A Very Serious Investigation Into The Difference Between ‘Bops’, ‘Bangers’, And What ‘Slaps’

We're just out here trying to work something out and make the world a better place.


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When it comes to expressing why we love a song so much, we usually reach for one of three clichés. Brockhampton’s ‘New Orleans’, for example, is a banger. Oh, and Kira Puru’s EP? So many bops. That new Kelela remix album? Absolutely slaps.

These terms intrinsically feel right to me: I would never say that Kira Puru’s songs slap, or that those Kelela remixes are bangers — even though they’re dying to be heard on late-night dance-floors. It’s not to say I like one thing more than the other, or that there’s a scale of enjoyment that escalates as the onomatopoeia gets louder.

They simply mean different things. To completely misuse Heidegger’s ‘thing theory’ I remember from university, whether the song ‘bangs’ and what ‘bops’ is self-evident by the song’s ‘banging-ness’ or ‘bopping-ness’. Therefore, it is hard to define: a song simply is a banger, or it simply bops.

But in chatting to the wider Junkee team, it’s clear that one person’s bop is another person’s banger. That’s wild! Clearly, we all need to get on the same page: while there was a general consensus on what it takes for a song to be a banger, bops and slaps proved harder to pin down.

Consider this the sketch of a treatise rather than a definitive ruling: after a little discussion, here’s what we’ve tentatively landed on. We’re just out here trying to work something out and make the world a better place.

While almost all these terms can be used cross-genre (well, maybe not banger, but we’ll get to that soon), they’re most easily defined through the broad strokes of pop music. And since we thoroughly believe Charli XCX is the future of pop, we’re going to cherry-pick from her catalogue — one which spans soundboards and scenes, not to mention BPMs and band setups — for examples. Let’s ride.

It’s Charli, Baby… But Is It A Banger?

A banger is the easiest to define. Back in 2014, Parks And Recreation‘s Tom Haverford (Aziz Anzari) broke down how he makes sure his iPod remains 100 per cent banger: he checks the BPM, drop rate, the song’s ‘dopeness’. Oh, and if it includes any acoustic instruments, it’s out.

Alright, so by the Haverford approach, we’re working with a dance-y track with a high BPM and a couple o’ massive moments? More or less sounds like the EDM ‘how to make money’ formula, but Charli doesn’t have a song with Calvin Harris (yet). And still, Charli bangs.

So sorry fictional character, but you’re wrong and useless to us. The insistence on drops is pretty dated, though we will give Tom the high BPMs.

Meanwhile, over at the ABC, linguist Tiger Webb traced back the etymology of a ‘banger’: for centuries, in English to bang someone is to hit, have sex or take drugs with them. Webb reckons it crossed over to music in the ’80s as a stand-in for “head-banger”, and has taken on its own meaning to loosely mean a song that’s really, really good.

Which is true — bangers are so good there’s no other way to describe them.

But we reckon there’s something in the old meaning of ‘banging as drug-taking’, too. To us, a banger is a song you absolutely lose yourself in. It’s a giddy listen, one where everything hits the exact right spot and you’re on a high for every single second of it. When you hear it, it’s the biggest track in the world: it deserves nothing less than stadium expression.

Over on Twitter, writer Patrick Campbell rightfully pointed out that this isn’t always a euphoric high: sometimes a banger pierces you in the heart. We call this the Robyn factor, or the “screams at a DJ to play ‘Nobody’ by Mitski” effect.

But for Charli, her bangers sound like one of her more decadent PC Music collaborations, like ‘Vroom Vroom’, a high-octane industrial fantasy, or ‘Girls Night Out’, a saccharine single that revels in being basic as all hell. And don’t it feel good?

More examples:

  • ‘Lipgloss’,  ‘Trophy’, ‘Break The Rules’, ‘Femmebot’

I Was Busy Thinking About Bops

Bangers do not hold sovereign right to good times, of course: bops feel very good too.

We’d argue that bops are politer in their intent, given they don’t engulf the listener the way a banger does. They’re mellower in a few ways: the BPM probably sits a little lower, and while a banger can induce jumping, generally a bop elicits its near-namesake, a head bob.

Not to say we all look like dogs: a bop can, and often is, a full-body experience, but the pleasure is less raw than a banger. You could listen to it on repeat and not grow tired, like hours which pass like minutes in a club.

While a banger exerts all your energy at once, a bop sustains you, nourishes you, like Robyn’s ‘Honey’. Or the buffet of Charli XCX’ s ‘Boys’, or the jingling pain of ‘Need Ur Luv’.

More examples:

  • ‘Focus’, ‘Doing It’, ‘Take My Hand’, ‘Out Of My Head’

There Is No Way To Do A Respectful Pun About Slaps

And so, we reach the most undefined category: the song which slaps.

In times of need, we turn to seminal scholars Urban Dictionary. They offer up a few definitions — according to them, if a song slaps it’s “good as fuck”, “desirable” and “tight, something that you can go dumb to”.

The answer is somewhere in-between. Desirable captures that oompf of a song that slaps: when it hits, it feels gooood. Where a banger is an extremity and a bop sustains, slaps are a study of withhold and release.

Okay cool, that reads very poetic and whatever, but what does it sound like? Well, the easiest definition is probably that there’s something to jump against or into, normally a snare or kick-drum. But bops can do that too: we guess the distinction is the way in which slaps often have one or two big moments, individual to the listener. Often, it’s the bridge, but maybe it’ll be a single sample or lyric, something that snags on each listen and makes you smile/cry/go extra hard, just for a second.

For me, that’s the whistle-beat throughout ‘Roll With Me’, the tongue-in-cheek of new single ‘1999’ or that one line in ‘You – Ha Ha Ha’, ‘I know your struggle’. It doesn’t make much sense, but all of those slap.

More examples:

  • ‘5 In The Morning’, ‘Track 10’

Very Scientific Conclusions

To summarise our findings, we believe that a banger demands everything from you (physically or emotionally), sounding like the biggest song in the world. Meanwhile, a bop is a gentler high, one that prompts itself to repeat listens; slaps sit somewhere in-between, songs you listen to for those brief, all-consuming moments.

We expect many to disagree: these linguistic etchings are not definitive. We thoroughly appreciate your measured, respectful feedback (please, do not yell at me), and hope that together, we can reach a definitive answer. One that bangs. Or bops. Or slaps. Or… goes? Oh no.

Jared Richards is a staff writer at Junkee, and co-host of Sleepless In Sydney on FBi Radio. Follow him on Twitter.