By Rhea Kapur (IV)
In preparation for Snowball, Pingry’s annual winter formal, there are a couple items to consider. One is, of course, the look. For female students, it’s finding the perfect dress—classically beautiful, yet original—and for the gentlemen, a suit that stands out. Refer to this issue’s fashion column for more! Other items that come to mind include finding a date, perhaps, a group of friends to get ready with, and everything in between. In all the mayhem that ensues in the week leading up to the event, many don’t stop and think about the music. Out of sight, out of mind—until the event starts. There, it’s, “Ugh, what are the words to this again? Let’s go get a drink and wait ‘till something we know comes on.” The cycle repeats itself every year. The real fun at Snowball—or any dance, for that matter—is to vibe with your friends and just enjoy the music. Many upperclassmen I’ve talked to agree: at a dance, we enjoy the music to the fullest when, first of all, we like the songs, and even more importantly, we know the songs– the chorus, when the beat drops, and a cool freestyle that matches. And let’s be real here: a lot of the time, that isn’t the case.
To investigate this further, I reflected on exactly what type of music is played at Snowball. A friend on Student Government sent me the suggested playlist, which is curated by members of the group and sent to the Snowball DJ. Looking at it, we see that the songs mainly fall into two categories: hip-hop and iconic bops. The latter is self explanatory: the likes of Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud,” The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside,” and John Legend’s “All of Me” are commonplace. These are songs that we’ve grown up listening to on the radio, the kinds of songs that friends scream out loud together, smiling, arm in arm—the songs that bring us teenagers together. These fall under the wider umbrella of “pop,” and they’re perfect for a close-knit, school-wide dance. An observation, though, if I may—at Snowball, it’s mainly the female students who dance to these songs, while the males stand on the side awkwardly. Maybe it’s because the lyrics are more touchy-feely, and that, even though male students know the words, singing along goes against the “masculine” image that they must project. Or, maybe this music just isn’t as popular among male students—but I digress.
The roles quickly reverse, though, when songs from the former category—hip-hop—come on. These are characterized by rhythmic beatboxing and clean beats accompanied by raw, flowing rap lyrics. The most popular of them—Drake’s “One Dance,” Travis Scott’s “HIGHEST IN THE ROOM”—are decently well known to all genders and bring most people out to the dance floor. However, when just slightly less popular songs come on—Lil Uzi Vert’s “That’s a Rack,” Migos’ “Narcos”—it’s the male students that jump up and crowd around the middle of the dance floor, enjoying the beat and shouting the lyrics, while female students step back.
Does this mean that the music tastes of our generation, our age group, also split into these two strict categories—and that the gender interests do as well? I would disagree. Take a look at recent breakout stars like Lil Nas X or Billie Eilish, for example. Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” a smashing hit, combines a country sound with the classic hip-hop beat. Both sounds are prominent, and by putting them together, Lil Nas X becomes original, a pioneer, and instantly popular. Eilish’s sound is also definitive, original; she specializes in horror pop, with tunes that are uncannily catchy but also creepy and spine-tingling, and even have a bit of the hip-hop influence mixed in with the beat. As such, Eilish’s music has an entirely different, captivating sound, unlike anything that has been heard before. Both artists have a fantastic following with teenagers of all genders and backgrounds, including Pingry’s own—both artists are on the Snowball playlist and stirred the entire crowd to their feet when played. They’ve blurred the lines between the different genres. I believe this is also reflective of the world our generation is growing up in as a whole: we’re more accepting, more fluid, more willing to combine different aspects of what is known to create what is not. Although there may not be as many artists like Lil Nas X and Eilish out there just yet, with the same degree of popularity, I think that’s the direction we’re going in. Soon, popular music will be more obviously made up of more than just two sounds. Just imagine what the dynamics at Snowball will be like when that’s the case.