Indie Pop

Indie Pop is Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Pop-centric music made independently. It is characterized by its production; whereas standard pop acts often employ a team of writers (often with the artist in question having little-to-no involvement with the songwriting), indie pop acts write all of their songs by themselves (occasionally guest writers may be involved to help with the creative process, but it largely comes from the heart of the singer). Standard pop acts are often signed to a major label, and take heavy direction from those labels in both their image and sound. Indie Pop acts are often signed to independent label and have full creative control over their music and image. Although some indie pop acts are signed on to major labels, they're used solely for the distribution of their music.

Indie pop first grew into popularity in the early 1980s, where it was especially used to describe British acts featured on the NME compilation C86. British indie pop bands in the 1980s were influenced by '60s music, jangly guitars and melodic Power Pop structures and especially the music of The Smiths. They often recorded for very small labels such as Sarah Records.

Early indie pop acts like Heavenly and The Vaselines were often more influential than they were successful, but few others, such as The Sundays and The Wedding Present, had minor chart hits in the UK and United States. The success of Britpop largely kept indie pop underground in the UK for most of the 90s, with only Belle and Sebastian getting any significant press and became one of the biggest cult bands of the decade. Critics loved them and their following was large enough that they not only scored a few Top 40 singles but also - through fan vote - won Best British Breakthrough Act at the 1999 Brit Awards.

The American indie pop scene was even more underground than Britian's and was led by bands like Beat Happening, The Magnetic Fields, Yo La Tengo and Low. The only place where indie pop became a significant chart success before the turn of the millennium was New Zealand during the mid-to-late 1980s, where bands like The Chills and The Clean scored hit singles out of the homegrown Dunedin Sound scene.

The real turning point for the genre in terms of mainstream popularity was the release of The Postal Service's Give Up in 2003. While not a major seller at start, good word of mouth and the rising popularity of lead singer Ben Gibbard's other band Death Cab for Cutie resulted in it becoming something of an indie rock cult classic. The album was certified Platinum in the United States and its single "Such Great Heights" became one of the most popular indie songs of the whole decade.

Indie pop continued to march on, especially in the UK in the late 2000s, where bands like The Hoosiers, The Feeling and Scouting for Girls topped the charts. In America, however, indie pop was just a cult genre until The New Tens, where it really became popular.

As indie pop continued to grow, it also did so in its sound; from that standpoint, it can be hard to describe what indie pop is supposed to sound like, since some indie pop acts don't really sound a whole lot like other indie pop acts. For example, compare M83 to Lorde. One defining characteristic of the indie pop sound is the aforementioned freedom in the direction of their sound. As such, many indie pop acts may incorporate elements of other genres (or even have a distinct sound that's hard to describe), have more complex, harder to understand lyrics, focus on themes besides the usual Silly Love Songs and party anthems (often will be Darker and Edgier compared to standard pop), and some might make more liberal use of profanity, maybe even plentiful use of it. Also, many indie pop artists make use of electronics and synths with varying degrees of prominence, though not all of them do.

As mentioned before, indie pop didn't really hit it big until The New Tens with the 'internet age' allowing for music to be discovered by other means than physical or radio airplay. Before, the biggest indie acts were cult heroes at best. Now, the biggest indie acts have produced chart topping hit singles and albums and are among the biggest acts in the industry alongside the standard pop artists. Indeed, the internet age has truly changed the landscape of the music industry. Of course, if an indie pop artist does successfully crossover to the mainstream, there'll be cries that they're "not truly indie".

Also known as "hipster pop" or "alternative pop". See also Alternative Rock, which is influential on the sound, and Synthpop, which often turns up in indie pop acts. Pop Revival often goes hand-in-hand with indie pop, with many bands being both. In fact, it can be hard to tell the difference between the two at times. It also went hand-in-hand with Jangle Pop. In general, indie pop artists don't use instruments like guitars, bass, and drums...except when they do.


Indie Pop artists include:

Indie Pop provides the following tropes:

  • Artifact Title: The term "indie" means that their music is made on an independent label. However many artists eventually signed on to major labels, or in some cases were signed on to a major label from the beginning. In those cases, it's often used to describe the aesthetic.
    • Also the "pop" part of it fits too. The term "pop" means music designed for the mainstream, while many indie pop artists aren't in the mainstream, although this has changed some in recent years. Like the above, the "pop" is used to describe the style of the music than how mainstream it is.
  • Darker and Edgier: Often compared to label-directed pop artists, due to being able to explore darker themes that the labels would avoid. Of course, there's plenty of upbeat indie pop songs as well.
  • Doing It for the Art: Many artists make indie pop because they want to make pop-style music with full creative control of their material, and generally aim for the people into the indie scene, not the masses. This was even more true before The New Tens, where there was practically no prospect of being commercially successful.
  • Hipster: What people refer to as the general audience, hence why its often called "hipster pop".
  • Mohs Scale of Lyrical Hardness: Can range anywhere from 1 to 5, depending on the artist and song in question.
  • Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Generally 1 to 3. It doesn't get too hard, it's still indie pop after all.
  • Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: What makes indie pop stand out is the welcoming of other musical genres, which can range anywhere from synthpop, R&B (often called PBR&B), trip-hop, punk, dream pop, baroque pop, electronica to... whatever else the artist in question can come up with.
  • Precision F-Strike: Swearing shows up more in indie pop than label-produced pop, due to the artistic freedom the musician has. Though indie pop artists that never swear in their songs, although rare, do exist. Other artists like Charli XCX aren't even precise about it.
    • Subverted by Ellie Goulding who only started dropping swears in her songs once she had made a Genre Shift from indie pop to a far more mainstream sound.
  • Self-Backing Vocalist: Very common.
  • Trope Codifier: Bands like the Smiths and Yo La Tengo laid the seeds for the genre, but the Postal Service's Give Up was the album that started the genre's flood onto blogs and later the radio. As far as indie pop artists today, this distinction probably goes to Lorde.
  • X Meets Y: Pop meets independence.

Here's some nice indie pop songs to get you through the day.


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