You know that feeling when you have just spent time doing something that's entertaining sure, but shallow to the point where you feel dumber walking out than you did walking in? In that sorta "I've just watched one of the Transformers sequels and I'm now re-evaluating my life choices" sorta way? That's the feeling current top 40 pop music gives me. Yep...fully aware that you're probably rolling your eyes right now, however, follow my train of thought.
For most of my teenage life, the charts was something to be scoffed at, bunch of sell-outs making 'music' any 5-year old could make in 5 minutes. Things started to change once I hit university and started playing drums in a covers band. I was surprised to find that pop music had qualities that could almost be described as magical...
No, I'm serious. Think what a pop song does to the mood of a whole room packed with people of different ages and backgrounds - the mix of nostalgia and ear-worm melodies acting like musical de-icer, making strangers feel like they've known each other for years as they belt the song out in drunk unison; it's almost like a snapshot into utopia in a bizarre sort of way.
Still I can't shake the feeling that teenage Stephen, in all his misplaced snobbery, may have been on to something. The music we're being forcefed is not challenging us as listeners - in the way that real art arguably should. According to this article by MIC, complete with research from knowledgeable science-types, current pop songs are blatantly using the exact same production elements and song structures as other hit songs already in the public consciousness. The theory being, that the industry will only promote things that are a safe bet for a hit (read: guaranteed paycheque), so why not copy the formula of other proven hits, because they know we gravitate to familiar things, even subconsciously? Guess it's not paranoia if they're really out to get you huh?
Here's a few of my musings as to why pop is killing my vibe right now:
- The Columbus effect - You know, the awkward moment when someone claims to have discovered territory a ton of people were already living on and then claim it as their own? Nothing more annoying than hearing an artist's PR machine pushing them as the newest saviour of music when they're swiping someone else's schtick - yes Iggy Aza...nah too easy.
So apparently, Meghan Trainor's 'bringing booty back', right? All hail the newly-crowned female body-image champion, the pioneer of an era where female artists will be respected even if they're not size-zero! Oh really, pioneer huh? Please do tell me more - *cough* Beyonce/Adele/Brittany Howard from Alabama Shakes/Jill Scott/Mariah Carey/J-Lo/Kelly Clarkson/ Queen Latifah/Missy Elliott/Aretha bloody Franklin!!! *cough*. Sorry Meghan, 'booty' never left...welcome to the party and grab yourself a drink!
- The Mannikin theory - I'm sure most of Simon Cowell's X-Factor/Idol starlets are fairly decent interesting people if you met them in your local Tesco Express or KFC. Yet why are their scripted public personas so painfully boring???
Don't believe me? Ask any average Joe/Jane to describe anyone of those artists' personality. Seriously, pick anyone and hear such riveting descriptions like "the shy one", "the cheeky ladies-man", "the cute one". Now, in contrast, simply mention the name "Kanye" to that same average Joe/Jane, then stand back at a safe distance to watch their head explode! Have we forgotten that artists are supposed to make us feel something, even anger, whether it's from their polarizing art, or their just being a bit of an arrogant weirdo? Maybe Kanye is the biggest rockstar in the world after all...since most others on his level are so damn plastic!
- The 50 Cent factor - "You can find me in the club, bottle full of bub..." You get the gist. Previously, it was every commercial hiphop song that sounded tailor-made for the club with generic lyrics. But since 2015, pretty much every genre of pop sounds like it's been cut and pasted from either a sweaty Ministry of Sound or a drunken sing-along at an American college frat party! Now let's not get it twisted, party music has always had it's place in pop and some of our beloved classics were essentially just that. Most people want, no need, some form of musical escapism from the 9-to-5 drudgery and music needs to be there for them.
However the overwhelming majority of a radio station or music channel's main playlist is cluttered with songs made for the weekend with such deeply moving concepts as 'I'm in the club and I'm so [insert radio-friendly euphemism for wasted] right now', 'twerk twerk strip strip', 'he/she's left me and I'm sad in a generic sort of way', 'Oh wow, it's summer and I'm vaguely happy'.
Going through the UK top 40 singles this week, I realized the only artists charting that were seemingly singing about anything they actually felt or went through were Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift and James Bay. Yep...just three! Let that one bake your noodle!
All in all, I don't hate pop music anymore, but it REALLY wears me out. I don't mind it occasionally, but I'd as soon spend time soaking in it as I would at a Michael Bay movie marathon while binge-eating McDonalds! If you're honest, it probably tires you too. That's why now more than ever indie music is so important. Someone's gotta give you that good musical home-cooking to balance out that junk food you've been force-fed. There's artists out there using platforms like LoudUp to give you music that means something to them, that might make you laugh, cry, dance, get angry, hug someone, or just smile. Now you know why one of our slogans at LoudUp is "Rebel against the radio"!
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