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Indie Pop

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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.

The foundations for indie pop can be traced back to the early 1980s, when British bands such as Orange Juice and Felt sought to break away from the dark, abrasive sounds which defined Post-Punk by making music that was softer, more romantic and melodic, whilst retaining that scene's grassroots, do-it-yourself spirit. Other notable artists of this period included Dolly Mixture, whose sound was indebt to 60s' girl groups, and Marine Girls (featuring Tracey Thorn of later Everything but the Girl fame), who incorporated elements of folk and bossa nova. Both bands are considered instrumental to the development of the indie pop subgenre known as twee pop, due to their romantic themes and the naive, unpolished and stripped-back nature of their songs.

British indie pop bands in the '80s were influenced by '60s music, jangly guitars, melodic Power Pop structures and especially the music of The Smiths, who are considered the breakout artists of the genre. They often recorded for very small labels such as Sarah Records. The term especially used to describe British acts featured on the NME compilation C86, which became something of a scene in itself.

Early indie pop acts like Heavenly and The Vaselines were often more influential than 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 Britain's and was led by bands like Beat Happening, The Magnetic Fields, and Yo La Tengo. 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. Meanwhile, Australia's The Go Betweens also achieved commercial success and acclaim during this period.

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. Journeymen indie poppers The Shins also began to acquire a huge following after their single "New Slang" was prominently featured in the movie Garden State.

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 '10s, 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 '10s 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". Should not be confused with Indipop which was an extremely short lived non-Bollywood pop music scene that once existed in India in the late nineties. See also Alternative Rock, which is influential on the sound, and Synth-Pop, which often turns up in indie pop acts. 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 '10s, 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".
  • 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.

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

Alternative Title(s): Indie Rock