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.
It is obviously impossible for me to mention every bit of American music history within this short form. Please accept my apologies in not mentioning the effects of Nashville, Memphis, Detroit and how the music from these regions greatly affected the popular song and pop music as we know it today.
David Burn says
Then there are those of us who equate pop music with MTV, Britney Spears and all forms of commericalized excess that has little to do with music, and everything to do with popularity.
Word, David. And I agree that is an accurate and automatic response to one part of the term “pop music.” I am suggesting that we all take a deeper look into what we collectively consider pop music. It is there we will find some of our musical heroes.
Menudo and New Kids On The Block are two of Favs-
I got bootlegs – New Kids with Pearl Jam – Menudo with Cymande –
Killer! Grateful Dawg, dude.
I love this piece. Your writing is just getting better and better.
What a bunch of pussies! Way to go Darby! If an artist draws a crowd then there is some level of popularity, thus the inclusion of the shortened term for popular. Correct? Taste is another thing all unto itself and completely subjective in my opinion. Why do I like The Carpenters and Slayer? Alanis Morrisette and The Clash? 10,000 Maniacs and Alice In Chains? For many reasons…does that mean I have good taste in music? That is debatable, depending on who you talk to…for example, at Darby girl’s send-off party, Megan-girl was completely ripping on what I was playing that night…and I’m sure if she had been in my place, I might have done the same. That said, New Kids On My Cock SUCKED ASS…AND LICKED SWEATY BALLS! “That’s just how I feel man, and fuck the meter maids, fuck ’em!” And the bastard POlice blocking the off-ramp at 35th yesterday while trying to get to opening day at Comiskey Park! (sorry but U.S. Cellular can lick MY balls) And that’s the bottom line…have a lovely day as my man Bill Withers so eloquently sang to us!
I love POP so very much. It keeps you young and darn is it fun!
Have you heard of The Feeling