By Rami Mansi
Fashion influencer and Gen Z icon Aliyah Bah, professionally known as Aliyah’s Interlude, released the viral song “IT GIRL” in late September, where she spells out “it girl” in a humorous melody that makes you question whether she’s singing a satirical novelty song or if she’s a genuine singer who knows what her audience wants. At the same time, Taylor Swift and Beyonce were going on their respective, critically acclaimed tours for their new albums. Hence, in 2023, female pop stars have been coming for blood and dominating the charts, signaling the return of the “it girl.”
To be an “it girl” you need to be the center of attention and distinctly attuned to what’s new and fresh in modernity (examples can vary from Zendaya to Taylor Swift to Kali Uchis). Specifically, “it girls” in music have made their way back into the 2020s by using their femininity to their advantage by being on top of trends.
This was the first full year without major pandemic social restrictions like mask and vaccine requirements, which meant that tours and album cycles would be in full throttle. Trends in 2023 were interesting, to say the least; song production saw pieces coming in at under two and a half minutes to appease the audience built on short attention spans.
With shorter pieces, bridges as a part of the basic song structure dissipated, to the dismay of fans, but to the joy of singers who don’t have the vocal capacity to switch it up once per track. The genres that saw success this year were hip-hop, R&B, bedroom pop, and mainstream pop, with a notable increase in appreciation for electronic music due to both niche artists coming into play and Beyonce’s “Renaissance” reaching its expected commercial success and pop culture impact.
2023 also saw heightened importance put on music videos; they stayed on the back burner after the pandemic, but as any music fan would know, music videos are essential to an artist’s creative vision. In other words, labels needed to bring back music videos to complete a correct, emotionally driven, and successful album era.
The revival of love for music videos came especially into play in Troye Sivan’s Queer-club-oriented and Grammy-nominated music video for his lead single “Rush.” The music video stirred the public up in almost all the right ways and pushed the video to millions of streams.
As the music industry works, when one thing becomes popular, of course, other creators hop on the bandwagon, leading to the consistent development of music videos for most major signed artists.
Along with all the great things 2023 brought us in music, of course, we have the downsides. One of those is, ironically, getting more content out of our artists; music videos, behind-the-scenes videos, singles, album roll-outs, virtually everything in the music industry is over-saturated and has been since the beginning of the year.
There was a music industry before COVID and after COVID. Before COVID, we had fewer independent and DIY artists, more exclusiveness in the industry, and projects coming away at an even pace. After COVID, however, the industry had independent artists reaching more mainstream success, greater emphasis on social media presence and promotion in celebrities, and projects that were once postponed by the pandemic are now being released alongside new and current albums, causing friction and competition between pieces.
Some pieces have been called into question due to the over-sampling that has been becoming one of the more disrespectful trends seen in recent times. A good sample and the right manipulation of said sample can give almost any song a full 180 spin. This is best shown in Lady Gaga’s “Replay” on her 2019 studio album “Chromatica,” which interpolates “My House” by Diana Ross for its chorus. However, overdoing or inappropriately using a sample breaks a song apart entirely, as seen in Coi Leray’s “My Body,” where she samples the melody of Lesley Gore’s “It’s My Party” and puts a rap beat over what should be a simple instrumental.
But seeing the bright side of this rather disdained matter, these issues will set 2024 up almost perfectly. This year has been a quality-check year where the great songs and albums released set the precedent for what needs to get done in the following year. The trends are set, the genres decided, and some albums have already been stuck to a 2024 release date.
2023 set up the next year with the hopes of continuing the legacy of the “it girl.” Olivia Rodrigo, Ice Spice, and SZA are some of the newcomers in the grand scheme of music that have been deemed as “it girls” recently. With new singers vying for their 15 minutes of fame, very few have what it takes to be called an “it girl.” Can these new “it girls” distinguish themselves through their Gen Z view of talent and charisma that can carry them through the ever-evolving world of fame and glamour? Although hope is slim, we can only wait and see.