Indie is a very broad term for music. It once just described music that was made outside of labels, but now it’s an entire musical genre being made in bedrooms on budgets and major studios for big labels. There are several different sub-genres of Indie that sometimes get confused with each other. Like Bedroom Pop, Indie Pop, Dream Pop, Lo-Fi, etc. Today, I’ll try to clarify these terms (as well as any subjective classification can be clarified) and attempt to explain the differences between them.
Disclaimer: music is very subjective and some of this comes down to semantics, but here goes…
What’s the Difference Between Bedroom Pop and Indie Pop?
Bedroom pop and indie pop are both subgenres of pop music that have “indie” roots and a fair share of similarities. But there are also definitive distinctions between the two.
First, let’s get the similarities out of the way. Both bedroom pop and indie pop:
- Rely on or encourage the use of unconventional or non-traditional production techniques
- Are usually made at a consumer level in home studios, rather than in a professional studio setting (and even professional recordings will try to emulate the “lo-fi” sound of home setups)
- Come with an attached aesthetic that could be described as laid-back, daydream-y, and youthful. Imagery often associated with these subgenres will involve pastel and colorful palettes and “normcore” ideals. For those who don’t know, normcore is an aesthetic that emphasizes normal, everyday, comfortable fashion and a sentiment for simplistic uneventful lifestyles.
Now let’s look at some of the differences.
Bedroom Pop tends to focus on very introspective lyrics and volunteers itself to more poignant themes. Any lyrics can be confessional, but Bedroom Pop really hones in on this idea: songs are usually written by teenagers and young adults in their bedrooms talking about personal topics…so how could the songs not be confessional!
Indie Pop, on the other hand, often has lyrics more in line with pop music than slacker rock. After all, just look at the subgenre’s name: it’s usually pop music at the hands on home producers. You’ll find more polished choruses with an inclination towards mainstream catchiness.
Bedroom Pop tracks often has a more laid-back production style: tracks are usually more minimalist (i.e. more stripped down or bare bones). You would not expect a Wall of Sound on a Bedroom Pop track. The subgenre really embraces the DIY appeal of home production with: sparse ornamentation, cheap-sounding effects, intentionally digital-sounding percussion, foley-laced mixes, and soft vocals that can sound more like an afterthought on a rainy afternoon than an intentionally-recorded single.
Indie Pop doesn’t shy away from slick professional production as much, it may just lack access to it. While Bedroom artists may embrace the lo-fi aesthetic and seek out it’s crackling audio nuances, Indie Pop artists may simply be pop songmakers who are in want of the production capacity found in pro studios.
There is also a greater emphasis on melody writing and tempo in Indie Pop music, when compared to the downtempo atmosphere found in many popular Bedroom Pop songs.
Indie Pop is kinda like regular Pop but on your younger sister’s Beanie Baby allowance budget: it still wants to have mainstream appeal it just can’t afford it yet. Ironically enough, even major label artists will go for (or retain) this production aesthetic even when they do have professional studio access. Go figure.
You’ll find pretty standard, radio-friendly song structures and common chord progressions in Indie Pop. Unlike Bedroom Pop, which is more likely to completely disregard structure and just do what it wants if it feels like it.
Bedroom Pop tends to have a younger audience and include younger artists. It’s a newer term, so that’s understandable. Indie Pop goes way back and you’ll find people from a wide range of ages that make or listen to it.
What About Lo-Fi Music?
I used the term “Lo-Fi” a few times. Are you wondering what that means? In most contexts, Lo-Fi refers to a production style rather than a genre of music. It’s short for “low fidelity” and refers to productions done in lower quality settings (like an untreated bedroom rather than a treated sound stage) with lower quality equipment (4-track recorders, cassette decks, cheap digital interfaces, free drum packs, cheap knockoff guitars, etc.). With Lo-Fi, those economy-class production subtleties are embraced, enjoyed, and even emphasized rather than shunned for being low-grade.
It’s important to note “Lo-Fi Hip Hop” or “Chill Hop” really is a genre unto itself, but that Lo-Fi is still a term that can be applied to any genre of music depending on it’s production techniques.
Some Notable Artists to Check Out
Here are a few well-known artists from each subgenre. These lists are totally non-exhaustive, don’t get mad if I didn’t name your favorites:
- Bedroom Pop: Still Woozy, Monsune, Boy pablo, Cavetown, Clairo (her earlier stuff at least), Powfu
- Indie Pop: London Grammar, AJR, BoywithUke, Tessa Violet, Sasha Sloan, Belle and Sebastian, Wallows
Any Other Subgenres I Should Know About?
So glad you asked, because Bedroom Pop and Indie Pop are just two of many Indie subgenres you may want to scope out. Similar styles of music include:
- Dream Pop. Like Indie Pop but a lot more atmospheric, with more reverb and chorus, you may or may not be able to hear what the singer is actually saying and that’s kinda the point. Artists include: Cocteau Twins, Beach House, Mazzy Star
- Shoegaze. Like Dream Pop but a lot more distortion and effects on the guitars. Did you think distortion was only used to make aggressive music? Well think again, because Shoegaze makes 3 muffs and an auto-wah sound dreamy given enough reversed reverse verb… Artists include: My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Lush
- Alternative Pop. Pop that sounds like Indie but doesn’t want to be “as Pop” so it experiments more with composition and lyrical content. Or I may just be messing with you by now. Artists include: Thomas Headon, Luke Wild
- Synthpop. Pop that hasn’t given up on synthesizers and likes the whole 80s throwback vibe. Artists include: Molly Nilsson, CHVRCHES, Charli XCX
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