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Pop Music is Underrated: A Review of the "Basic"

Recently I was talking to a new friend and they asked me something ubiquitous for a more recent relationship - what kind of music do I listen to? Immediately thoughts raced through my mind. Oh god, this is embarrassing. I listen to girly pop music! I must preface this by saying I know my taste is basic or trash. 


This isn’t new for me. I’ve been a fan of popular music for as long as I can remember and have been plagued by feelings of guilt for nearly as long. Despite the music of Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande being at the top of the charts, I find myself hesitant to tell people that I like it. 


I decided to be honest and describe this phenomenon to my new friend. “I like pop music,” I said plainly, “but when people ask me that, I usually tell them something like, ‘Oh, I know my taste is bad, haha.’”


“That makes a lot of sense,” they said. “I like pop music too, and I’ve heard people say that a bunch before. Honestly, pop music is underrated.”


We laughed at the irony in that sentence, but the truth was, it made sense. In recent years, the term “basic” has become equivalent to bad. Things that were popular or mainstream weren’t as cool as things that were underground or less known. So how did this come to be? What is the deal with the concept of being “basic”?


Essentially, “basic” means popular. Compiling data from a blog post and WikiHow article, I found a few traits that are said to be “basic”: liking Starbucks, being obsessed with Coachella, taking a ton of selfies or using social media frequently, and watching reality television. 


According to a post, the term “basic” popped up in the 1970s as slang for being “unexciting, unexceptional, or uneventful.” This duplicate post also has a note from the author, stating, “The best girls are always gonna be the difficult ones; deal with it or get yourself a basic home.” I also found more on Urban Dictionary to describe someone “basic” that was insulting: a post from 2013 marked three key characteristics:

  1. They describe someone without defining characteristics that might make a person interesting, extraordinary, or worth devoting time or attention to.

  2. Lacking intelligence and unable to socialize on even an elementary level.

  3. Annoyingly frustrating because of the above.


Immediately, it’s easy to see how this term was co-opted into something harmful. Who wants to be uninteresting and dull? Especially in this age of social media, where people are always looking for something to post, everyone is always searching for something new and exciting. No one wants to scroll down their Instagram page and see six photos of avocado toast. But it goes further than that. Moreover, teasing someone for their interests is pretty standard, but degrading someone and calling them unable to interact with others because they like pumpkin-spiced lattes is hugely over the top.


This was pushed even further around the 2000s, but especially in the 2010s, the term “basic b*tch” was coined. Often associated with trashy white women, the word spread all over, notably to rap songs and reality television. Soon, you could find dozens of articles, posts, and BuzzFeed quizzes on how to tell if you’re a basic b*tch - or your friend or girlfriend. Now you could get two derogatory terms - primarily for women - for the price of one.


When it comes down to it, calling someone “basic” is just another part of the patriarchy pushing its way into everyday life. I found this to be said best by a YouTuber I used to watch named Ashley, on her channel bestdressed. The influencer has been known for speaking out honestly regarding women on her fashion channel, but she said something that stuck with me in a regular video portraying her recent summer outfits: wearing a simple pair of light wash jeans, black heels, a black mini purse, and a white corset top, Ashley says to the camera, 


“This is the type of person that I used to call basic before I realized that calling somebody basic is kind of just playing into the patriarchy’s belief that all things that are popular amongst women are inherently bad and don’t involve having taste when in reality some things that women like are just cool and okay to like if they’re also popular because people also pull them off well and look good doing them.”


In another video, the YouTuber also points out that things that are in demand and marketed towards men are seen as excellent, while under the same circumstances, the opposite is true for women. For instance, she adds, if a man likes sports, we don’t call him a “basic bastard,” but if a woman likes romantic comedies, we call her a “basic b*tch.”


To conclude, the entire history of the term “basic” should be enough to scare off anyone who wants to use it today. While people might be explicitly calling others “basic” less, the concept that liking desired things makes someone less exciting and even less intelligent has not disappeared. Someone’s interests should never make you question their character if it is something harmless like pop music. In a culture where everyone strives to be different all the time and blending into the crowd is the worst thing that can happen, allow yourself to like what you like. If anything, enjoying pop music is supposedly less common now!


An article from Her Campus put it best: “‘You’re so basic.’ Yes, and?” 


Edited by Whitney Edna Ibe

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Tags: #media #music #trends #popculture


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