August 7, 2020
New genres of music often come from experimentation. Tinkering around with existing instruments or trailing new technologies, musicians can capture the mood of the moment and forge a new sound. And one of the newest is Bedroom Pop; defined by lo-fi, languorous beats and introspective lyrics, this emerging genre has come about as a result of artists cocooning themselves away and recording with little other than wifi, laptops, and basic recording equipment. Although Bedroom Pop is still developing, this genre and it’s ‘do-it-yourself’ manifesto is relevant now more than ever. Here’s our guide to how it got started and who’s involved.
It’s hard to pin down the exact starting point of what’s become known as Bedroom Pop, but one person is always mentioned: Claire Cottrill, aka Clairo. A college dropout and Massachusetts native, Clairo released ‘Pretty Girl’ in 2017. With basic synths and unaffected vocals, the song takes a critical view of the female teen experience – “I can be a pretty girl, I’ll wear a skirt for you”, she sings.
The irony is underlined by the fact that she wears loose-fitting sweaters and Apple earphones in the track’s video, which was filmed on Webcam and apparently only took 30 minutes to make. It’s aesthetic recalls TikTok, the hugely popular social media platform which hosts short remixes of songs and videos (and was also the launchpad for track “Old Town Road”, which is now the longest running No.1 single in the USA).
Gathering over 52 million views, the video wasn’t just a viral blip. It helped launch a career that’s still gathering momentum; to date, Cottrill has opened for artists such as Dua Lipa and Khalid, and was recently awarded NME’s 2020 prize for ‘Best New Act in the World’.
Around the same time that Clairo was experimenting with a laptop and guitar in the States, Marie Ulven (or ‘girl in red’ as she’s known) was starting to put music on SoundCloud from the confines of her bedroom in the Norwegian town of Horten.
Equipped with nothing more than a Fender Stratocaster, Blue Yeti microphone, and a MacBook (with GarageBand installed), Ulven began to write and record songs that dealt with topics such as relationships, mental health, and alienation.
Ulven has also become somewhat of a queer icon. One of her first songs to gain traction (before it was put up on YouTube by a fan) was ‘I wanna be your girlfriend’, released on SoundCloud in 2018. With tin-echo vocals and simple chords, it’s a testament to unrequited love for a friend. In an interview with Complex, speaking about the track, Ulven said “It’s about me falling in love with my straight best friend and how I just really wanted to see her that summer, but she had a boyfriend, and I didn’t meet her once and I was so sad.”
Intimacy and personal themes are key characteristics of bedroom pop. In the UK, Cavetown ( 21 year-old, Robin Skinner) has become known for his lyrics that deal with anxiety, depression, and paranoia. A self-taught producer and son of two classically-trained musicians, Skinner’s music is gentle and melodic, and often inspired by the ukulele. His 2017 track, ‘Lemon Boy’ has a quirky sound that blends acoustic and soft electronic elements as it chronicles the challenges of ‘befriending’ feelings of negativity.
The vulnerability shown in Skinner’s songs can be seen across other ‘bedroom pop’ artists. Mxmtoon, Navvy, and Mac Demarco, despite having entirely distinct styles, all broach personal subjects in a sensitive way, avoiding the impression that they are opening up for the sole motivation of profit. And this aspect lies at the core of bedroom pop – regardless of how it diverges, it’s unified by a sense of the authentic. Whether or not it’s actually recorded in a bedroom, it aims to be ‘genuine’ – relying on self-taught skills and ‘real’ feelings that are often only given space to develop under the cocoon of one’s duvet.
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