When someone asks you, “What music do you listen to?” the response may vary, but more often than not, you will avoid pop as the go to answer. Rock, EDM, Jazz, Classical music; anything is better than to say pop. And even if a person enjoys pop, it is better to say Beyonce, who everyone loves, or Taylor Swift, who everyone fears, anything but the blanket term, trashy identifier: pop. To listen to pop, unironically, is to admit that, in Bourdieu’s cultural capital, you are an uncultured swine. And what is the worse subgenre of pop, but teeny bopper music?
Teeny bop pop is music marketed for young teenage girls, or alternatively, what teenage girls listen to. For example, the popularity of The Beatles was elevated to standards not seen before, because of the passion teenage girls devoted to the boy band. This is reflected in the same global success that One Direction has received, success at the expense of the ‘teeny boppers’’ reputation and credit. One can listen to ‘What Makes You Beautiful’ with irony, because then, one acknowledges that pop music, namely teeny bopper music, is not ‘real’ music, and general consensus is reached. But to listen to One Direction, seriously and god forbid, passionately, is ridiculous. Why the stain on teeny bopper music?
Simply, anything associated with teenage girls, with their passions and their hobbies, is trivialised in society. And what better way to affirm it than in the disregard of music that they actively support and listen to? A man’s passion for a stereotypically masculine hobby, such as sports, is completely normalised. Wearing the jersey of your favourite sports team, going with your friends to the stadium, waking up at 5am to watch the Rugby World Cup; none of these rituals are ridiculed or teased about. Instead, wearing a One Direction t-shirt, owning any of their merchandise, following ‘trends’ that support One Direction and going to their concerts, is sacrilege. The top definition for teeny bopper in urban dictionary is “Stupid girls of ages 10-14 who squeal and giggle so much that Satan is willing to drag them back to hell…They like pink and listen to stupid bubblegum pop.” The fact one of their identifiers is they “like pink,” stereotypically associated with femininity, shows the very reason for the ridicule of teeny bopper music: it is aimed for a feminine audience, and therefore, it should not be taken seriously. No, unlike hypermasculine displays of gender in rock and metal, teeny bopper music, marketed for young girls, can’t be ‘real music’.
When I listened to One Direction’s recently released 5th album ‘Made in the A.M,’ I was astounded by how mature it was. Lyrics ,written by them, told stories of standard promiscuity, seen in ‘Love You Goodbye’ and ‘Temporary Fix,’ to surprisingly sombre ruminations, in ‘Walking in the Wind’ and ‘A.M’ to startling personal reflections of the boyband’s lifestyle “cameras flashing every time we go out” in ‘Perfect’ and the importance of their fans, and Zayn? (the fifth member that left in March this year) in ‘History.’ These lyrics aren’t mindless junk, churned out by a mass generator and applied to catchy riffs like you’d expect. They’re complex and subtle, with dark tones, like in Wolves: “headed straight for your heart/ Like a bullet in the dark,” and sometimes humorous, like the play on words, “I live for you, I long for you, Olivia” making ‘Olivia’ a pun for ‘I love you.’ The slow tempo of ‘If I Could Fly’ and ‘A.M’ juxtapose with the catchy anthems ‘Drag Me Down’ (already released as a single) and ‘Temporary Fix.’ One Direction’s teeny bopper music is surprisingly mature for something that is often undermined and cast aside.
If ‘Made in the AM’ is anything to go by, teeny bopper music deserves far more credit than what people have given them. It has provided a platform for teenage girls to express their passion, and to negotiate their identities in a society fraught with expectations. The ridicule given to ‘teeny boppers’ and the music they support, lies in the root of who we are; how we treat and devalue teenage girls, and what their worth is in society.