Key Changes: Gen Z Hitmakers

I don’t know about you, but I’m hugely vulnerable to earworms: those songs that stick in your head and just never leave. Now, I fall squarely in the “millennial” camp, but in my experience lately, there are some Generation Z (born 1995-2015) pop artists that are making really catchy songs that spread like wildfire on social media and everyone finds themselves singing. Here are three top-rated Gen Z artists whose new albums we’ve recently purchased for the library, full of new earworms for you to love and hate – you’re welcome!

Billie Eilish became iconic for her oversized fashion and green-and-black hair alongside her homemade, whisper-sung tracks. I always found her work atmospheric and spooky, leaning into the dark side of humanity and growing up. For her new album, Happier than Ever, Eilish has changed her image to blonde hair and a nude color palette – but her softly sung, otherworldly musical style and lightly cynical lyrics remain largely unchanged. You might have heard her hit song Bad Guy from debut album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? This time around, watch out for Therefore I Am, which has a similar sound but revolves around defying bullies and haters.

Tones and I, AKA Toni Watson of Australia, rocketed to fame on the song Dance Monkey in 2019. Like Billie Eilish, she has a unique vocal sound, which in her iconic track is paired with danceable beats (evidence: the song is my favorite from the game Just Dance 2021). Dance Monkey was released on the 6-song EP The Kids Are Coming in late 2019. The new album, Welcome to the Madhouse, may have grown in scope as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic: Watson added 5 more songs and took extra time to do most of the production work herself. According to critics, the songs on this album are Watson being really vulnerable and exploring her mental health and the cruelty of haters, through clever lyrics and strong vocals.

This last entry was added to our collection a few months back, but it’s too popular not to be mentioned in this group. Olivia Rodrigo was originally known for her acting work on Disney shows, including High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, but with the release of her smash hit album Sour, her fame has definitely shifted. The earworm (for me, anyway) in this case is Good 4 U, an energetic and danceable take on the anger after a breakup, especially when an ex-partner moves on quickly. The album as a whole is very centered on the teenage experience, especially falling in (and out of) love: the other popular track is Driver’s License, about getting a license but losing a partner. Guaranteed to knock around your brain for a while, this is not an album to miss – even if you’re not a teenager anymore.

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