Pope Gumby (gumbuoy) wrote in buoy__tunes,
Pope Gumby


I read a lot of things about music, and one of the things I notice a lot are critics who listen to chart-pop music, and then deride those who refuse to (like me), claiming we're being snobs.

I'll get back to the snob thing in a minute, but first, let me list my litany of problems with pop music.

I like pop. I like Fountains Of Wayne, who play pop rock, and Reel Big Fish, who play pop ska, and Andrew WK, who plays, and probably pioneered the field of, pop metal. What I can't stand is fabricated pop music, the kind that has dominated the charts for as long as I can remember. And let me tell you why...

Part of it is that they don't write their own songs. Okay, neither do pub cover bands, but guess what? I don't like them either. But it's not just that they don't write their own songs, it's that the people who do write them don't get any credit for it. One of the things I'm always hearing is I should just sit back and enjoy pop at face level - if it's got a good beat and sounds good, then that's fine, right? Sure, except the people who get all the credit, and all the money, aren't responsible for the good beat, or the good lyrics, or the fact that it sounds good, at all. They're just a pretty face in front of a group of studio musicians, and if there's good music being made, they're the ones who should be getting the credit, not the pretty face.

Part of it is that the music industry currently values novelty value over genuine ability. Andy Warhol once said something about 15 minutes of fame, but I expect more from my music. I don't think that just because someone can hold a tune for one song, and looks good dancing in a film clip, that that makes that person a good musician. The Nugget group once put together a film called the Forgottyn Pyggeons. It's about a jug band, who become mega-famous, and then completely unpopular, overnight. We did a variety of things in aid of this, but at it's heart, it's a critique of a music industry that is obsessed with the novel, and approaches it's business with a remarkable lack of foresight.

But most of it is the fact that this music is a product. It comes pre-packaged, studio-tested, and moulded to a precise art. For my example, I'll use Britney Spears (because there's a figure who doesn't get enough exposure these days).

Someone once wrote, and I'm sure it was the Onion AV Club, but I can't find it in their archive, that the true genius of Ms Spears was that she was all things to all people. For the young tween girls, she was a heartbroken role model, and spoke out at ever opportunity about her virginity. For the horny males, she was the sexy-but-not-too-slutty sex object, dressed in school uniform in her first video. For pop music lovers, she was a bright young star with the whole world in her future. She was friendly, classy, pretty but not snobby, the girl next door who could be prom queen, with a star in her eyes and the world at her feet.

Except, of course, that time has proven that she is/was none of those things. Instead she's a trailer-trash party girl who can barely sing, barely dance, and found herself with too much money and attention at exactly the wrong time in her life. So now, her so-called life is a circus, a travelling freakshow which is admonished with society's left hand while being admired with the right.

So where did her classy image come from? Well, it was by design of course. Everyone saw what they wanted to see, because a record company knew how to present it as such. Whether she was even aware of the construction as it happened is anyones guess, but any qualms she had were no doubt quashed by the dumptrucks full of money which started arriving.

Meanwhile, Ms Spears has a new song and video where she knowingly winks at society and the paparazzi, acknowledging her circus, in a I'm-very-much-self-aware kind of way. Do we believe that? Yeah, almost.

So, getting back to snobbery. I don't dance, not properly. I don't dress myself up to go clubbing each Friday and Saturday night, and even if I did, it would not be a particularly pretty picture. I don't sample my music in ringtone size portions. I don't like my music to be an advertisement. And because of all these things, the pop music industry snobs me. And so when people ask me if I snub my nose at pop music?

I say yes, and I do it gladly. I am proud to be a music snob. Maybe if more people were, popular music wouldn't be in the state that it is today.
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