of a very special few or if you work with Jack Antonoff, it takes an army of songwriters to write a poo hit. And if you manage to get a hit, then you have to do it again and relatively quickly or people will lose interest.
Now, maybe I am just a cynical, aging millennial who is sad that I’m not a part of the movement. Or maybe years down the road when a lot of these artists have been long forgotten bedroom pop will be just a minor footnote in the long history of music. I hope someone comes along and proves me wrong, blows me out of the water and shows me that bedroom pop is here to stay, but until then, I’ll wait. And maybe while I’m waiting I’ll be all in my feelings with Olivia Rodrigo.
So, come here often?