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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The End Of Pop

Kate Bush - (i) inspired by photo by Gered Mankowitz
What is pop?

Not generally believing in categories, I'm not sure what is considered pop. I thought pop was short for popular, no? I don't know that it matters terribly, but we should get our words straight.

Does it have to do with when something is popular? If a release is widely popular when it's first released, is it pop? If a release becomes popular over time, is it not pop?

Or does it have to do with the perception that a release is meant to capitalize on the style of music that is currently popular?

Or is it just the style of the music or theme of the lyric?

The folks at Wikipedia seem to have difficulty nailing it down too, talking about how the meaning's changed and how it refers to the musical structure, the themes of the songs, the intent of the musicians, and the commercial and critical success of the release. Yikes. Even Wikipedia's editors are looking for someone to do some "cleanup" on the article. And popular music, which is distinguished from pop music, appears to be about as vague.

Maybe we should throw pop away.

No no, the word, not the music.

What do you think?


Kate Bush 09/16/08


Barbara(aka Layla) said...

I always felt it was short for popular too. Michael Jackson is known as the King of Pop...but I have no idea how to define the genre either....

d.edlen said...

Yeah, I don't even know if it's considered a genre...

Pop Art Diva! said...

Daniel - Thanks for stopping by The NORMAL CHALLENGED Artist™!

I see you're in Gilbert - I'm up near Sedona, I think we've connected before on MySpace, too.

Pop is indeed a shortened term for popular, and there does seem to be a great deal of confusion when it comes to the term Pop.

In my opinion, Pop Culture would apply to those people or things that affect a majority or a large demographic and have become a part of our culture via modern media. Whether the Pop phenomenon is short term (fad) or long lasting (iconic) is incidental.

I kind of think that becoming an icon of pop culture requires a certain amount of time and longevity, but this pertains more the the term "iconic" than "pop culture", lol!

Since I write a Retro Pop Culture Blog as well as my two art blogs (Normal and Life Is Like Art), this is always a subject that perks my interest and I pay attention to the discussions going on!

BTW, after having read several of your posts,I shall be stopping by your blog on a regular basis! I like your Vinyl Art and your thoughts!


d.edlen said...

Welcome, Terri! Thanks for the comment.

I guess the issue of defining pop music can be informed by the definition of pop culture. It speaks to the importance of mass appeal in understanding the term.

My question then becomes is there music that has had a widespread impact on our culture that isn't pop?

My wife seems to think two things: it has to do with the intent of the production and the comparison with what is not pop. Basically, record companies package and distribute music that's been "canned" in order to get on the charts and to sell the music and associated merchandise, and also the music doesn't really fit in with any other defined genre.

Pop culture would seem to be anything that would show up on VH1's "I Love The..." series. If it shows up on a major media conglomerate's pop history recap it must have affected the wider culture, however briefly. Yet they have music on there that wasn't and isn't pop...

Hmm, still not sure.

The Government said...

I think the whole concept behind the pop culture is in danger. Why? Because pop culture has always been influenced, in one way or another, by the (ideas of) Artists and Visionaries (The Poets of the Time), thus conveying that specific quality often referred to as the zeitgeist.Nowadays pop culture is almost entirely influenced by the Board of Directors, conveying the idea "we wanna make some money out of this"

d.edlen said...

I think that since there was a recording industry of any national stature, it's been a money making proposition with importance placed on packaging. Consider Elvis.

I think pop music developed with the industry as such. Just talking about the definition and its associated connotations.

In your first blog post, the government, you say that pop music doesn't have to be a dirty word. I don't think it is, in and of itself. I just think that, as you note, the packaging, the production, has become more the selling point than the talent. And I agree, this could be bad long term for music, but I think more for the music industry than the musicians. Musical talent will always out, and musicians will find away around the monster of the industry. Things go in cycles, and when the industry blows up, the pendulum will swing the other way again towards indie/alternative genres as far as the wider public's interest.

Right now, the first cracks are appearing with NIN and Radiohead's innovation and the increased desire by the public for "behind the scenes" information so they know the pop music performers are "real people". Consider the hunger for dirt on Britney.

I think the industry is flailing, attempting to create fake "behind the scenes" production to satisfy fans. When the facade is revealed as such, it will fall apart further, with reality shocking the establishment.

How's that for a conspiracy? Could happen.

Hey, thanks for the post!

The Government said...

Let me just clear up my point:
The Industry is here to make a buck.
I don't have a problem with that - we live in a material world - that has always been a case, since Evlis, as you said.But at the expense of what? I'm talking about generations depraved of the genuine pop culture values. Perhaps we can pinpoint the moment when this major shift occurred: somewhere at the end of the 80's and beginning of the 90's.It coincides with the statement that Shaun Ryder of Happy Mondays made at that time - something like:We've made our best album, so we expected to hit the top of the charts.Later we learned that music has nothing to do with the charts.
Consider the ratio of quality (pop) music in the (official) charts:in the 80's you could often find some serious quality music(David Bowie,Human League,U2,...) in the Top 10;Now . . . it's another story.
I didn't mean to sound nostalgic, I know there's a awful lot of quality music today, it's just much harder to get into the mainstream.
As for Radiohead and NIN, let's hope that they'll set up a rule rather than an exception.

d.edlen said...

I think my wife figured out what pop is. It's not a genre, it's connected to era. Pop is "the soundtrack of our lives" type stuff. The stuff that years later you see in a Time Life collection and go, "Hey, I remember that!", or now, that "Buzz Cuts" thing. It doesn't matter what genre it falls into. It's music tied to its time.

This is as opposed to music that "stands the test of time", government, like you say, the quality music. There's always quality music that isn't in the mainstream, but that sticks around because it's the genuine article. Think of the jazz greats laughed at when they were playing, coming up with new forms of music, new authentic creativity. Then it becomes a popular form, the industry seizes upon it, produces packaged versions and creates pop.

The recent example of grunge comes to mind, of course. I don't think you can say that we're being deprived of genuine pop culture values. Whatever is pop is pop. The industry based upon what sell at the time is merely capitalizing on what is becoming pop. What is currently pop is what the tweens and teenagers listen to in general. The industry can't force unpopular music, even if it's quality, on the consumers, they have to follow.

So I think the takeaway is that the music industry can't lead, can't determine what is pop. It follows, simply packaging what "the kids" are getting into. While whatever that is will definitely not stick around as kids' taste is always changing, it is, for the moment "pop".

And your pop will feel like quality music to you. Not to say it isn't, but today's kids would look at Human League and think jeez, the Black Eyed Peas are so way much better!


The Government said...

I agree, pop music it's music tied to its time.

"This is as opposed to music that "stands the test of time", . . . , the quality music." - I disagree, EXACTLY my point:pop music can and could by "quality music".

You say:"I think . . . that the music industry can't lead, can't determine what is pop" - yet another point of disagreement; I think that WAS the case, it's not anymore.Executives learned that they don't have to follow the taste of "the kids", THEY have become trend-setters!And that is the major difference between today and yesterday.
That is my opinion.
Happy New Autumn!

d.edlen said...

Your statements belie the difficulty in defining what is pop.

It's kind of my whole question. You, government, seem to be defining pop as a genre. I'm defining it as what the music industry can successfully package and produce in quantity.

I think now, 2 questions directed at you government, to understand your opinion better.

First, what specific groups/albums/songs do you consider pop that has also stood the test of time?

Second, what specific trends have the industry started and perpetuated that show they can dictate what kids listen to?

I'm not saying either opinion is wrong at all. I just want examples so I get what you're saying.


The Government said...

O.k., it's not my intention to monopolize the discussion, or to bore the hell out everybody . . . but since you ask:
I don't define pop as a genre (at least not in the narrow meaning of the word); maybe the best description would be "the soundtrack of (specific) times". That is much wider therm than "the industry package" and it can be misleading; Pop music is audio presentation of the pop culture in general.Pop culture is defined by the community and its identity in a specific time frame.
You asked me for examples, o.k.:
The Kinks,The Rolling Stones, The Beatles. . . you wanna feel the spirit of the 60's, London . . .
In the 70's: David Bowie(not only in 70's),T-Rex glam rocks, Led Zeppelin hard rocks, . . .The New Wave . . . The Talking Heads, The Punks, The Clash, . . . New Order,. . . U2,Simple Minds, . . . Red Hot Chili Peppers, Blur,Orbital,Underworld in the 90's, . . . . Massive Attack, Franz Ferdinand, Coldplay, . . .
On the other hand there's Britney, Mariah, 50 cents,etc.(90% of the names in the charts), and they are ALL COMPANY PROPERTY. Oh, they can sing, act, talk on tv, but what kind of ARTISTIC integrity do they have? None!Because there's no idea, no vision, NO ART behind the make up.
Consider why the kids today don't have "ideology" or "movement" of their own?!
There were Hippies, Punks, Mods, Rockabillies . . .
Now "The kids" are forced to look for their (pop culture)identity in the past.

d.edlen said...

OK, that's what I thought.

British new wave is an amazing genre. Full of unique great music. I wouldn't consider it pop at all though. And the examples you cite are the shining ones, the ones that have stood the test of time so much so that you're mentioning them. I know that after the initial commercial success of some groups in that genre that it, like grunge and any genres to follow, was flooded with industry packaged acts.

I don't know what the charts looked like then because I don't pay atttention to them, but I suspect that there was plenty of releases that would be analogous to the music of today that you're noting as not good.

So, one, you've limited older pop to specific genres whereas you're considering modern pop as all the stuff on the charts you don't like; and two, the examples of that limited older genre you use are the ones music historians would use to illustrate the musical style of that genre and time.

Isn't is reasonable to think that there will be standouts in the future from our time that one could look back on and say that those define the genre?

There is still art out there, maybe there's just more noise (not a judgement against the rest of music, I just mean more stuff that makes it harder to find what you like). More choice requires more digging to find YOUR gems.

Let history decide what stands the test of time, find what you like now. There're plenty of indie acts out there, now more than ever on the web, to find and support. Who cares what the record industry produces? Find the next thing that the industry will seize upon to copy, there's your artistic integrity.

Also, youth rebel movements aren't usually defined in the public eye until after their comeupance from the establishment, which of course then solidifies their place in history. Naming things gives them, well, a name, a way to self-identify and unite. That isn't happening on any large scale right now, so while there probably is a fragmented youth rebellion, it hasn't coalesced into a movement because it has no name, no public definition yet.

Hey, don't worry about monopolizing the discussion. I'm just trying to keep it going. It's interesting!