“Oh, give me the
Beach Boys beat, boys, and free my soul, I wanna get lost in your rock and roll, and drift away.” – Dobie Gray
I love music. I love listening to songs, whether it’s in the car, at home, on the internet, at work (I’m the only one crazy enough to voluntarily turn on the muzak at Mecca when we’re closed). I love a wide variety of music. There’s hardly a genre out there that doesn’t have something I really enjoy listening to. But when it comes down to it, there is one kind of music I like more than any other….
I like pop music.
There, I said it.
It’s kind of ironic in numerous ways. First of all, because of the fact that I’m generally a very contrarian person. The most effective way to get me to dislike something is for it to be something everyone around me loves. This is largely behind why I don’t root, root, root for the home teams, get on any of those trendy social media networks, or watch pretty much anything on television these days. What can I say? I don’t like running with the pack.
Second of all, it’s interesting that pop music seems to be so universally hated. After all, the “pop” in pop music stands for “popular”, and according to the all-knowing Google:
pop·u·lar – (adj.) 1. Liked, admired, or enjoyed by many people or by a particular person or group.
So if the music is “popular”, then it should be liked, admired, or enjoyed by many people. But it sure doesn’t seem that way, does it? I know a lot of people who consider themselves to be musical connoisseurs who absolutely loathe any music or artist that is mainstream. And heaven forbid one of their favorite musicians should hit the big time…
“Pop goes the weasel, cuz the weasel goes pop!” – 3rd Bass
The exact point any band or artist “sold out” seems to be the musical equivalent to a TV show’s “jumping the shark” moment. Sure, the music before your favorite group became huge commercial successes was likely purer, and more intellectual, and maybe edgier and artsier… and for the “uneducated masses”, it’s probably a whole hell of a lot less interesting to listen to than the “hits”.
And that brings us to what is perhaps the reason for this oxymoronic mass dislike of popular music can be found in the alternate definition that comes up for the word “popular”:
pop·u·lar (adj.) – 2. (of cultural activities or products) intended for, or suited to the taste, understanding or means of the general public rather than specialists or intellectuals.
To put this definition in layman’s terms as it pertains to our subject at hand, “popular music” is essentially music that is “dumbed down” to the tastes of the masses…. and those masses are usually…
From the days of Elvis to One Direction, it seems pop music generally caters to the young female demographic. Put a young male sex symbol on stage, have him sing some silly love song with a funky beat, and you have a guaranteed #1 pop hit. Heck, it doesn’t have to even be a dude who may or may not have gone through puberty yet… we’ve seen the likes of Madonna, Britney Spears, and Miley Cyrus capture a wide net of teenybopperette fans no matter how
slutty sexy they try to make their public image.
“New York, London, Paris, Munich… everybody talk about, Pop Muzik!” – M
But this is really a gross oversimplification of pop music. Anything that gets a lot of airplay on the radio and in other elements of pop culture is essentially considered to be popular music. And of course, what gets that precious repetitive airplay is generally hand selected by the kings of the music industry… the record labels. Local hits by lesser known acts? … sorry, not in these modern times. The DJ’s don’t get much say in what platters get spun on the air anymore.
“Never wanted to be no pop singer” – John
And exactly why should catchy pop ditties be considered to be “guilty pleasures”… particularly the songs of yesteryear by artists we like to pretend never existed? Is it so shameful to wanna break your stride three decades after Matthew Wilder had America diddybopping to his feel good hit? What’s wrong with wanting to get your groove thang on with a little disco era Bee Gees? Why should Debbie Gibson’s and Tiffany’s and Rick Astley’s music get the pariah treatment now when a quarter of a century ago it was The Shit?
“If memories were all I played, I’d rather drive a truck.” – Rick Nelson
The fact is nobody should be ashamed of their taste in music, whether it made the big time or can only be found buried deep at your local record store.
So why do I generally like pop music over unpop music? I actually came to the realization that answers this question over the last year and a half at work, where I get to listen to the eclectic selection of the CD’s the brass in Bentonville want played constantly in all of their stores. I’ve come to like a lot of the songs I discovered only from hearing them at work, many of which are not at all mainstream. Why?
“A tired song keeps playing on a tired radio” – Goo Goo Dolls
I very rarely like songs the first time I hear them, or even the second time, or sometimes the thirtieth time… whether they are hits on the radio or something more obscure I hear somewhere else. It takes a lot of listens before most songs grow on me. Some of the songs I once absolutely hated are now favorites of mine. But this is why it would do no good for me to actively explore new music, because on average it takes so long for any particular ditty to catch my interest… and in the end, I may not end up even liking it at all, which would make for a lot of wasted effort. So the only chance I have to get to really like songs is via “forced” constant exposure.
“I write the songs that make the whole world sing” – Barry Manilow
So here’s a little love for the much-maligned darling of the airwaves, pop music. Thank you for giving me a lifetime full of earworms by playing the same thing over on re-pea-pea-pea-pea-peat. I’m not going to hang my head in shame the next time I get caught singing along to “Macho Man” at the ballpark, or seen bopping up and down in the car to “Blurred Lines”, or listening to whatever classic gems Merby and Sheena are posting. Nope, I’m going to totally own it,
just like I tell everyone at work about my unicorn collection…