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What we’re about

TLDR: We're like a book club for pop music. Do you enjoy a wide range of popular music across genres and time periods? Do you feel your vast musical knowledge, expertise, and opinions go criminally underappreciated by friends, family, and coworkers? If so, TPOP might be for you. Think of it as a book club for music of all genres: a group that meets periodically at a bar or other public venue to discuss an album or collection of thematically related songs (basically a mixtape). Each meeting has a host (usually me, but anyone can volunteer to do it) who chooses the theme and creates a "starter" Spotify/YouTube playlist to distribute to the group beforehand. I usually encourage members to submit songs related to the theme. Everyone listens to the songs before the meeting, and then the host leads the discussion when we meet. Here are some general areas of discussion a moderator might focus on:

·       AESTHETICS: Whether or not you like the songs—music, arrangements, lyrics, performances, production touches, etc.
·       MUSICAL CONTEXT: Where the music fits within the broader context of pop music. Influences, ripoffs, allusions, references by other musicians, famous criticism, covers, etc. This also includes how the music fits into the band’s and genre’s broader oeuvre, as well as how it embraces or rejects major musical trends.
·       CULTURAL CONTEXT: How the music fits into non-musical culture, e.g., its use in movies, music, and TV; its meaning to specific cultural/political/racial groups; if it has had any broader non-musical cultural influence; historical significance; how well it has held up over time, etc.
·       PERSONAL CONTEXT: What the song means to you. Stories about how you first heard it and its importance to your life.

We define “popular music” very broadly to include not just Top 40 hits, but any music that has a broad audience. This includes all the major genres like indie, hip-hop, metal, R&B, electronic, country, blues, punk, etc. As long as it has national distribution and at least a few songs with six-figure listens on Spotify, it counts. Ideally it will be music that other music nerds will have heard of.

Meetings are in-person only at local bars and restaurants in the Triangle area (Durham, Chapel Hill, Raleigh, etc.). We generally try to meet about once a month at 8pm on a Friday or Saturday. If you've got a great idea for a meeting theme, please let me know and I'll put you in the queue.

Here are a few ground rules we generally observe during discussions—this is not an exhaustive list and I’m happy to take suggestions for additions:


  • Be racist/sexist/homophobic/ableist/etc.
  • Dominate the conversation; it’s not a TED talk.
  • Insult other participants or their opinions, no matter how wrong they might be.


  • Know the music before coming.
  • Come ready to talk.
  • Respect the other participants.
  • Assume sincerity and good faith.

Misc ideas for future meetings:

  • Best one-hit wonders by bands that had other good stuff
  • Best/most effective political or protest songs
  • "American Anthem" Revisited (based on NPR's "American Anthem" project)
  • Best samples in songs
  • Best interpolations of songs
  • Battle of the banneds: Music vs censorship
  • Second acts (bands that had an initial run of popularity, broke up, and then reformed with new music)
  • Odd couples: duets between unlikely artists that work
  • Supergroups and side projects
  • California Love: Songs about the Golden State
  • Sequels and answer songs
  • 7 deadly sins challenge!
  • Back to high school: mixtape x mainstream
  • Songs about days of the week / time
  • Songs named after foods or heavily incorporating gastronomic metaphors
  • Songwriters' corner (each person picks a bunch of songs by one songwriter and different artists)
  • Remixes and alternate versions
  • A deep dive on one historically significant artist or band (such as Prince, Madonna, Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Johnny Cash, or the Beatles--those are just the first ones I thought of)

Upcoming events (1)

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  • [MUSIC DISCUSSION] TPOP presents COWBOY CARTER: The Unofficial Expanded Edition
    Boxyard RTP, Research Triangle Park, NC
    • Photo of Deen Freelon
    • Photo of Stacy
    • Photo of Rachel Council
    • CT