This weekend at the Savannah Music Festival, David Grisman asked the audience, “so, who out there likes pop music?” I was the only person who emphatically hooted and hollered, surprised (kind of) that not one other person in the place was brave enough to admit it. Granted, some people might just not like pop music, but what IS pop music?
POPular music, as a definition, is limited and does not begin to examine the scope that is pop music. The making of a 2 to 4 minute song which is intended for radio play is a good place to start. “Commercially successful,” a packaged bit of goods that black men made and white boys sang is more accurate, with the roots of “pop music” in the American Blues. And although Elvis was the beginning of the pop song with “That’s All Right, Mama” and Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound got the ball rolling, the Beatles MADE pop music; Thus the beginning of rock and roll, with the line between the two continuously blurred.
From the Beatles came Dylan, popularly speaking, and soon after Hendrix, The Who, The Stones, and on into Bowie, Brian Wilson, The Velvet Underground and Brian Eno. A part of me rejects placing many of these musicians into the pop category, but as icons of pop culture and musical history, they are.
As are the 80’s pop aficionado’s, including the Specials, the Clash, New Order, the Smith’s…(do not get me started, for it is here that my 80’s experience turns my eyes to glaze and puts that nostalgic smile upon my face.)
Today, the inkling to separate oneself from anything popular in order to gain instant access to cool is in itself popular. I leave that bit of my personality back in the 7th grade commons, where it belongs. My musical interests are wide and expansive, but they always include pop music. Badly Drawn Boy, Tahiti 80, and Phoenix are just 3 acts today that are truly pop and outstanding. Sometimes, the mainstream is actually good.
Anyone who says they do not like pop music is lying, dead, or, after all, perhaps they’re only sleeping.