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Zxena's Exclusive Scoop on Dark Pop Music

Hey everyone! Welcome back. In my “about” blog, I briefly mentioned dark pop music and what it is. I know it isn’t a genre that everyone is familiar with, so I’m going to dive deeper into what it is. But first, you’ll need a refresher on dark pop’s better known little sister, bubblegum pop.

Bubblegum Pop - Dark Pop's Little Sister

Everyone knows what bubblegum pop is. It’s the happy, bright pop songs with a touch of naivete. It’s “22,” by Taylor Swift, “Baby,” by Justin Bieber, “Teenage Dream,” by Katy Perry—those kinds of pop songs. This side of pop is bubbly and upbeat. In bubblegum pop, catchy melodies are often accompanied by major chords.

In music, there are a few types of scales, but the most common are major and minor scales. Major chords are from the major scale and they are typically happier, brighter, and warmer sounding. Minor chords, on the other hand, have a darker, drearier, and colder sound and feel.­ Each scale has key signatures. The key signature of a song is similar to a color palette, in the sense that each note, or color, is different, but complementary to one another and there to create a cohesive body of work.

Bubblegum pop is usually sweet in lyrics, but not super specific about what is felt by the singer, and sometimes goes about it in a shy manner. These lyrics can be explicit in nature, but that’s not the case very often.

Take, “(You Drive Me) Crazy,” from Britney Spears' first album, "Baby One More Time," for example. Britney says, “you drive me crazy, I just can’t sleep. I’m so excited, I’m in too deep. Oh crazy, but it feels alright. Baby thinkin’ of you keeps me up all night.” It has a very high school puppy love feel to it. It’s those feelings of infatuation where you can’t exactly name why you’re sprung on someone, but you just are for whatever reason.

What is Dark Pop?

In contrast, dark pop is more mature both sonically and lyrically. On this side of pop, you can find minor chords laid underneath catchy minor melodies. In some instances, you may find that dark pop lyrics are more in your face, more assertive and direct, and/or more suggestive than those you find in bubblegum or regular pop. Examples of dark pop songs are “Dark Horse,” by Katy Perry, “Without Me,” by Halsey, and “Get Enough,” by me, Zxena.

"Get Enough" Analysis

In, “Get Enough,” I sing about a new lover, the excitement and thrill I feel when I’m with him, and how I can’t get enough of those feelings. Let’s go into it a bit.

I wrote, “Get Enough,” in C minor. This key signature is in a minor scale, so, like mentioned earlier, it has a darker sound. Some emotions associated with this key are passion and intense longing, which is exactly what is going on in this song.

“Boy I can't get enough. Your love is burnin through my blood. Oh I, won't try to fight it, now you've got me so ignited. I'm fired up. You can have it when you want it, I will never try to stop. Can't get enough. I've got it bad no doubt about it, lose the cure leave me an addict.” These are lyrics that are more suggestive. There’s a lot of passion going on here. So much passion, that I’m essentially addicted to his affection and don’t want a cure. I’m longing for him and letting him know that I’m his when he wants me.

“I know about you, you are everything I've been searching for...” These lyrics are much more mature and direct than what you’d find in a regular pop song. I’m saying that I like what he brings to the table and that he’s an answer to what I’ve been looking for in a significant other, not just that I like him because he makes me feel. As we grow older, we start to realize what truly matters in a partner and we look for those qualities in the people we date. Here, I’ve finally found them in this person, and I can’t get enough of him.

Dark pop has a wide variety of sounds and lyrics. It ranges from, “Bury a Friend,” by Billie Eilish-- with a brooding bass, imagery-enhancing sound effects like shattering glass, and Billie’s own acknowledgement of her demons-- to, “Gimme More,” by Britney Spears--a sonically and lyrically sassy, runway-esque, nightclub song.

So there you have it, a brief lesson on what dark pop music is. I hope you enjoyed and learned from this. Did you realize that some of the music you listen to is in fact dark pop?

Make sure to follow me on Spotify and Apple Music and turn on your notifications so you know when I post my Dark Pop Picks playlist!

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