Welcome to the School of BopU!
Here, I’ll be educating you on the finest bops from a certain geographical region, genre or artist. Silence at the back – class is now in session!
Popular music from the Middle East is known as Arabic pop. Lyrically, songs are almost always about love and relationships; Arabic pop girls frequently swoon about how their man makes them feel like a rare diamond in one song and then lament about how he ripped her heart out in the next one. You do get the occasional politically aware track, but don’t ever expect lyrics like “I’ve been drinking, I’ve been drinking/I get filthy when that liquor get into me” or “Lick my pussy and my crack”. Musically, songs tend to be structured the same as the West (verse, chorus etc), although extended and musically rich introductions are quite common. Arabic music uses the Arabic scale and songs are almost always in the minor key to better evoke their heartfelt lyrics. Arabic pop is noted for its fusion of traditional instruments with Western drum machines and synths. Songs tend to be universally similar in production and arrangement and there is a clear ‘template’ which you will hear time and time again. Importantly, Arabic pop songs come in two ‘styles’; traditional or Western fusion. In a traditional sounding pop song, you will regularly hear atmospheric kamaans, o’od and qanoon melodies in the background and nay or accordion solo sections layered over a darbuk rhythm you won’t be able to resist body popping to (“Mafi Noum” by Najwa Karam is a fabulous example). Although Western fusion songs use Western ideas (e.g. four on the floor for dance songs), drum machines and synths, producers ‘Arabify’ them by using the Arabic scales and, commonly, an element of the traditional pop style (heard in “Ana Geet” by Carole Samaha – Western dance beat and synth bass with Arabic scale kamaan melodies). Also, the singing style is unique in that there is a strong focus on melismatic vocal performances in Arabic pop; notes are often stretched and heavily decorated by singers, using a hammer vibrato.
The CD album still thrives in the Middle East, and you can find all your fave’s albums stacked in abundance at your local Virgin Megastore. That doesn’t mean people buy music though. Piracy is rife in the Middle East, and a lot of consumers cop a fake bootleg or download from somewhere online. Anghami is rising in popularity however, and operates in the same vein as Spotify. Sadly, album artwork tends to be quite tragic and very Paint-esque, so make sure you find fanmade ones.
Like the West, the biggest pop girls have usually risen to fame by creating some sort of scandal or controversy due to their image or (lack of) clothing. But, mostly, it’s because they release amazing bops and slay with their performances! In no particular order*, here are some of the most prominent Arabic pop girls:
Controversy queen Amal is known for constantly pushing social boundaries and using her music and social influence to make a true impact on society. Her fiery and outspoken personality has led to iconic feuds with several Arabic pop girls, a lawsuit with the Middle East’s biggest label Rotana and a ban from Kuwait. Slay!
Her best album is Wailak Min Allah, which you can play on Anghami.
Watch her shocking and scandalous video for Bayya Al Ward:
Asala is legendary and she has been releasing bops since the early 90s. She has suffered some tragic hardships in her life, but none of them have stopped her from slaying audiences with bop after bop. Check out her bouncy club track Oul Bahibek:
Her best album is Shakhseya Anida
Carole Samaha is a true bop provider and is known for her powerful vocals and catchy melodies, demonstrated in the flirtatious melodies of “Esmany” and the emotional EDM tracks “Ana Geet” and “Ana Sahrak”.
Her best album is Ehsass (especially “El Afrah” which is a BOP)
Elissa has sold an incredible 30 million records in her time, constantly winning the World Music Award for Best Selling Middle Eastern Artist. Also, like all legendary divas, she has been a judge on The X Factor. Check out these fun and upbeat bops from her below:
Halet Hob is her best album
Former Miss Lebanon and A-pop’s queen of sexy, Haifa, creates controversy no matter what she does, be it her lack of powerhouse vocals and clothing, racist lyrics or political views. What remains true however is that Haifa will always bring the bops. Her songs are a great fusion of Middle East meets West, combining catchy melodies and great beats all while remaining absolutely stunning and fabulous. Hear the best of them:
Fun fact: she had a near death experience while shooting the video for her song “Hasa Ma Bena”.
Her best album is MJK
Self-proclaimed “Queen of Stage” Myriam has been dazzling audiences with her floorfilling hits, heartbreaking ballads and, most notably, her dancing skills. Her latest album, Aman, broke the record on Anghami for the most played album, which effectively made her the service’s most played artist. Rihrih better check that wig girl! Check out Myriri’s incredible performance of one of her signature hits “Nadini”:
Ms. Karam is another of the Middle East’s biggest selling divas. She has been dominating the scene since 1989, with her albums amounting to over 60 million in sales. Najwa constantly reinvents herself and everything she does feels like an event (sound familiar?). In 2011, she made history for creating the most expensive/first 3D music video in the Middle East with “Mafi Noum”, an incredible dance track guaranteed to get you moving!
Nancy Ajram is probably the most internationally known Arabic pop diva, receiving praise on The Oprah Winfrey Show and performing shows across the globe. She is iconic for her sweet vocals and personality, while constantly delivering massive radio hits which have helped her become one of the most viewed artists on YouTube. Watch some of her biggest hits now:
Sherine is a huge star from Egypt, and has been releasing bops for over a decade. Her 2014 album Ana Keteer gave us the sexy electro dance track “W Meen Ekhtar”, which she released before serving a six month jail sentence for harassing one of her neighbors.
So, there you have it. Go and explore the wonderful world of Arabic pop world, my habibi.
Who are you stanning for now? Which bop is your fave? Did I miss any pop girls? Let me know in the comments, or harass me on Twitter (@shebopsblog).
*I lied, it’s alphabetical.