What is the state of popular music right now? Where do you think it’s going?

What is the state of popular music right now? Where do you think it’s going? Has the popular music of the last 23 years or so ever really been “modern”—in the sense of revolutionary innovation, cultural renewal, and resistance to existing “official culture”?
Who are our most important popular artists now? And do they fit the definition of “popular” that we’re using in this course: a musical practice that has exceeded its cultural origins to take on new meanings for more widespread audiences? Is there any music that has mass appeal, and is in some sense progressive, in the sense that it looks at musical possibility in a new way?
Fredric Jameson’s famous sense of what “post-modernism” is (an advanced stage of capitalism) might also help us look at this question in a slightly different way—
“The last few years [1988-1991] have been marked by an inverted millenarianism, in which the premonitions of the future, catastrophic or redemptive, have been replaced the senses of the end of this or that (the end of ideology, art, or social class; the ‘crisis of Leninism, social democracy, or the welfare state, etc., etc.): taken together, all of these perhaps constitute what is increasingly called postmodernism…It seems to me essential to grasp ‘postmodernism’ not as a style, but rather as a cultural dominant: a conception which allows for the presence and coexistence of a range of very different, yet subordinate features…The postmodern is…the force field in which very different kinds of cultural impulses…must make their way. If we do not achieve some general sense of a cultural dominant, then we fall back into a view of present history as sheer heterogeneity, random difference, a coexistence of a host of distinct forces whose effectivity is undecidable”—from Postmodernism, or the Logic of Late Capitalism (1991) by Fredric Jameson (1-6)
Ragtime, urban blues styles of the 1920s, New Orleans Jazz, Swing, Rock and Roll, the psychedelic movement, punk rock, funk, and hip-hop can all be called modern, or progressive, in the sense that in some way these forms of music tried for something revolutionary, that would uproot everything that came before, while driving at the roots of what music can be. When they began, all of those styles were radical, in the sense that they drove at some root, some ‘authentic’ past, while at the same time being unrecognizable and unfamiliar to the audiences that came before them.
If Jameson was right, the old “styles” that we came to know in the early- and mid- 20th-c can never really emerge as culturally dominant, because we’ve arrived at a moment where plurality is possible, where large, diverse groups of people no longer lift up a single, homogenous form (like Parlor Song, the Blues, Rock and Roll, Swing, Disco, etc.) with which to express their identities. Popular culture as we knew it most of the 20th century might be a mechanism by which we repress our individual experiences and values, in order to subscribe to a kind of group think. Maybe we don’t all have to come together anymore, under banner, because we feel empowered to seek out like-minded people on the margins, never caring what the “mainstream” thinks of us. Maybe now we’re all “alternative”: either (1) exploring new modes and innovations that matter only to our own communities, or (2) returning en masse, retro-style, to the glories of some past popular culture.
Those two possibilities just mentioned don’t really fit the definition of popular culture in this course—again, that sense that a new idea in one community ‘explodes’ to mean a lot of different things to a lot of other communities. If we stay innovative within our own communities or if we perpetually rediscover “the good old days,” then we might fit the definition of “art culture” or “folklore,” but not the truly “popular.”
For this essay assignment, you may argue ONE of the following two things—
In your short “listening response,” find one example of a music in the last 25 years (released 1997 or later) that is truly new to you; truly unprecedented. Describe any of its features that resemble music of the past (using terms and concepts from this course), but explain why those resemblances don’t apply in this case. This implies that popular music is alive—that we still have music that “changes the world.” Compare it to at least one song that seems to be an antecedent to it, but explain why — just like the Velvet Underground isn’t really “garage” or “psychedelic rock” in spite of its similarities — your own example is truly radical.