BY Michael WhitePublished Nov 17, 2016

In the real world (the one outside of music magazines), none of the following permutations of pop music exist. It's all just pop, and it's either cool or it sucks. Pop was originally intended as shorthand for ‘popular,' so most of these genre constructs don't even qualify.

Teen pop

The redundancy of this term is implicit: pop has always been the province of the young, performers and consumers alike. Nevertheless, this distinction came about when the prepubescent effectively wrested the commercial landscape away from the dregs of grunge in the late ‘90s. Its suffocating omnipresence was never more apparent than when ‘N Sync recently sold over two million copies of its second album in one week. Teen pop is the engine that powers the record industry. As such, whether you like it or not, it's the truest embodiment of ‘pop' that we have.
As Good As It Gets: Hanson Middle of Nowhere (Mercury); Jackson 5 Anthology (Motown)
Bottom of the Barrel: LFO Summer Girls (Arista/BMG), Jessica Simpson Sweet Kisses (Sony)

Indie pop

The very idea of ‘indie' as a descriptive musical term should be an insult to any artist who wants to be judged by content rather than economic considerations. Which is why, inasmuch as it exists as a genre at all, indie is the last refuge of the willfully mediocre - often the first. Indie pop is meant to signify pop in which enthusiasm takes precedence above resources or adeptness, but has become more of a built-in excuse for not trying very hard. Some groups have enough inherent charm to jettison indie's runt aesthetic; Beat Happening, supposedly pioneers of the form, are a good example, but they always called it Love Rock, anyway. Indie pop is distinctive for being a term that no one has ever worn as a badge of honour.
AGAIG: Beat Happening (K Records); Marine Girls Lazy Ways (Cooking Vinyl)
BoB: The Bartlebees – "Sweet Caroline" (single, Four-Letter Words); anything influenced by Heavenly (K Records)

Power pop

Matthew Sweet

A meeting of the melodicism of ‘60s pop (harmony vocals, chiming Rickenbacker guitars) and the aggressive, rhythm-centered heavy rock that sprouted up at the dawn of the ‘70s. Beginning with the likes of the Raspberries and Dwight Twilley and living on today in Matthew Sweet and Cotton Mather, it's also considered to be one of the most commercially volatile forms of pop extant. Despite a rabid cult, power pop is one-hit-wonder country, and the Knack can tell you all about it.
AGAIG: The Raspberries – Greatest Hits (Capitol), Jason Falkner Presents Author Unknown (Elektra)
BoB: The Knack Serious Fun (Capitol)


Eiffel 65

Eiffel 65 recently appropriated this term for the title of their debut album, and they've every right to, since we'll likely never hear from them again. Their first and, indubitably, last hit, "Blue (Da Ba Dee)," typifies Europop's evil formula: peerless banality, infuriating catchiness, enviable popularity. Europop acts appear from nowhere, disappear twice as quickly, and live forever on tenuously themed TV-advertised compilation albums. Face it: you're taking A-ha's "Take On Me" to the grave, aren't you?
AGAIG: Black Box "Everybody Everybody" (single, Ariola/BMG)
BoB: Whigfield – "Saturday Night" (single, Quality)

Ponce pop


Alternatively known as nance pop, wuss pop or "limp-wristed shite," only the British really talk about this stuff, since they invented it and still have a surprising amount of time for it. Ponce pop takes its cue from virtually every type of pop not informed by testosterone: disco, pre-Beatles easy listening, show tunes. Big on keyboards and strings and drums of the kettle variety, it also takes great pride in wry turns of phrase that are meant to prove that the pen is mightier than the chord. Rarely, a fluke hit will emerge in North America (Pulp's "Common People"). All of ponce pop's male participants are assumed to be gay, but they're just acting that way to get the bookish girls onto the couch.
AGAIG: The Bathers Kelvingrove Baby (Marina), The Divine Comedy A Secret History (Setanta)
BoB: My Life Story Joined-Up Talking (Parlophone)

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