The questionable delights of pop music….or not!

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I appear to have something of a bee in my bonnet! Nothing especially serious but more artists I like being a little dismissive of pop music.

Now, I’m not the biggest fan of pop music but I see it as having a very significant cultural place, perhaps not so much in modern times but certainly historical. Modern pop music is something I pay very little attention to, and I am not surrounded by commercial radio stations so I can’t get annoyed when the song of the moment is played 5 times in one hour. In fact, I’ve only just recently heard ‘Uptown Funk’ by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars and that’s been at number one for weeks in the UK apparently, but it is the first number one I have actually liked in years, which should let you know how little attention I give to what is considered to be ‘popular music’.

The dismissive statement in question is:

“Pop music is made for people who aren’t really in to music”

Official source of this was from Scroobius Pip’s Distraction Pieces podcast with guest Rufus Hound which they did discuss at length to give them their due, but I have seen bands that I personally like agree with the statement and you can’t back up why you would agree with that in 140 characters on Twitter. It’s a multi layered argument.

Why do I agree with the statement? Well, let’s start with a recent situation I happened to find myself in. I was at an event and I had my Spotify account on with my personal playlists, a lot of which feature industrial, a bit of metal, drum and bass, dance….mostly a bit of everything but definitely heavier than most. My stuff was eventually switched off in favour of a playlist featuring all the Grammy nominated artists, and guess what? I had no particular feelings towards any of it. It was music I could easily ignore; stuff that could be on in the background that people could tap their feet to but have no real opinion on – and that’s probably why people who have no real interest in music like it as no one has any mind to really discuss it as there is nothing to discuss, which is fair enough. However, my feminist tendencies could definitely find a discussion point or five in that ‘All about the bass’ song which I like to! Aaargh, conflict!

Anyways what I’m saying is Pop music is nice. The worst description but the most apt one. It’s not going to spearhead any sort of change like pop music did in the 60s. There’s no real social conscience in most pop music these days. It’s certainly not going to inspire obsessive fangirling/boying/whatever unless you’re some boy band manufactured to do so on a very basic level like One Direction and their ilk. In my day (that makes me sound old!) it was New Kids on the Block so I can’t really say anything about today’s boy bands as I had horrible taste in music as a kid. It was Guns N Roses that caught my attention and basically steered my musical education toward a much more interesting path but would I have even seen them on television without the initial interest in pop music? Possibly not, and thus why I disagree with the statement.

So why do I disagree? Well I see pop music as a gateway to other music. It certainly was for me. If you are interested in music of any kind there is always something that will propel you elsewhere if you have half the mind to follow, and if pop music brings you any kind of joy, why not see how far it can take you? Also a lot of pop music does tend to sample from all sorts of music genre’s and if there is a certain sound or sample you like you’ll go and look in to what that sample was, and boom – opened up to a whole new style. Also when musicians talk about their favourite music in interviews, that’s another way to understand them and you may go and look up these bands. It certainly has worked that way for me on numerous occasions but then I am a colossal music nerd so it would make sense that I would do that.

If you’re not interested you quite possibly won’t be and that’s fine. You may have passions elsewhere like sport which I have no idea about at all. I call most sports ‘Ooh look another rousing game of sports ball!’ and it is very unlikely I’ll ever get in to sport. I’m not dismissive of it (in fact I’m occasionally jealous of the passion it seems to incite and how I don’t feel that!), it’s just not something I see holding my attention, and there are people who will be exactly the same about music but will listen to whatever is on the radio as they possibly prefer it to silence. Or it keeps the kids quiet on a long drive. Something that can be ignored. When I was a kid I remember with great fondness wearing headphones that were several sizes too big, listening to constant repeats of Dead or Alive ‘You spin me round like a record’ and that was probably something designed to keep me quiet so I didn’t get under my mum’s feet but little did she know she was creating some sort of music infatuated monster and I’m sure I’m not the only music obsessive who got started in such a way.

Pop music can be hugely influential before you have any particular feelings towards music in general so I don’t like it being painted as music for people who don’t like it as that is not my experience of it. Pop was the building blocks that got me in to rock, that got me in to soul that then went back to rock, in to metal, industrial, dance, EBM, and forever onwards, and whilst I don’t hunt out pop music, or pay that much attention to it, it has its place and is not made for people who don’t like music. Simple and straightforward, inclined towards the masses, sure, but it isn’t as shallow as all that and should not be painted as such.

Anyone could argue that everything I’ve argued against is not what the statement intended – it is voiced in something of a non-committal tone. There is no absolute in the statement, but having it picked up by bands I like gave it credence, and bands speak to people on another level. They inspire and in some cases influence further opinions and I think it’s that that rattled my cage more than the statement itself. I can be a little bit precious about music (no shit, Kate!) and do worry about what people think of my taste in music or if found dancing to that taste in music in my underwear in my bedroom (I do this to Chaka Khan, maybe not a lot, but it has been known!) so when people I respect agree that pop music is made for people who don’t like music do I hide what I like in order to be seen as this cool person they seem to think I am? I’m not by the way, not even in the slightest, I’m actually kind of nerdy. I just have a near encyclopaedic knowledge of music which gives me some sort of credibility, also not all bands know of me, but a few do, or have at least been subjected to my fangirliness so I guess I pissed my own credibility up the wall a bit there.

You could argue that metal is made for people who don’t like music, or dance, what gives those genre’s more credibility than pop music? When I was in my teens a lot of people listened to dance music because it was popular or because it was expected of them. Had to look cool in front of your mates when you’re a teenager, and where I grew up we had little access to anything other than that. You were either a rock kid or a dance kid. I had several groups of friends luckily so I was able to bridge that divide, but others were less lucky. I just don’t see any genre of music to be any less deserving than any other. Each has its place, and people get to what they like in so many different ways that it is hard to put it in a specific box.

All I know is that if you get any sort of enjoyment out of whatever music you happen to like then you are at least in to it at some sort of level. Even if it is just humming along to the radio in your car. You might not be an obsessive, but if a song lifts you or reminds you of something awesome then go with that. It doesn’t need to mean the world to you, it doesn’t even need to change the world at large if it wasn’t designed to do that. Music is after all for entertainment and some people just take it too damn seriously sometimes, and I certainly include myself there. So fuck it – if I want to listen to ‘all about the bass’ on loop all the way home, I will do just that, and to hell with whoever knows it!

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