8.10.2009

Straying From the Usual

So today, I had some thoughts about the music world that I felt like letting out to see what other people thought. Seeing as I didn't feel like creating a new blog, I decided to post it on here:

THE MYSTERY THAT IS "POP" MUSIC

Pop is perhaps the most broad genre of any music genre. However, the official definition of Pop Music is simply a shortening of the phrase Popular Music. So why do I call the genre a mystery?

Pop can be; Hannah Montana, The Killers, ABAM, Nickelback, Lady Gaga, The Fray.
The diversity of the above listed bands is immediately clear.
Obviously, those aren't the only pop bands. But I'll use these six as my examples because in a way, they're the six subdivisions of pop.

1. Hannah Montana "Pop"
This is perhaps the subdivision of pop that I despise the most. Not just Disney artists, but any pop artist who fits under one of the following:
A) Letting the record company write songs for you,
B) Using Autotune or similar applications because you really suck at singing,
C) Never allowing your backing band to become famous (if listed as a single artist),
D) Wasting your own musical talent by allowing A,
E) Being more interested in the fame or money than the music.
Bands that allow themselves to get sucked into this style of pop really put the music industry to shame. The fact that they could just as easily write their own songs, book their own shows, gain fame via becoming local favorites, etc., but give that up because they don't want to wait that long, or put in that much effort, makes me sad that they have real fans. Also, if I was a member of, say, Demi Lovato's backing band, but I never got any credit, I'd be pretty pissed.
Other bands in this subdivision: Every band signed with Disney, most one-hit wonders

2. The Killers "Pop"
The Killers and bands like them are considered pop bands for any of the following reasons:
A) The ability to constantly release hits that receive lucrative amounts of airplay,
B) The ability to draw a wide variety of fans,
C) The amount of fame they get while staying committed to the music,
D) The amount of money they get while committed to the music.
Some bands that fit the above qualifications are hard to qualify as pop by the actual sound of their music. The Killers' latest album doesn't seem to fit any genre except for a vague qualification of pop-rock. However, they often get classified as pop in articles in popular magazines because, well, as is the obvious case, they're popular. Their songs appeal to almost everyone, and because they name other well-known bands (U2, The Beatles, etc.) as influences, they're immediately accepted as having a good sound.
Other bands in this subdivision: Collective Soul, Silversun Pickups, U2.

3. ABAM "Pop"
This subdivision is actually quite similar to The Killers "Pop" musically, but bands get put into this subdivision for any of the following reasons:
A) They give themselves the genre of Pop, Jpop, Power Pop, etc.,
B) They remain, or at least currently, a relatively unknown band when viewed in the entire scope of the music world,
C) They don't make a lot of money,
D) Their style is universally acceptable.
Often, a band that fits into this kind of pop is an indie band, hence their lack of relative popularity. Also common, any band classified as a "one-hit wonder" that didn't allow a record company to write the song for them, may have started out in this subdivision.
Other bands in this division: The Tough Alliance, Molly Rockwell, Ben Cyllus, Eisley

4. Nickelback "Pop"
There are, for whatever reasons, a number of rock bands who's popularity shoot through the roof after one or two hit songs, and end up getting sucked into the pop music scene. Some of the reasons may be as follows:
A) The song/band has lyrical content that almost anyone could apply to a memorable moment in their life,
B) The song has an instantly catchy and easily memorizable melody,
C) The band manages to grab a spot on a Clear Channel playlist
D) The band has had a considerable following before becoming a "Pop" band and therefore has a large base to build on when they join the pop scene.
The majority of these bands' most popular songs will be soft rock, although on occasion a few loud ones (Animal I Have Become -Three Days Grace) will break through. This subdivision rose up in the late 90's, in the post-grunge era, and appealed to a lot of music fans who were looking for a quieter sound after listening to bands like Nirvana, Green Day, Rage Against The Machine, and other grunge bands.
Other bands in this division: Hootie and the Blowfish, The Goo Goo Dolls, Three Days Grace

5. Lady Gaga "Pop"
Half of the artists in this subdivision are really R&B or Rap, but get classified as pop for any of the following reasons:
A) The artist is wildly popular on radio, or with videos on MTV, or both,
B) The artist makes a ridiculous amount of money (and shows it off in videos)
C) The popularity of the artist comes from the content of their lyrics or videos rather than in the music,
D) The artist isn't particularly keen on creativity, instead taking lyric ideas from other artists and displaying the concept with different words.
This is another subdivision of pop that often disgusts me, because the artists take more pride in the money and fame that they get than the actual potential quality of their music. And the fact that 90% of the time, the lyrical content is about sex, drugs, money, or fame continues to downgrade the kind of music these artists could be making.
Other artists in this subdivision:
Rihanna, T-Pain, Timbaland

6. The Fray "Pop"
This is the style of pop that pains me the most. It mainly encompasses Alt. Rock and Soft Rock bands, but the reasons they might get qualified in here go as follows:
A) The band produces a major hit that's instantly catchy, and then proceeds to release a bunch of mediocre songs that are instantly overhyped simply because it's the same band,
B) The band writes a number of songs with universally relatable lyrics, but allows the instrumentation to be arranged by a record company, in which case the songs end up sounding mediocre and often similar to each other,
C) The band releases a number of songs that they personally wrote and composed, but strangely, it's hard to distinguish one song from another.
To me, this is the lazy side of pop. The bands usually work hard to get to the pop scene, and then become lazy, write cliche songs, and yet manage to remain atop the pop scene for at least a year.
Other bands in this subdivision: Shinedown, Nickelback (yes, they fit two), The Script, Jason Mraz



Now, to get things straight, this writing doesn't mean I hate pop. The opposite actually; The Killers, Silversun Pickups, Collective Soul, ABAM, and The Tough Alliance are among my favorite bands. And I mean no offense to any musical talent any of the implied musicians may have; I simply criticize the way they go about using it. So, without rambling on any longer, please, comment with criticism/questions/applause etc.

(P.S. I've been in a music mood lately, so this blog may become the subject of more music writings.)