Pop Music. Ever Heard of It?

Is Pop Music Defensible?

Comments (0)


Tue, Jun 26, 2012 at 9:43 AM

click to enlarge katy_Perrycrownpop.jpg
Top 20 Worst Bands of All Time

Every day America swallows lots of sickly sweet pop music, without hint of a stomachache. But what about in the long run -- will it give us, to extend the metaphor, stomach cancer? Now pop ain't all bad, but it's certainly a hydra-headed monster of paradox; the more you ponder its complexities the more snarling heads it grows.

The Good: The best pop music's best quality is that it unites us. It allows a lot of people to connect over a piece of music until it becomes a sort of cultural bridge. Michael Jackson's "Thriller" is an example of this, completely infectious, yet original and creative. A musician's vision can manifest itself into something that can bring a lot people together in an artistic context. That's powerful.

The Bad: But is unification always a good thing? Does it matter under which banner we rally? Bad pop music reduces all the details of our lives to a series of repetitive images that can be horrifically homogenizing. When The Beatles sang "I want to hold your hand" a lot of people related to that, but on a very superficial level, accepting something cliche and ingrained as an honest expression of how they felt about love. (Unless you were just really really into holding hands, that is.) Homogenization allows massive scope but there are some things more important than scope. McDonald's is available and recognizable to billions of people, but it sort of tastes like shame feels.

There is also the concept of "imagined nostalgia" in pop music -- maybe listening to it allows us to remember things about ourselves that never really happened. You can see this idea in artist Lucien Marc Smith's peanut-butter-cup sculptures: Even if you never ate Reese's as a kid they still make you feel nostalgic for childhood. Pop music can have the same effect, a strange familiarity somehow making you feel all warm and fuzzy about things unfamiliar to you. How many people that never set foot on the beach in their life have danced with a glazed look in their eye to Katy Perry's "California Gurls"?

There is a certain inherent falseness in this if you do it seriously. And if you don't take pop music seriously and just listen to it ironically (the "Call Me Maybe" phenomenon), then it's just more of the postmodern self-aware dicking around that's unfortunately become the norm in art -- a sort of apathetic circle jerk.

Below: The Ugly

Related Content

Now Trending

  • The Best Los Angeles Metal Shows to See in September

    Thursday, September 11th Barghest Complex Louisiana is known in metal circles for thick-as-molasses sludge metal, but Barghest shows there's some pretty good black metal in that part of the country too. Their newest album The Virtuous Purge is a dark and depressive journey through the more stark aspects of the...
  • Interpol - Mack Sennett Studios - August 26, 2014

    Interpol KCRW show at Mack Sennett Studios August 26, 2014 Playing several songs from their first release in four years, El Pintor, New York aught-rock band Interpol followed up a strong set at FYF Fest with an intimate show for KCRW last night at Mack Sennett Studios.  The new recorded work shows that...
  • 12th Planet Is Sick of the Dubstep Scene

    12th Planet is credited with bringing dubstep to America.  Ahead of his performance at Made in America in Grand Park this Sunday, August 31, we talked to him at the Red Bull Studios in Santa Monica, where he is recording music for his new album. In contrast to his heavy sounds,...
Los Angeles Concert Tickets