Listen Up | Pop Music with a Message

When it comes to pop music, we all have our guilty pleasures (tip of the glitter-filled hat to Kesha). Those are the ones you shamefully listen to only with headphones, unless you’re drunk – then you’re suddenly belting out every memorized lyric between proclamations about how they’re your spirit animal. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.

But I feel those guilty pleasure artists have given all of pop music a bad name. I’m the last person to jump to the defense of pop music, but it is worth noting that there are some artists out there making pop music with a message beyond party jams and sappy love songs.

Twenty One Pilots
While they are not your run-of-the-mill pop band, Twenty One Pilots has gained enough chart exposure to count as popular. But before everyone was singing along with their radio hit “Stressed Out,” they were touting a message of hope that not many have bothered to recognize.

Their first single “Holding On To You” calls out pop music’s lack of content with the lyrics “Lean with it, rock with it / When are we going to stop / With these lyrics that mean nothing / We were gifted with thought.”


Bad Suns
This up-and-coming band probably classifies more as indie-pop, but still fits into the pop genre all the same. Bad Suns delivers plenty of driving percussion and plucky guitar to make their music so danceable, listener’s may not realize the depth of the lyrics laid over the track.

The band’s song “Salt” speaks to identity struggles. The video more specifically focuses on the struggle that transgender individuals experience with lyrics like “Look in the mirror tell me / What it is like to be free / How do I grasp reality / When I don’t have an identity?”


The 1975
Yes, this band makes yet another appearance in my blog. I admit it. The 1975 are the closest thing to monogamy this Music Slut will ever experience. What can I say? When it’s real, it’s real.

If you didn’t gather that this band has a strong opinion and message from my last post, let me reiterate that sentiment here. While their songs jump between genres, they ultimately identify as a pop band, and even their most pop sounding songs tout heavy lyrics.

Off their debut album, the inarguably pop sounding tune “Girls” carries the line “I know you’re looking for salvation in a secular age, but girl I’m not your savior.” The video satirically features models playing their untalented female counterparts as commentary on how vapid the industry can be.

From The 1975’s sophomore album, the unabashedly pop anthem “The Sound” contains the lyrics “It’s not about reciprocation / It’s just all about me / A sycophantic, prophetic, Socratic junkie wannabe.” The video displays quotes from critics bashing the band in acknowledgment that their behavior is an intentional commentary on pop culture.


So if you’re like me and sick of the same lyricism over and over, mix up your music library with some of these bands to add some substance to your playlist.


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