Icona Pop’santhem for millennial female badassadness clearly should have been the song of the summer. But, alas, we were all too busy listening to Alan Thicke’s douchy son being a douche. But we can now make up for this by listening to our favorite Swedish duo’s newly released album. It’s catchy, witty pop featuring yet another lady anthem, much lesbian innuendo, and not a single reference to anyone from the cast of Growing Pains. Fall 2013 is winning.
2. Messy Nessy Chic
Who wouldn’t want to spend hours looking at old-timey photos of abandoned Victorian tree houses, vintage sass, and the real Jessica Rabbit? People who hate fun, that’s who. Normally, whimsy is something I actively avoid, but I’ve been obsessed with the Messy Nessy Chic website ever since I happened upon their post about Hilda, the forgotten American pinup—who perfectly encapsulates everything that’s right about this site. It’s twee. It’s quirky. It’s beauty before Photoshop. And it’s totally destroying my productivity in the best possible way.
Pop music is supposed to celebrate three things: excess, poor judgment, and inexplicably expensive spandex. So if you try to listen to any type of pop “music with a message,” you’ll likely give it about 45 seconds before switching back to Kanye. Pop isn’t supposed to take itself too seriously. But then here comes some 16-year-old Kiwi to prove us all wrong. Lorde’s single “Royals” is an ode to anti-materialism that somehow manages to be fun. That’s no mean feat. And she makes spare videos featuring random, dancing New Zealand teenagers. And she’s holding a rat on the cover of her album. And she has big 80s hair. I like this chick.
Imagine the most offensive phrase a 30-something journalist could use to describe a tween girl. Whatever you’re thinking couldn’t possibly be worse than “knicker wetting banshee” because a term worse than “knicker wetting banshee” doesn’t exist. But this is what British GQ thinks of One Direction fans—who, we should remember, are a bunch of little girls.
While much has been written about the vicious Twitter war instigated by British GQ’s cover story on the reigning kings of tween pop, the coverage mostly treats their young fans as, at best, insipid fools and, at worst, dangerous, high-pitched estrogen zombies. No one asks whether all this screaming has a purpose. No one asks if the ritual of pop idolatry may actually be important for these young girls. And they should because it actually is. I know this because I was once a 13-year-old girl. And I was an intense fan. And even a pack of smug GQ editors couldn’t have ripped that Leonardo DiCaprio calendar out of my cold, dead hands.
In the not-so-distant past, I mocked Taylor Swift way more than any adult should ever mock a teenage girl they have never met. In my defense, she was an aw-shucks princess who equated a woman with her hymen and slut shamed a brunette version of herself. So she kind of had it coming. But that was circa-2009 Taylor Swift—the Taylor Swift whose ideas about high school all seemed to come from watching reruns of Beverly Hills 90210 on the Soap network. Then John Mayer started holding her hand on the cover of US Weekly and, suddenly, there were no more songs about floppy-haired boys asking for permission to marry her. Now there were songs about assholes, or, more specifically, assholes in fedoras. So Taylor Swift ditched the peasant blouse for short shorts and stopped being America’s perfect country princess. In the process, she became something much more useful. She became our nation’s batshit crazy spirit guide.
People assume that everyone listens to Taylor Swift because her songs are so ridiculously catchy—and yes they are. Anyone who can listen to Red without repeating a song is probably a sociopath who shouldn’t breed. But the real reason she’s so popular is that she taps into the part of your brain that is perpetually stuck at some junior high dance in 1995. It’s the part of your brain that makes you read old text messages months after the relationship ended because you enjoy torturing yourself with this digital cutting ritual. It’s the part of your brain that makes you sleep with the guy who told you, while you were breaking up, that you shouldn’t be angry with him because he always bought you such good take-out. Listening to Taylor Swift’s over-the-top romanticism doesn’t make you feel insane; it makes you feel as though you are part of a really large club that just happens to be kind of crazy. You can even use her catalog as a barometer of how bad the breakup is going. If you stick to Red, you’ll probably be fine, but if you find yourself listening to Fearless, it may be time to admit that you’re not very good at having a vagina.