Thursday, December 4, 2008

Identity. Crisis.

I remember reading either last year, or the year before that Matthew Caws of the band Nada Surf cited Rihanna's single "Umbrella," as one of his favorite songs of the year. He spoke of the sheer enjoyment he was able to experience in connecting with a pop culture phenomena that the majority of the population connects with. When I read this quote I had not yet heard the Rihanna single, but I knew exactly what he meant. It's tough sometimes, when you venture outside of your small community full of people that are able to converse about the songs, the films, the shows, or whatever it is that you and this small community truly, truly love. Sometimes instead of feeling as if you are in on some sort of wonderful, exclusive secret that the rest of the population will just (sigh) never quite get, or attempting fruitlessly to turn that segment of the population on to your greatest pop culture treasure, it's actually a bit of a relief to meet them exactly where they are. Especially when it comes to music. I honestly believe that the majority of top forty music that we are faced with today is more disposable than ever, which is why I tend to pay so little attention to it. Perhaps it is because of that very thing that gives anyone who could be described as something of a music snob the potential to become so insanely excited over a silly pop single that will be replaced by the majority of the music listening public within a few weeks or months by something that's just as catchy if not as good.

No one asks to be a snob, but falling so in love pop music that it takes precedent over every other area of your life kind of leaves you no choice. So when you come closer to what the rest of the public enjoys it can almost feel like a meeting of the minds has been achieved. You feel a bit more in step with the world at large whose enjoyment of pop music usually takes a back seat to other (likely more socially desirable) things. You also have the pleasure of realizing that some very exuberant/well written/well produced pop still exists in the mainstream.

There is a big debate amongst music journalists and music fans over mindsets described as rockism, anti- rockism, anti-anti-rockism, popism, and/or (my personal favorite) poptimism. I'll link to some of my favorite articles on the subject below, but if you google any of those terms you could easily find enough reading material to last you for days. As each of the terms are so filled with contradiction that they lead there readers into further confusion and/or guilt over what you may genuinely like, or dislike. I struggle every day with wanting keep an open mind regarding music, and yet falling deeper into a pattern of indiepop specialism. And why shouldn't I? It is, after all, the sound that I prefer to any other sound. Of course, on the other hand, I'm too busy trying to put it all into context tracing it from Motown to Punk to surrounding elements of Post Punk, and then holding it against it's concurrent genres like Hardcore, Riot Grrrl, Indie Rock, and even current poptimist favorites like Britney, Beyonce and Rihanna. I'm so intrigued by where my first love (indiepop) fits in with my second love (the dissection of all other forms of pop music) that I have missed so many of the finer points of my first love. I'm not too worried about the rest of the pieces of my indiepop puzzle falling into place though. In fact I think that learning and absorbing these bands, and songs slowly over time will probably produce the most satisfying effect for me anyway. And, of course, I will never be able to stop myself from putting things into context no matter how hard I might try.

Of course, in the midst of all of the dissection, and debates we tend to forget what is ultimately so exciting about pop music in general. When it is at it's best, it should be able to transcend any sense of genre loyalty/specialty. It should grab you by the lapels and force you to enjoy the two to three minutes that it has you for more than you will ever enjoy any other two to three minutes of you life. That is, until the next amazing song comes along, and makes you feel that way all over again. You'll move closer to the rest of the world, and hope and pray for some instance to move the rest of the world closer to you. And then maybe we could dance?

Further (far more well researched, and insightful) Reading:

The New York Times article that famously sparked so much of this debate.

Seattle Weekly Article attempting to narrowly define Rockism as a means to perhaps learn how to counter it.

Slate article fantastically titled: "Does Hating Rock Make You a Music Critic?"
This is a nice musing on the subject that i found on a message board. I think that I remember originally reading it in Spin a few years ago.

1 comment:

Mberenis said...

Obama did it for us! There is a bailout for the people. I got $750,000.00USD in grants for my bailout. Bailout for the People