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This is Pop

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What it’s about:

This is Pop takes a look through the past few decades at some of pop music’s biggest moments and most famous artists.

Names you might know:

Pretty much every popular musical act of the late 20th century, from Swedish superstar group ABBA (“Dancing Queen,” “Waterloo”) to Neil Sedaka (“Oh, Carol,” “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do”) to 1990s mega-R&B group Boyz II Men (“Motownphilly,” “End of the Road”).

Why it’s worth your time:

Each of the eight episodes in This is Pop is built around a theme and features the hit songs and artists related to it. The series is jam packed with interviews and archival clips to excite your eyes and ears. One warning: Plan to have several earworms bouncing around your brain afterwards!

This Is Pop doesn’t follow a typical linear timeline. Instead, it picks an artist or genre and focuses on one theme or trend at a time. Take the first episode “The Boyz II Men Effect,” for example. Sure, it’s nostalgic for those of us who lived through the height of Boyz II Men mania in the 1990s, but we get much more here. Each of the members “reunites” for new interviews, taking us through their teenage years as they found their way to stardom. But as successful as they were with record-breaking chart toppers, a “new blood” of white boy bands (*NSYNC and Backstreet Boys) grabbed the mantle, overshadowing their melodic, throwback sound. This initial episode is a microcosm of pop music and, like the industry itself, provides a good hook for the rest of the series.

Throughout its run, This is Pop offers a new way of looking back at the music that shaped our past. Those who think pop is king in the U.S. may change their mind after the “Stockholm Syndrome” episode, which looks at an overseas hit-making machine collaborating in Sweden for decades, from ABBA to Ace of Base. And if that’s not enough, there’s also an episode devoted to the phenomenon of ’90s Britpop and the rise of “lad” bands like Oasis and Blur.

It’s also enlightening to hear from the producers and writers who put together many vintage tracks, including classic Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys albums. In episode exploring the longstanding link between Country and Pop, artists, music execs, and journalists talk about the core value of “authenticity” and the controversy over what counts as a country song and what doesn’t. It starts with Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” and rewinds back to the early days of Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, as crossover hits starting taking over the airwaves (remember how big the Judds and Shaina Twain were?). The series also tells the tale of another industry trend that helped forge a new path for artists onto the charts: auto-tune. One of those artists—rapper T-Pain—reflects on his controversial use of the technology.

Perhaps the most timely of the episodes is  “What Can a Song Do?” It bridges the intersection between protest and pop, posing the question: “Can music change the world?”  In this installment we learn the stories behind some of those most renowned anthems in history and the artists who made them resonate for decades.

The takeaway:

The many diverse facets of popular music presented in this series make it enjoyable viewing for music lovers and historians alike.

Watch it with:

Anyone who loves music—pop or otherwise—so you don’t have to sing by yourself! But you don’t need to be a music aficionado to get something out of this series. After all, “pop” is short for “popular,” so the appeal is intentionally wide.

Worth noting:

Due to the show’s popularity, there is already buzz that a second season of This Is Pop is coming soon.

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