After all the recent discussion of Rebecca Black’s Friday video amongst ds106ers, it made me think about pop music more generally, and come up with a few reasons why I personally think the music is unfairly maligned and so great.

 

I like “Friday” by Rebecca Black. In fact, I love pop music. And I love it in all forms (as evidenced by my intense affection for the day that comes after Thursday). I like Ke$ha, KPerry, Gaga, Chris Brown. You name the top 40 song, and I’ve got it on my IPod. I’m not ashamed, and I’m here to explain to you why I’m not, and why I shouldn’t have to be. In other words, I’m here to defend pop.

Preferring to listen to “junk” such as pop music is no more a reflection of your personhood than is the decision to eat Chipotle rather than a spinach salad. I know it’s a cliché, but music is subjective. Personally, I love pop/ junky music, since I find it to be entertaining. Shouldn’t that be all that matters?

 

For those who think of pop as just being too low-brow, consider this: Pop music is clearly sophisticated enough for millions of people to enjoy. And before you point to the cheesy lyrics, mindless chorus, formulated structure, and predictable and limited chord progression as proof that the music itself isn’t “sophisticated”, consider the packaging for these simple components.

 

First to consider is the music industry itself. At a time when music is available for practically anyone and everyone to listen to for free thanks to piracy, I would argue that the adaptability of the struggling music industry is to be admired. What has been nearly perfected, is the assembly-line creation of pop songs, then the formulated marketing (including timed single releases, music video trailers, and then music video premieres) which allows pop artists like Lady Gaga to sell 448,000 digital singles in 3 days from a song’s release. Keeping all these factors in mind, I see pop songs as the final product of this beautifully, perfectly coordinated and intentionally orchestrated process. I don’t mind that the music industry’s only goal is to maximize profits. Nor do I care if the pop artist themselves has no personal stake in their music other than financial gain (I won’t name names, you can insert your own here). It may sound strange, but I appreciate the entire process much in the same way that I imagine people once marveled at the efficient and almost flawlessly insync (PUN ALERT) process of Henry Ford’s Model T factory line production. The final products are all intentionally similar, but it’s the streamlined process that’s so beautiful and deserving of admiration.

 

Marketing and song creation process aside, what truly makes me love pop is the song production. If the process of making a pop record can be related to factory-line automobile production, DJs and music producers are the design engineers. These are the people putting their own individual sonic imprints on music, tweaking the pitch here, adding autotune there, devising the beats, and coming up with a breakdown for the bridge. Really, the production is what makes or breaks the record. This is where the distinction between a generic pop song that receives no attention and a #1 hit lies. I could point to about a hundred examples of pop songs with all the right elements: a catchy hook, rap verses, good marketing, and a recognizable name that never caught on (see any of Jay Sean’s songs post- “Do You Remember” for examples). Why? Well, something wasn’t right. People weren’t interested. There was no genius element to it. Producing a song that stands out and becomes a hit requires the masterful ability to take the dull lyrics, mindless hook, and generic chord progression, and really make the song stand out. To use Katy Perry’s new song “E.T.” as an example, you’ve got simple but heavy bass and snare lines providing a driving foundation for the song, but propelled by the “alien”-sounding bleeps (you’ll have to listen for them in the background behind Katy’s singing) which supplement the melody, while giving the song a “futuristic” feel (sound) that fits the theme of the lyrics and title.

 

So for all of you consumer of “highbrow” culture and music, I’ll leave you with a quote by Lady Gaga, played before the beginning of every one of her live performances of “Just Dance”.

“Pop music will never be lowbrow.”

 

 

 

 

And without further ado, here is “Butterflies”, courtesy of Ark Music Factory:

 

Advertisements