Why is crappy music often more popular than good music?

What makes music popular? It’s something that everyone has pondered, but there really is no answer. You have artists like Upchurch, who is huge in his respected genre, but small compared to many other artists in more popular genres. Billie Eilish released her first song in early 2016 and currently has 36 million subscribers on YouTube and over 50 million listeners on Spotify. Those are staggering numbers for someone in the music industry for 5 years, a short time when it comes to the music industry. For comparison, considered by many as the best in hip hop for years, Eminem has over 46 million subs and 38 million monthly listeners. Those are also huge numbers for an artist in the industry, so what sets them apart.

This could be partially due to label influence. Those two are both signed to big-name labels with significant cash flow and are looked at as “powerhouse” labels in the industry. On the other hand, Upchurch is independent of labels, which he takes a lot of pride in. Choosing this route has led Upchurch to have a smaller following than he might have if backed by a label; however, it also means his followers are more loyal. He can make any music he wants without a label rejecting it. As a result, he can continue to be against the norm and unapologetic about it.

At what point is there a line drawn between generic and original? Eminem can definitely be considered original, as much of his music paved the way for hip hop and much of how it looks today. From the outside, Billie Eilish has a wonderful voice. The beats and actual instrumentals to her most popular songs sound similar to most pop songs, making her more generic. There’s not a lot I can see that would totally set her apart from the crowd, but she still gets a large following for some reason.

Florida Georgia Line could be another example; they came into country music with a lot of originality, with very catchy and hip hop-like beats. It was highly polarizing, but it helped them become massively successful after just one single. Listen to some of their music now; it no longer sounds like they are trying to break the country music mold. A lot of their newer stuff doesn’t stand out on the radio, and instead of making music that sets them apart, they make music that blends in. That being said, they are still relevant, but they aren’t as talked about as they had been in the past.

Now, I’m not saying that someone like Upchurch should be getting numbers like Eminem, Eilish, or FGL. Their following is large, and big labels definitely help each of them. Still, as an artist gains a following from the outside looking in, they start making safer, more generic music to stay on top as opposed to continuing the polarizing music that set them apart. Think of your favorite artist that’s part of mainstream music. Compare their first few albums to their most recent albums. It’s a safe bet that their music at the beginning helped them establish their identity. Still, the last few are safer, more generic to whatever genre they are in, and probably more forgettable. I’m that’s having a generic sound is bad, but it is making music somewhat stale.

NF is an artist in hip hop and prides himself on his faith. He has absolutely no swears in any of his songs, which further adds to the originality of all of his music he releases. He is also influenced by everyday struggles while referencing faith and religion throughout his music. This sets him apart because it isn’t something that artists really do in this day and age. It’s possible some artists need to be generic to stay relevant and appeal to the masses, while others don’t care as long as they enjoy what they’re writing. It will be interesting to watch as music grows and changes to see if artists start to stray away from a genre generic sound and try to strive to be their own entity in music. Until then, I will continue to gravitate to independent artists across all genres, as it seems their originality causes me to gravitate to their listening artists.

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