The 5 Most Surprising Things We Learned From Netflix's 'This Is Pop'

The docuseries is a fun look back at the some of the most pivotal moments in pop music history.

this is pop
Netflix

Defining the musical genre of pop is a damn-near impossible task simply because "popular music" is always changing. What's considered pop today may not even be sonically aligned with last week's highest charting songs, let alone the hits that ruled the airwaves 10 years ago. Thus, Netflix's insightful new music docuseriesThis Is Pop doesn't set out to analyze and dissect the sonic elements that qualify as song as pop. Instead, the eight-part series explores some of the most pivotal moments in the history of the genre.

From the discovery of autotune to the rise of music festivals, This Is Pop takes on myriad captivating topics and taps some of the most beloved music acts of all time—including Boyz II Men, Oasis, Ludwig Göransson, Wynonna Judd, and countless others—for exclusive interviews, dynamically exploring pop through the a macro lens without having to focus on any one band or artist for too long. 

The unique, firsthand accounts coupled with playful, yet informative narration make for an enjoyable docuseries that's packed with information that you probably wouldn't ever stumble upon during a routine Google search. Even a bonafide music enthusiast will be able to walk away from it with a new tidbit of information, and to give you an idea of the fascinating subject matter covered in Netflix's latest music docuseries, here are just five of the bombshells that we learned from watching This Is Pop.

boyz ii men
Boyz II Men | Netflix

Boyz II Men weren't initially enthusiastic about their record-breaking single "End Of The Road."

This Is Pop starts off with an episode about R&B/pop group Boyz II Men and how their groundbreaking style became the music industry's formula for pumping out boy bands like the Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC, and 98 Degrees. Titled "The Boyz II Men Effect," the series opener starts off by documenting the Philadelphia boy band's rise to prominence, and eventually the episode lands on one of Boyz II Men's biggest hits of all time, "End Of The Road."

Bell Biv DeVoe's Michael Bivins served as the group's former manager during their heyday, and in This Is Pop, Bivins reveals that upon playing Babyface's "End Of The Road" reference track for Boyz II Men, they weren't even moved by the now-timeless ballad. Coupled with the group’s initial disinterest in the record, Jheryl Busby—the head of Motown Records who originally signed Boyz II Men—also didn't even give Bivins a chance to play him the track. It's absolutely mind-blowing to hear Bivins talk about the early lack of enthusiasm for "End Of The Road," especially since it went on to spend a then-record breaking 13 weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100. Thankfully, Michael Bivins believed in the record, forced Boyz II Men to record "End Of The Road," and released it without his boss's approval.

t-pain and usher
T-Pain and Usher | Netflix

T-Pain sidelined his debut album for a full year while searching for autotune.

One of the most insane, and honestly pretty awful, things viewers will learn from watching This Is Pop is that Usher once told T-Pain during a plane ride to the BET Awards that the autotune crooner had "fucked up music for real singers." In that scene from the second episode, "Auto-Tune," T-Pain reveals that Usher's brutal criticism actually sent him into a four-year depression. 

While that tidbit alone was a huge shocker, it's surprisingly not the most unexpected reveal of the episode. In "Auto-Tune," T-Pain reveals that he had already finished his debut album but wasn't confident enough in the project to release it. Obsessed with making his music more unique, the Florida artist soon found himself on a year-long hunt for the unusual vocal effect that he heard on Jennifer Lopez's "If You Had My Love." Since he didn't know the official name for autotune at the time, T-Pain delayed his debut album for a full year while searching through various plugins and producer software. Once he finally found it, Rappa Ternt Sanga—with T. Pain's first two singles, "I"m Sprung" and "I'm N Luv (Wit a Stripper)"—was officially born.

abba
ABBA | Netflix

Sweden is basically the unofficial capital of pop music.

During the third episode, "Stockholm Syndrome," This Is Pop explores Sweden's inexplicable influence in pop, from the glory days of ABBA to Ludwig Göransson's recent work with Childish Gambino and Marvel Studios' Black Panther. Apparently, there's an unbelievably long list of pop smash hits that have come out of Sweden—we're talking *NSYNC's "It's Gonna Be Me," Britney Spears' "...Baby One More Time," P!nk's "So What," Katy Perry's "E.T." with Kanye West, Kelly Clarkson's "My Life Would Suck Without You," the Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way," Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off," and countless others. Unless you've been reading the songwriter and production credits for some of the biggest pop songs since the '90s, you probably would never guess that a ridiculous amount of them were either written, produced, or recorded in Sweden, so it's really interesting to see the docuseries spend an entire episode on the Swedish music community's impact on popular music in the United States.

Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road" wasn't the first mega country hit to be shunned by the genre's community.

After Lil Nas X's debut single "Old Town Road" started to take the world by storm, it was notably removed from Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart, sparking debate as to whether the Atlanta artist's single could even be considered country. Billy Ray Cyrus thought so, and once he joined the sensational country-trap crossover, the song went on to become not only the longest #1 country song on the Billboard Hot 100 of all time, but the longest #1 song on Billboard's most notable chart, period.

In "When Country Goes Pop," This Is Pop reveals that the Lil Nas X chart fiasco in 2019 wasn't nearly the first time that the country music community turned its back on a huge country song. The Country Music Association gave John Denver—who many in the country music community deemed an "outsider"—the award for "Entertainer of the Year" in 1975, and Charlie Rich—who was presenting the award—was so appalled that he burned the card after reading Denver's name on it. Even Billy Ray Cyrus originally caught flack from the country community for his debut single, "Achy Breaky Heart," which is ironic considering that he played a large role in legitimizing Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road" decades later.

The legendary "Battle of Britpop" didn't even feature Oasis and Blur's biggest records.

Every once in awhile, new music release dates become more than just an opportunity to check out our favorite artists' latest work. Sometimes, two artists are both vying for Billboard chart dominance, and their tight competition results in sales and chart battles. Well, on August 14, 1995, two British pop bands who literally hated each other's guts found themselves in one of the most legendary chart battles in British history. Blur's "Country House" and Oasis' "Roll with It" were going head-to-head, and British news outlets were quick to deem it the "Battle of Britpop."

Blur ultimately emerged from the "Battle of Britpop" victorious, but This Is Pop makes sure that viewers are aware that neither of the two Britpop bands' hyped-up singles were their most critically or commercially successful releases. In fact, Oasis and Blur both peaked with the classic tracks "Wonderwall" and "Song 2," respectively, and the historical impact of both tracks is thoroughly explored in the docuseries' fifth episode, "Hail Britpop!"

Over the course of eight episodes, This Is Pop covers far more territory than the previously mentioned points, so if you're intrigued by the history of pop music or you're simply down to watch a well-crafted documentary, Netflix's latest music docuseries is calling your name.

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Joshua Robinson is an Atlanta-based contributor to Thrillist.