As a teen, there is a general assumption that the world is made for you; your fears, your insecurities, your dreams — everything out there has been packaged specifically for your engagement. As you grow older, you’ll realize that there’s actually nothing made with you in mind. It’s both bleak and liberating. But right now, if you’re a teen, there’s good news: music is actually being made just for you, by other teens, and it’s taking over the charts.
Since April, Billboard’s Hot 100 has been topped exclusively by people aged 22 and younger — and the songs have been created with the intention of being palatable for the youth. There was the history-making “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X, 20, which became the song for viral elementary school dance videos, Tik Tok dance challenges, and at least one million memes. The song was eventually dethroned by the otherworldly teen Billy Eilish, with her song “Bad Guy.”
They might genuinely be in a relationship, but the press around their ordeal feels super Robert Pattinson - Kristen Stewart circa the Twilight saga. For some reason (maybe because they know how horny teenagers are), when corporate executives are trying to market to teens, they often attach an overly public love affair to the effort.
Anyways, the songs that are earning the highest numbers of streams each week are the ones being made by and for Gen Z, while millennial favorites like Lizzo and Ed Sheeran are sitting comfortably in the top ten, but so far have been unable to break into the number one or two spots — until this week, when Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” broke through from the number three spot up to the number one spot.
As Chris Molanphy pointed out for Slate, the stars that have grown accustomed to topping the charts are all hitting their thirties. None of Taylor Swift’s songs from her latest album Lover have hit number one, though the album itself did debut at the top spot, partially because she released the album on streaming platforms.
If the last six months are any indication, the future of pop music is going to be lead — at least primarily — by Gen Z, a group that grew up in the streaming era, and as such, has best learned how to use technology for maximum exposure. Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” was kept short for a reason; Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy” featured a Bieber remix, Cabello and Mendes’ “Senorita” might be the most inauthentic pairing of two young pop stars selling their romance possible
For Millenials feeling a bit alienated by the top songs in the country, don’t worry, we’ll always have Lana Del Rey, forever the reigning moody queen of the mid-2000s.