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The 10 best moments, dramas and trends in 2019’s weird world of pop

Pop machine @arabthot highlights their favourite phenomenons of the year – SOPHIE at Louis Vuitton, Nicki Minaj memes and the rise of 100 gecs

Some of you may know me as goth jafar (aka @arabthot) through long, detailed whiplash tweets going in-depth on pop music. Some of you may not, but somehow my voice and words are being broadcasted and hosted on a digital site surrounded by some of my favourite artists alongside forensic, passionate looks into the culture of music and art! But without further ado, here are my top 10 favourite pop moments, trends and dramas from the fringes and the core of pop music in 2019 – some felt like a simulation glitch in the matrix we live in, some were jaw-droppingly inspiring, and others are going to be cited for years to come.

10. NICKI MINAJ MEMES

My brain is pink because I’m a Barb. People can deny being a fan of Nicki Minaj but do not act like you don’t have copious amounts of random Nicki verses stored in your brain! Nicki Minaj’s impact throughout the globe has been one of the most interesting cases through the years. Her 2012 song “Roman Holiday” featured on her album Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded has been turned into a massive meme several years later where people edit the song over sped up videos. Another popular Nicki Minaj meme is mashing up her lyrics with the most niche songs ranging from Caroline Polachek to Arca – this meme has been around since i was in high school on Tumblr with somebody mixing her “I’m Out” verse with Mario and now it’s getting a revival before the decade ends. See also: putting her “Chiraq” verse over videos of people applying lip gloss to slow motion videos of celebrities on red carpets. Speaking of celebrities on red carpets, people love to edit “Good Form” over celebrities on red carpets. May 2020 bring more Nicki Minaj music and memes into our lives.

9. THE “RISE” AND “FALL” OF SLAYYYTER

You’re in a pink convertible speeding in Beverly Hills, palm trees blurring in your peripheral vision. You still have coke residue on your nose but you don't care because it’s 2007. you just bought a white monogram Murakami Louis Vuitton bag, “Blackout” by Britney Spears is announcing itself to the world, Hollywood is worshipping sextapes, Juicy Couture tracksuits, Paris Hilton and every latest gadget you can grab from Sidekicks to Motorola Razrs. Everything that makes up the infamous McBling era that commonly gets mistaken for y2k – that's what Slayyyter’s music – and particularly her mixtape Slayyyter – sounds like.

Slayyyter went from being a girl who folded towels in St Louis, Missouri to selling out shows in less than a year since her first track dropped. This mixtape has one of my favorite coverarts of all time (credits to Jason Omar Al-Taan and Glitchmood). It’s so exciting to witness this new pop renaissance we are entering thanks to a post-PC Music world and Charli XCX.

However at the end of 2019, “edgy” racist tweets made by Slayyyter were dug up, made when she ran a Fifth Harmony “sass account” in 2012. As a black fan of pop music I'm disappointed even tho I have amazing memories watching her – how many times are we going to witness a pop ☆ we love get “cancelled”.

I’m not claiming that I'm a perfect person –  and people can learn from their past mistakes – but the way non-black people dig for slurs to cancel others – not for accountability or for the well-being of black people but because they hate the person – is sick. I’m not defending Slayyyter, but it’s fair to keep her here because of the memories I have with this record, that sounds the way it does in part because of producers Donatachi, Boy Sim, That Kid and Ayesha Erotica.

8. K-POP’S WORLD TAKEOVER

The intro synths of “DDU-DU-DDU-DU” by Blackpink blare out of speakers over a crowd of wild screamers dominating the Coachella festival, a monumental moment in music history as they become the first Korean girl group to play at the infamous festival.

K-Pop crossing over into Western territory has been a wild ride to watch over the years. There’s fancams picking up almost every reply on Twitter to the most mundane things, BTS are getting cover stories for Paper Magazine, and going to Number One in America. Admittedly, this happened in 2018, but 2019 proved it to be no fluke – K-Pop stars are now some of the biggest in the world.

When I was in high school, being a K-pop fan was such a rarity in the States. I was introduced to K-Pop by girl groups like 2NE1, Girls Generation, f(x) and Orange Caramel. Now K-Pop is one of the biggest staples in music with Blackpink, Red Velvet, BTS, Twice (who made the stunning song of the summer “Fancy”) and Loona all breaking through in the West in a big way.

7. TINASHE’S TRIUMPHANT RETURN

There’s only a few singers in the world who are able to sing hypnotic, siren-like vocals that could lure you to your death but you wouldn’t mind because hearing such sonically stunning melodies would have made it all worth it. Tinashe is one of those singers. One of the most underrated and next level pop ☆’s of all time, she’s a mainstream superstar with underground credentials – had Evian Christ production on her debut album, contributed to Kelela’s, her vocals are on a KDA jungle techno editDanny L Harle remixed her song “Superlove”. She doesn’t have the universal praise and accolades she deserves, but in 2019 she left her label and was able to blossom. I can’t wait to see what else she has in store for us even though she said “Fly me out to Boston, Ritz-Carlton” when there’s a million better places to go.

6. POP AND NU-METAL’S CROSSOVER

Pop stars are starting to mix pop with nu metal and its such an addicting rush that I don’t think I will ever get tired of. It’s not a new concept – Japanese group Babymetal has been doing it for years but the emergence of Poppy and Rina Sawayama has been amazing. 

Poppy started mixing nu metal with her music on her 2018 album am i a girl? and has been continuing to do throughout this year. Rina Sawayama’s new song “STFU!” mixes pop and nu metal – you can hear the Babymetal influence loud and clear. 

Jazmin Bean, a pop ☆ from the UK, released their debut ep “Worldwide Torture” this year, a perfect example of the pop slash nu-metal hybrid. The single “Warzone Urchin” sounds like being a nymph in an enchanted forest, to a Britney Spears fantasy commercial, to piercing screams that sounds like fairies getting their wings ripped off. 

Yet it doesn’t stop there – Full Tac released “Where’s My Juul” featuring Lil Mariko, a wild, very 2019 track that also mixes pop and screamo. The shifts of tone between the chorus and verses goes back and forth between calm and an argument, and I’m obsessed with those drastic shifts in tones in a pop song! And scene kids – I’m sorry – but I automatically love.

5. BREE RUNWAY’S DEBUT EP

Abrasive beats start to rumble as if an earthquake is taking place in your speakers. A sensual voice roars over chaotic production leaving you curious for more, Sounds start blending from pop to rap, it’s sensory overload, the bass punches as tranquil melodies sooth you – that’s the sound and the power of Bree Runway. 

Bree is a British black pop ☆ who released her debut EP “Be Runway” in 2019, one that she describes as “Lady Gaga and Lil Kim having a love child”, a release littered with references to fashion houses Dior and Balenciaga.

She has high-level concepts, production, and artistic direction, with a meticulous eye for detail on makeup and hair. She’s camp and can’t be constrained to one genre. It’s refreshing to see – black women in music are almost always lazily categorised as RnB.

4. 100 GECS COMING OUT OF NOWHERE

You log onto Myspace and see your blingee Hello Kitty background flashing as it greets you into the cyber world that would help shape your adolescence. Demonic screams shout from your music player as The Medic Droid’s “Fer Sure” blasts out. Everything is confusing, exciting, and important. You are of course, online. This is what listening to 100 gecs sounds like. 

The electronic group consisting of Dylan Brady and Laura Les are essentially reviving crunkcore or as I like to call it, Myspacecore. It’s derogatory lyrics mixed with electronic and screamo like The Millionaires, Blood On The Dancefloor, and brokeNCYDE,  but making it “1000” times more exciting. You either love them or you hate them, but the success of their album 1000 gecs has landed them spots on many year-end lists – their music has been one of the best things to come out this year.

3. THE DEBUT ECCO2K ALBUM

The glittery, infectious trap music of Drain Gang – a crew consisting of rappers Bladee, ECCO2K and Thaiboy Digital, and producers Whitearmor and Yung sherman – has taken over my life. It’s some of the most chilling and icy music I’ve heard in my life, yet so stunning and emotional. 

I consider most of the “emo rap” or the sad boy genre as made popular by Yung Lean in 2013 to be a collection  not of rappers but sad pop ☆'s and that is exactly what ECCO2K is. His alluring voice croons about ketamine crystals all over his debut album E featuring production from Yves Tumor. This album is one of my top 3 releases of the year because it transports you to an imaginary world where Hannah Diamond also lives, while ECCO2K takes you on a journey of drugs, heartbreak, and being in love.

2. ASHLEY O

An artificial pop ☆ wearing a lavender wig debuts on Billboard as if she’s a real human being! It’s mind-altering because its one of the greatest pop releases of the fucking year! The world was introduced to Ashley O thanks to Black Mirror and what a meta experience it was. 

They couldn’t have casted it better because it was basically Miley Cyrus in a revisionist Hannah Montana role. Ashley O was a look into how people consume mindless pop and crave more of it without caring for the artists’ wellbeing. See: Britney Spears and how the public treated her over the years without care for her mental health, yet people wanted more music and blamed her for lashing out. “On A Roll” by Ashley O is a pop version of “Head On A Hole” by rock group Nine Inch Nails but replacing it with positive affirmations and bubbly beats. I will never get over this cyber baddie of a pop ☆ covering a fucking Nine Inch Nails song and turning it into one of the best pop songs of the decade. Bravo to Miley Cyrus and all the writers. 

1. SOPHIE AT LOUIS VUITTON 

SOPHIE’s “It’s Okay To Cry” begins to play on a massive screen at the Musée du Louvre in Paris. Models strut on the runway as a giant, powerful image of SOPHIE serenades the audience. It’s jaw droppingly beautiful.

SOPHIE went from anonymously DJing a 2014 Boiler Room set to inspiring a Louis Vuitton show – to watch that journey from the beginning has made this my favourite pop moment of the year. 

I’ll never forget when i first heard SOPHIE’s “Lemonade” in the summer of 2014 the day it came out (shoutout to the Chippy Nonstop side of Twitter aka Chippy, Kreayshawn, Kitty formerly known as Kitty Pryde, CZ, Britney Scott etc for putting me on). My life was forever changed hearing those metallic bubbly sounds, hearing liquid pouring into a cup, the cyber high pitched fairy-like vocals. It all felt plastic and I was addicted from that day on. I discovered PC Music, the hyperreal pop label founded by A.G. Cook which changed the pop landscape forever. The metallic bubblegum sounds pretty much grew up with me and in a sense I grew up with SOPHIE –  her music has been with me through such pivotal moments of my life and I’m forever indebted to her. 

I’ll never forget that feeling of being in a room surrounded by anxious, excited, fellow queer kids waiting for SOPHIE to come on at her debut Elsewhere show in New York. The ripples of sound felt like a wet alien touching your spine, the bass and vibrations of the room were so heavy but hypnotic. Watching sophie in atsuko kudo latex singing whole new world with cecile believe. Her debut album Oil Of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides is already timeless and cited as one of the greatest albums of this decade.

SOPHIE is a transcendent pop ☆ who continues to inspire and break boundaries, she is the blueprint and an innovator for music, and that is why her at Louis Vuitton is my top pop moment. This reads as a love letter to SOPHIE but from the bottom of my heart and other queers navigating this world, thank you. 

HONORABLE MENTIONS

 - Peppa Pig’s album became a viral Twitter sensation thanks to Twitter gays. With many gays listening to the album it messed up Spotify’s algorithm – once Peppa Radio starts to play you will be led to artists like 100 gecs, Rina Sawayama, and GFOTY etc. Years from now there’s going to be a group of children who have deep implanted memories of Rina Sawayama embedded in their subconscious.

 - Namasenda becoming the first black artist to sign to the PC Music label and Hannah Diamond finally releasing “Reflections”.

 - FKA twigs made her highly awaited return.

 - Bad Gyal released multiple bangers this year.

 - Machine Girl remixing Rico Nasty.

 - Shygirl + Sega Bodega releasing BB.

 - Frank Ocean creating the Prep+ parties which was supposed to be an interesting take on the 80’s, subsequently generated a huge amount of backlash, but let’s face it I went to every single one.

 - Arca and Rosalia announcing a collab together.

 - Mariah Carey getting her well deserved 19th Number One.