Pop Music Ain’t Pop Music Anymore

Now this looks like a job for me
So everybody, just follow me
Cause we need a little, controversy
Cause it feels so empty, without me

What has pop music become? For the past 10 years or so, it seems that it has lost itself. Oh, there has been a bunch of music come through by some pretty big acts that CLAIM to be pop. Everyone from Mariah to Lady Gaga to Timbaland to Jay Z have released albums that have sold some hits and have done very well. But if you go and listen to the body of work (which means every song on an album), you can tell most of those albums are built around singles and their influences are anything but pop music.

Look at the pop charts right now and the top selling singles on ITunes. Taking away the “We Are The World” remake (seriously?), you have The Black Eyed Peas with “Imma Be” (their worst single so far off “The END”), Train’s “Hey Soul Sister” which is somewhat generic, Lady Antebellum which is a country group, “Tik Tok” by Ke$ha (possibly the most unadulterated fun anyone has had with a single since Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl”), ANOTHER song by Ke$ha, a couple of rap singles and then Lady Gaga with “Bad Romance”.

Um…what happened to Justin Timberlake? Christina Aguilera? Even Britney Spears before she went crazy? Where are the pop icons that promised to take music to an all new level? Because right now, it’s average at best. When I think back to the 1980’s & 90’s, I recall a lot of one-hit wonders who populated the airwaves. A lot of bands like Sly Fox (Let’s Go All The Way), Jermaine Stewart (We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off) and Sir Mix-A-Lot’s (Baby Got Back) were getting airplay and eventually disappeared into obscurity (or noteriety, depending on your taste in music). They didn’t have hit albums, they had hit singles. Hit albums were reserved for artists like Michael Jackson or Madonna or Bruce Springsteen. Nowadays, an artist like Sir Mix-A-Lot would pass for hot & hip. His song would be the only thing being played on pop radio! Because by all accounts, a girl like Ke$ha should really only have 1 hit song and then be done. I’ve listened to the 30 second snippets and trust me…she’s a one trick pony. All of her songs sound similiar, mostly because she only has limited vocal range, and they are all about partying and getting drunk. I’m not saying there isn’t room in pop music for an artist like Ke$ha. On the contrary, I really like “Tik Tok” and it’s “Let’s Go PARTY!” feel. But for her album (“Animal”) to be doing as well as it is speaks loudly for the state of pop music. Music NEEDS something fresh to come along. I realize that Lady Gaga has done well with her schtick, but her music can only go so far. Unless she drops the act and shows everyone that she IS an artist that has more to offer than silly costumes and pithy dialogue, she will eventually disappear into obscurity like so many before her.

Radio, video
Boogie with a suitcase
Your livin’ in a disco
Forget about the rat race
Let’s do the milkshake, sellin’ like a hotcake
Try some buy some fee-fi-fo-fum

I would like to argue that pop music has sold itself short. What was once a lucrative genre has become diluted with too many influences. Now ANYBODY can have a “pop” single. Country music has had a slew of them (Taylor Swift, Shania Twain). Rap and R&B have both made an impact and even electronica/dance has invaded pop culture. Not that pop can’t have a little of all genres included in it’s realm, but the idea of “pop” has now been taken over by those other genres and there’s nothing left. Even a single like “Hey Soul Sister” sounds particularly lifeless when you put it up against a techno-beat or a single featuring Ludacris (who is apparently the rap “ho” of the moment). It sounds outdated. In the 80’s, there were a ton af artists that came from other genres (Pet Shop Boys, Prince,  The Eurythmics, The Go-Go’s), but somehow their sound became pop when played on radio. Now radio stations are playing the same 15-20 songs over and over and over again and it’s killing the genre. There aren’t any more bands like The Outfield or Eddie Money because there is no place for them. It has become such a diluted genre that realistically, country music is the new pop music and all the rest of it kind of falls into the R&B, dance or rap categories. 

What pop needs is a new look. It needs to be revamped. All the Disney artists and American Idol winners aren’t gonna save it. There needs to be someone fresh. I thought that might be Justin Timberlake, but he seems to have interests that are outside of pop music (which he should considering his talent). So who does that leave? And what does the future hold for pop music? Do we need a controversial artist to come along to rub our noses in it some more? Or can a pop band (ala the Backstreet Boys) actually survive in this day & age by selling hit singles instead of hit albums? Maybe the days of simple love songs and pop music is over. While Lady Gaga sings about her disco stick and bluffin’ with her muffin’, I grew up listening to artists like Phil Collins or Bryan Adams singing about being young and in love. I can’t say for sure if one is better than the other, but I can say that I miss the days when I didn’t have to have sex or violence or drinking til I puke jammed down my throat. Yes…I know music was BUILT on sex but nowadays it’s not implied, it’s right there in our faces. And I know there has always been violence in music, but now it’s gotten to the point where it’s TOO graphic. It’s all to much, and the fun of pop is lost.

With so much marketing being done these days, and with so many artists relying on sex appeal or a “gangsta” image, it’s no wonder that pop has lost it’s luster. The product doesn’t sell itslef, so it relies on gimmicks or even bad publicity to sell itself. Even the Disney stars like Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers find, at some point, everything they do is scrutinized. The innocence of these stars is compromised to promote a product. There’s no soul in it, it’s just about selling. And that is why pop has died. It’s all about the money. Truth be told, it always has been…but nowadays, there’s no stopping the conglomerates from getting their piece of the pie. And you have no say in it. You WILL listen to The Black Eyed Peas’ 4th single and you WILL hear it again in 20 minutes and you WILL like it because we tell you that you like it. And how do we know you WILL like it? Because we’re not gonna give you anything else to choose from, that’s how.

Okay…I’ve bounced around here enough and I think I’ve gotten my points across. The basis of this whole argument is that I miss pop music. I love it when I hear a song on the radio that I haven’t heard before and it doesn’t have a guest appearance by a rapper I’ve never heard of. I miss the days of Men At Work or Mike & The Mechanics. Are those days really over? Sad to say…I think they are. But I have hope that someday, someone will show up and I’ll get excited about pop again. I just don’t think it will be happening anytime soon.

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1 Comment

  1. I hear you on this, I really do. I used to be adamantly of the “everything’s gone to rot” mindset… it’s hard to argue that the rise of the single/death of the album hasn’t (negatively) affected the quality of what’s being put out there. But more and more I’m finding it’s less of a headache to just laugh about Lil’ Wayne and his cohorts, enjoy what I can in whatever way I can, and hope this won’t last forever. I don’t know, maybe I just really am of my generation, but I don’t get too depressed about all this anymore because I figure, how bad can things be when for 99 cents you can buy a Zeppelin song and listen to it forever?

    But I do think you’re right on mostly every point here, so maybe pop music really has sold out, and will never be the same again, in which case you can find me huddled around my Beatles albums for the rest of time.

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