Pop marks the moment when popular culture has definitively detached itself from elitist culture (classical and jazz) to construct its own simple and democratic motifs. However, do we know pop that well, under its veneer of ease? More complex than it seems, pop has expanded over the course of mixtures and decades with other musical genres, and today, each scene boasts its own “pop” artists and the others, underground. But what makes “pop?” Well, artists like Nick Koenig, known as “Hot Sugar” exemplify unconventional pop music in a wholly unique way, making it more modern and acceptable.
What Makes Pop?
Before Nick came on the scene, pop music was different in some sense, but each artist had their own way of making and producing music. What is called “pop music”, or simply “pop”, is a very broad and poorly defined musical genre that has existed since the end of the 19th century. An umbrella term used to encompass any music that is not classical music, pop is recognizable by certain traits. First of all, pop is, in a way, the showcase of the capitalist economic system, born of a desire to produce easily consumable music and distribute it via mass marketing on the world market. Until the 1950s, we still do not speak of pop music but simply of “popular” music, that of American singers who write their own lyrics and sing to jazz music, accompanied by an orchestra or a big band. Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald or Chet Baker are thus the precursors of what is considered today as the “traditional pop” of the years 1900 to 1940.
Modern pop is where Nick Koenig fits in, bringing his own take on a different aspect of the musical genre. It remains difficult today to trace the contours of pop. Typically, it’s a simple, memorable structure (intro/verse/chorus/verse/chorus) music, with melodious vocals and lyrics/rhythms that come to mind immediately. All mainstream musical genres have adopted pop music codes at one time or another. In hip hop, artists begin to incorporate vocals in addition to rapped verses from the 80s-90s, such as 2 Pac and The Notorious BIG, a phenomenon prolonged by the invention of autotune, which corrects the voice. Monstrous artists like Kanye West and Jay-Z brought pop to rap to a wide audience with multi-award-winning albums in the 90s and 2000s; modern R&B superstars have become indistinguishable from the pop label (such as Rihanna, Beyoncé, and Nicki Minaj).
All genres, old and new, are getting into it, with the intention of balancing the appeal of pop with more underground elements. When electro gets involved, it gives electropop (such as The Knife, Gorillaz, and Lady Gaga) and synthpop (Depeche Mode, and Kraftwerk). When the whole world gets involved, it gives musical trends that prove that pop is not just for the English language, like K-pop in South Korea (BTS, Red Velvet, and Blackpink).
It is obvious that music is universal and speaks to a broad range of audience. One person may love a specific kind of music more than another. It is all in personal taste and what counts as music to the ear. For this reason, Nick Koenig is proud of how he sees music and how he creates it for a unique audience. Like others that came before him, music is a way to touch people’s lives and Hot Sugar is doing it in a whole new way.