Gen Z’s newest obsession is “bedroom pop,” an indie-esque sound that combines a vinyl aesthetic with experimental ethereality. This style’s popularity has increased in a huge way, thanks to Gen Zers. The craze is slowly seeping into the mainstream music industry, with Billie Eilish becoming the first bedroom pop star to win five Grammy Awards this past February. Bedroom pop’s genius and success boil down to one trait – its authenticity.
Bedroom pop is a style of music created by aspiring teenage artists who make music from their bedrooms with readily-available technology. Among music critics, there is a hesitation in calling bedroom pop a genre because it is intentionally genreless. There is no single, identifiable sound. Artists creatively mix melodies from diverse genres, cinematic audio clips, and the sounds of their voices into cohesive (albeit eccentric) songs.
In the world of bedroom pop, genre-specific classifications do not apply. Art is the musician’s primary focus. John Stein, an editor at Spotify, explains, “There’s a certain lo-fi, psychedelic-leaning sound that most artists in the space touch on, but the real thing that connects these artists, in my mind, is that they’re creative and independently minded. They’re making their music themselves—it’s personal, and it feels fresh and real to fans.”
Bedroom pop isn’t about a specific type of sound or the number of beats per minute. This DIY style isn’t even an official genre. Bedroom pop is a doctrine that preaches authenticity through how it is created, expressed, personified, and packaged.
Authenticity Through Creation
Maia, who goes by “mxmtoon,” is one of the most popular bedroom artists to emerge in recent years. She says, “Anyone can make music, and I think that is the ideology behind bedroom pop. ‘Bedroom,’ it’s more of an idea of a person sitting in a small space and using whatever resources you have to make songs that you’re proud of.”
What Maia preaches is true. Anyone can make music thanks to the wonders of modern technology. This emerging sound is the beneficiary of easy access to high-quality software, sharing platforms, and online databases. Aspiring artists can use these available resources to teach themselves how to write, record, edit, and publicize studio-caliber music in just a few months.
When analyzing the music itself, a certain low-fidelity (lo-fi) quality seems to string many bedroom artists’ music together. Whether intentional or not, the lo-fi vibe emphasizes the genre’s DIY philosophy and techniques. It’s a callback to where the artist started: their bedroom.
For the most part, bedroom artists are the age of Gen Zers, so this you-can-do-it-too ethos establishes a camaraderie between the artist and the listener, as do the lyrics in their songs.
Authenticity Through Feelings
Since bedroom pop blurs the line between many genres, its artists don’t have to shout societal complaints into a microphone to be labeled “rock” or sing about trucks to be tagged “country.” They are free to write about what’s on their minds and sing their truth.
Because of their close ages, both the artists and their teenage fans identify with similar experiences, thoughts, and feelings common to today’s youth. According to a Spotify survey, 49% of Gen Zers connect with music that displays deep, palpable emotions, such as loneliness or sadness. The report also writes, “Members of Gen Z are in touch with their feelings, and they understand the importance of expressing and addressing them.” This shared earnest, emotional connection between creators and supporters further solidifies the style’s sincerity.
Authenticity Through Diversity
In 2018, Douglas Greenwood collected opinions from Gen Zers, who listened to bedroom pop for Vice News. One fan, George, wrote “As a queer person, there are a lot of artists I don’t relate to that other people my age love. I’ve listened to Drake, but I can’t get on the same wavelength, but with bedroom pop musicians, there’s a special kind of vulnerability and fluidity to the songs.”
DIY artists are a diverse crowd of people of every color and sexual identity. Musicians like Gus Dapperton push gender boundaries. Marie Ulven (who goes by “girl in red”) is one of many bedroom artists who have become an idol-like figure for LGBTQ+ youth.
Bedroom pop’s fans and artists have created an inclusive environment. For instance, Conan Gray has made several TikToks promoting the normalization of femininity in males. Mxmtoon posts anti-racist and anti-homophobic content on her accounts. Mollie, another Gen Zer interviewed for Vice, describes the environment at a Rex Orange County concert, saying, “It had such an inviting atmosphere […] We want to be able to feel as if we can trust those we listen to and look up to; that’s what bedroom pop gives us.”
The diversity in the bedroom pop community reflects the diversity of the people listening to it, furthering the connection between pop stars (a term that can feel distant) and the public. With successful role models to look up to, LGBTQ+ Gen Zers and Gen Zers of color turn towards bedroom artists who look and love like them to write songs that represent fans.
Authenticity Through Social Media
Social media has both created and expanded the bedroom pop community. Almost every aforementioned bedroom artist began on SoundCloud or YouTube and amassed large followings on other platforms such as TikTok and Instagram.
Gen Zers are uniquely young and native to the social media landscape. Naturally, Gen Z bedroom artists know how to reach people with their music. Because they have full control over their accounts, bedroom artists can present their authentic selves. They know how to engage with their audiences effortlessly and show off their real personalities through their feeds instead of posting captions curated by a PR team.
Authenticity Through Gen Z’s Perspective
Gen Z is growing up in a world filled with crises, fake news, and uncertainty. Bedroom artists are the constants, showing up in teenagers’ lives and creating music that facilitates an escape from the confusion. The creators of Gen Z’s new favorite style are genuinely empathizing with its audience, and growing in popularity as a result.
Maegan, another Gen Zer from the Vice article, said it well: “I’d like to think I’ll still be listening to the music [bedroom artists are] producing in the future because it will always take me back to these years of my life. Because they’re so honest, and they’re facing the same issues and experiences at the same time as me, in 10 years’ time, I guess I’ll relate to whatever music they’re releasing then too.”
The bedroom pop phenomenon marks Gen Z’s transition into the music business. As young artists continue to take over concert venues, music consumers can expect an increase in inclusive musicians who actively engage with their fanbases, more songs about everyman troubles, and genres classified by emotions more than by sound. Bedroom pop’s rise to popularity challenges studio culture, but above all else, it signals a changing industry that is beginning to reflect the public and reward artists’ true selves.
Born in New York City and now a frequent visitor, Liv moved to Miami at a young age and is a student at Ransom Everglades School where she is a member of the Speech & Debate and Academic teams. Liv is fifteen years old and most passionate about politics and innovation in education systems. An aspiring political analyst, in Fall 2020, Liv is launching Phos, a YouTube series for high school students that shines a light on and dissects recurring issues in the news and current events from multiple perspectives. She is thrilled to contribute to Gen Z Identity Lab to help share diverse points of view that move peer conversations from thoughts to actions to change.