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The beauty of bedroom pop

What makes bedroom pop so resonant? Tate Tsang asks whether stepping out of the bedroom and into the studio sacrifices the authenticity of this lo-fi genre.

The bedroom can feel like an inner sanctum, a personal hideout away from the public. Therefore, there seems to be a contradiction in bedroom pop becoming a new genre dominating worldwide media, rather than remaining isolated in the private intimacy of the bedroom. As a result of technological convulsions and the surge of online platforms, bedroom pop has ultimately manifested the ideology that creating and producing music is easily accessible to all.

Clairo, Rex Orange County, Steve Lacy and Billie Eilish are some of the most prominent avatars of bedroom pop, boasting millions of streams on platforms such as Spotify, YouTube and Soundcloud. Ironically, their success has moved their music production out of the modesty of the bedroom, and into professional studios, arguably losing the intimacy and DIY appeal of a track made independently. Their success raises some fundamental questions: what defines bedroom pop? And is this terminology merely a launching point for future rising artists?

Bedroom pop is typically characterised by lo-fi, relaxed aesthetics and the imperfections of home produced, self-recorded tracks. Commonly associated with the soundscape of scratchy recordings are slightly out of tune guitars, muffled audio from laptop microphones and cheesy pre-set drum machine loops.

Claire Cottrill, also known as Clairo, exemplifies the beauty of simplicity and the appeal of DIY ethos. Her music video accompanying ‘Pretty Girl’ was created on a laptop webcam, taking under thirty minutes to create. The singer has a youthful, naive persona as she nonchalantly lip-syncs to the lyrics. While the video is reminiscent of homemade videos created on Video Star in Year 8, ‘Pretty Girl’ has accumulated 51 million views on YouTube. Clairo’s early music, such as her EP Diary 001 (2018),is the epitome of bedroom pop; the rudimentary synths and sweet-like-candy vocals encapsulate the raw honesty and naivety this new wave is about.

However, the simplicity of bedroom pop should not be underestimated. Some of the genre’s viral gems have been down to its simplicity, suggesting anyone with a laptop can become an internet success. Twenty-year-old Beabadoobee’s first hit was from the off chance of uploading her first song ever written to Bandcamp on a whim in 2017. Yet it has now crystallised into popularity on TikTok, racking up over 39 million streams on Spotify, and 500 million streams of the remix. ‘Coffee’ finds appeal in its delicate aesthetic, alluding to the listener that they’re in a nostalgic and romantic love story. The track consists of four soft guitar chords, lightly strummed alongside Bea’s ethereal voice, who sings so softly that it’s almost a whisper. The varying tempo throughout the song opposes the judging ticking of a studio metronome, the muffled dialogue at the end perpetuating the colloquiality of a home recording.

Though as with Clairo, Beabadoobee and many other bedroom pop creators, finding success on the internet provides the opportunities of record label signings, debut album contracts and ultimately, a chance in a professional studio. Clairo’s debut album, Immunity (2019), is sonically cohesive in maintaining the intimacy of soft vocals and confessional, personal lyrics throughout. However, it is clear her sound is broadening, as her use of professional equipment becomes increasingly apparent; low quality sounding audio has been replaced with high tech microphones, and cheesy pre-set drum loops have been replaced with professional drummers. Equally, Beabadoobee’s signing to Dirty Hit has allowed her to stray away from the early days of acoustic guitars. Her most recent EP, Space Cadet (2019), finds a new sonic solar system similar to indie rock, with roaring electric guitars, punchier vocals and drums powerful enough to mosh to. With more ambitious production, should we still classify these artists under the category of bedroom pop?

Unlike most genres, bedroom pop cannot truly be identified by its sound. In fact, artists that fall under this category do not have to share a similar sound at all. Bedroom pop may vary from sounding similar to indie folk, teenage heartthrob tracks to 808 hi-hats of R&B, or even a fusion of both. The main appeal of using software such as Logic Pro X, GarageBand or Ableton Live is that the possible outcomes are endless. Bedroom pop, therefore, has recently been identifiable more as a community rather than a particular soundscape. One of the strongest appeals that remains for bedroom pop is individualism. Artists of this community prioritise the ideology of independence and authenticity, ensuring it permeates throughout their records. What’s important is that the initial writing process of lyrics and chords remains where it started: in the bedroom. Taking these ideas into the studio merely enhances their capabilities as musicians.

Bedroom pop is a refreshing antidote to the mass corporate mainstream pop churned out on the radio. Rather than music created with corporate success, streaming algorithms, or a mainstream audience in mind, bedroom pop finds comfort in its raw honesty, and its expressive freedom.


Image: Original image of beabadoobee by john

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