During my freshman and sophomore years of high school, I discovered the music genre that would seem to change my life as I knew it: a subdivision of indie commonly known as “Bedroom Pop.” The name is meant to be taken quite literally– bedroom pop artists are characterized by their unique, low-budget sound that is often manufactured in their own bedrooms. Claire Cottril, better known as Clairo, rose to fame in 2017 when her music video for the song Pretty Girl gained traction on YouTube. The video, which was filmed in her bedroom with a laptop webcam, currently has 42 million views on the platform. But while making music more accessible allows undiscovered talents to shine, it also gives attention to people who produce low quality content. There’s a subtle genius behind these basic tunes, but from an unbiased standpoint, much of this genre lacks depth. And yet, millions continue to stream everyday. What is so appealing about bedroom pop?
Today, the internet makes it possible for nearly anyone to produce their own art and release it into the world. Now more than ever, amateur musicians have been given the tools to share their compositions with a diverse audience. What entices so many of us is the authenticity that comes with small creators. With more popular artists, there’s an inevitable aspect of corporate greed when trying to appeal to such large numbers. Especially in this age of streaming, it’s impossible not to be influenced by ideas of success. So when the musicians we support have smaller followings, we feel special. They maintain a level of relatability because we trust that their content hasn’t been corrupted by wealth and fame, even though many lack the resources to produce high quality studio music. But they make do nonetheless. One of my personal favorite bedroom pop artists, Steve Lacy, produced his first solo music on GarageBand, recording his vocals and instruments on his iPhone. Even now that he’s reached a level of success allowing him access to more professional equipment, he stays true to his sound and to himself; track 2 on his debut album Apollo XXI expresses the struggles Lacy faced when coming to terms with his sexuality.
However, it’s disputable whether or not the authenticity of these artists is authentic. Controversy over industry plants including Clairo, Phoebe Bridgers, and Billie Eilish has turned many against the genre. When it was uncovered that these artists went into their careers with pre-existing connections, many fans felt betrayed. Was their “self-made” title simply a facade? Whether or not this is enough to discredit the work of an artist is up to you to decide for yourself, but a larger issue in the community is gatekeeping. It’s prevalent everywhere– especially when we join small fanbases, establishing a sense of exclusivity. The phrase, “you’re a fan of ___? Name five songs,” has become an easy way to test one’s knowledge and discredit their dedication to a performer. We’ve invented a mindset that says if you weren’t listening to them before they were mainstream, you probably shouldn’t be listening to them at all. But art is made for everyone, and gatekeeping music in hopes to keep an artist “underground” only produces negativity in a community that should be united over shared interests. When the people we look up to succeed, we should be happy that others can share our appreciation for them, rather than tearing them down for being less devoted.
Although my days of religiously streaming anything labeled “indie” are over, the genre of bedroom pop holds a special place in my heart. I think it’s important that we’ve given a platform for the talented to be easily discovered. Music is for everyone, whether you enjoy country, hardcore metal, or anything in between. I’ve found that understanding what attracts listeners to bedroom pop puts into perspective how we consume our media. Sometimes it isn’t the highest quality that brings the most joy, and sometimes that’s what makes it enjoyable.