But the overall trend of pop, is musically counter-productive in a couple of areas.
First, they’re content to reuse and rehash musical elements with little or no creative energy.
Second, they rely heavily on outlandish behavior, appearance and lifestyles, that are marked by disingenuine ploys for morality and a complete lack of standards and principals on their own part. It’s cliche to make fun of Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus (notice no links -- please do not go to Amazon and buy their music), but there are actually really good reasons for it.
Maybe not to “make fun of” as much as to have a lack of respect for them as musicians. Those who tend to become the faces of pop music, almost always live lives and create music that are both equally hard to respect.
These people might be good musicians (many are not), but even if they start out with a lot of creativity and talent, the limelight of the pop music world seems to put that musicianship back in a distant corner.
What’s not in a distant corner, tends to be completely erratic and hysterical behavior.
Flipping off the camera at the Super Bowl, getting arrested for racing and a DUI and all manner of derisory outfits and stage antics, are the kinds of things that tend to characterize these people far more than their music.
Why they’re respected as musicians is a bit difficult to comprehend.
CompensatingSo why all the antics? Why all the outlandish dress and bizarre behavior?
We should all be able to acknowledge that at its root, those things have nothing to do with music or creativity.
Somehow we’ve got to the point where we’re equating self-expression, however bizarre it may be, with creativity and musical formulation.
Those two things are not one and the same.
Creativity and music can be a form of self expression, but not all self-expression is creative or thoughtful, and certainly not musical. Lady Gaga has made a career (and a successful one I might add) out of exploiting the lack of originality and creativity in today’s pop music and culture at large by substituting hysterical self-expression in place of musical innovation.
She might be a cultural icon, but she’s not a musician and people won’t remember her for her music.
At the end of the day, that’s not respectable, interesting or valuable. The music she creates is formulaic, predictable and completely dependent on the shock-value of her words and persona to make money and succeed in the public arena.
Take away the antics, the bubble costumes, the blood soaked performances and the pro-gay rendition of the national anthem and all you’ve got is another garden-variety pop artist.
That’s a form of compensation, and a way to give the illusion of originality and creativity.
The Sexualization of MusicIt is becoming increasingly common for that compensation and self expression to take the form of over-sexualized performers and performances.
On some level, the music industry as a whole has been bent on driving sexuality and making it a part of their act. While there are plenty of exceptions, the general approach is to give everything a sensual bend.
But the culture of pop music takes it to an extreme that is nearly absurd.
Today, pop music is almost entirely focused on either direct, or indirect sexual topics. Particularly when it comes to female artists and performers, the content seems to almost always be focused on some form or type of sexual relationship.
Now I understand that it’s a compelling and interesting topic; but does it really hold intrigue 100% of the time?
Should it be considered a good songwriting practice to always have that at the center of our topical poetry?
When James Maynard Keenan can write about evolutionary chromosomes or the way society is vicariously living through violence, or when Chris Cornell can write a pensive piece about nostalgia and the state of religion in America, we’re given examples of thoughtful music.
Whether you agree with the words or not; whether you like rock music or not, it’s interesting and compelling.
High-minded, if you will.
Now let’s compare.
Fergie Duhamel or “Stacy Ann Ferguson” as known on her birth certificate, has been well known for pop smash hits about her “lumps” (whatever those are), and working out so she can keep her body “vicious” which just so happens to rhyme with “Fergielicious.”
Or how about Stefani Angelina’s (Lady Gaga) “Sexxx Dreams”? Just read the lyrics, and then check out this entry on Urban Dictionary.
If I can be blunt; this is horrible.
And not just because it’s incredibly derogatory.
It’s more so because this kind of thing shows up in pop music all the time. To even say that it’s a variation on a theme would be giving it too much credit. Rhythms, melodies and overall compilation of the music is virtually unchanged from album to album and year to year.
So not only do you have a lot of vulgar, sexually themed songs, but the music itself isn’t creative or different from a thousand other songs like it.
Why is this?
It’s About the MoneyI think it’s easy to see that most pop artists are good at one thing; making money and exploiting the formulaic script that draws on a young and over-sexualized culture.
They’re excellent business men and women, but not musicians.
Even as many of them rail against big business, capitalism and “selling out” they themselves are to poster-children for such topics.
Think about it.
Whose faces are constantly showing up on products and advertisements? How about ads for Pop Chips, Adidas or Proactiv? How about Dr. Pepper, Avon or a whole slew of perfumes? When is the last time you’ve seen Bruce Hornsby or Bela Fleck in a Pop Chips ad? How about Joe Bonamassa, Buddy Guy or Eric Johnson?
That’s not to say that it would be wrong for them to do so. I happen to be a proponent of the free market and affiliate advertising.
But if you’re going to get to this high musical platform and then adapt a liberal, anti-establishment, break-the-mold kind of aura, don’t allow your face to be plastered all over the merchandise of some of the biggest companies on earth.
That’s completely hypocritical on its best day.
If the artists who pride themselves on originality, actually had an original thought, they’d stay away from those kinds of endorsements and write music that wasn’t completely unoriginal and designed to appeal to the society’s most common music consumer.
It would be more respectable to just admit that it’s about the money. There’s no shame in that.
Congrats Pop MusicThe reason that none of this mixes well with good musicianship is because it’s in direct opposition to what music is meant to be.
It’s meant to be a unique and creative expression of thoughts and ideas, put to rhythm and melody. When all those things become formulaic in the name of selling albums and making money, it doesn’t matter how outlandish you act, how bizarre you dress and how sexual you can be on stage or in your personal life.
That is the right and proper definition of “selling out.”
So congratulations pop music. You are the face of corporate America and the epitome of conformity. Coupled with cheap music that has a short shelf-life, your brands and TV personalities can only get you so far, and won’t be enough to stop the continuing decline of your industry.
That decline will come only as a sober confirmation to a growing number of us who believe that pop music’s best days are clearly in the past.