In Appreciation Of… Pop Music

Corey Taylor, the front man of Slipknot, recently was quoted criticising pop music. He commented: “it’s so auto-tuned and it’s so beat corrected and it’s so canned and processed and lifeless. You might as well be listening to a fucking piece of wood at that point.”

I couldn’t disagree more.

Wikipedia says: The terms “popular music” and “pop music” are often used interchangeably, although the former is a description of music which is popular (and can include any style).

As a genre, pop music is extremely eclectic, often borrowing elements from other styles including urban, dance, rock, Latin and country; nonetheless, there are core elements which define pop. Such elements include generally short to medium-length songs, written in a basic format (often the verse-chorus structure), as well as the common employment of repeated choruses, melodic tunes, and hooks.

Based on this, I think it is obvious that most music contains at least elements of pop. If good songwriting is described in cake based form; pop is the sugar coating that makes everything taste better, and this viewpoint can be applied across a whole range of otherwise disparate genres –  from the thundering feet-stomping drums that open Converge’s Dark Horse, to the screaming lead riff at the start of Chuck Berry’s Johnny B Goode, to the “woah” section of Pennywise’s Bro Hymn, to “the drop” in any number of EDM tracks.

Pop is all in the hook; it’s what people can dance and sing along to, and for a lot of people that’s what makes it worthwhile.

I admit that I used to be a musical snob. I discovered punk rock in my early teen years, and by the time I was 16 was pretty much unprepared to listen to anything without a D-beat and buzzsaw guitars. I was so wrapped up in my own increasingly obscure record collection that I didn’t want to look at the wider musical world, let alone appreciate the fun and joy that it might give me as well as other people.

Being a snob is reductive, it makes you a buzzkill to be around, and, worst of all, can make other people feel insecure about their own taste. That kid in the My Chemical Romance hoodyis never going to get into a band like The Promise Ring if they are repeatedly sneered at and docked points because of a series of bizarre acronyms used to dissect the emo genre into “real”, “fake” and “weiner rock” categories.

Music doesn’t have to be serious, sad, or a deep reflection on the current political status quo. I challenge anyone to fail to find the fun in Tegan and Sara’s Lego-themed “Everything is Awesome”. Somehow it makes the day seem a little bit brighter… And in the context of the film The Lego Movie (which is a story for another day) still manages to make relevant comments on the state of corporate control, conformity, and the death of an independent childhood… If you haven’t watched it, you probably should. It’s Awesome.

I guess all I’m trying to say is that it if has been acknowledged that diversity is good, and that safe non-judgemental spaces make for better shows…why is there still a degree of superiority when it comes to music choices? Buzzfeed recently ran an article from Download festival showing “metalheads’ guilty pop pleasures”. That whole concept seems fucked up to me – why should people have to feel “guilty” for enjoying a certain style? Is there really such a difference between Corey Taylor screaming “I push my fingers into my…” on Duality and Miley Cyrus singing “I came in like a…..” on Wrecking Ball? Both lines bring in a very memorable melodic sing along chorus; structurally they are exactly the same.

I could talk for hours about the concept of non-pretentious songwriting, about how the concept of pop music as an accessible art form for the masses, breaks down social constructs and prevents music from remaining the possession of the elite (think about the crowd at an Opera), but there seems very little point in doing that… there is a horrible tendency in “alternative” music to try to protect the genre; that somehow the scene is kept “more pure” by remaining distinct and aloof.  If Corey Taylor wants to listen to nothing but Metal (or whatever the fuck he listens to) and remain a closed-minded dick then that’s up to him, but there’s no need to judge other people for the choices that they make. There are really only two types of music anyway – the music you like, and the music you don’t. Everything else is irrelevant.

Or to quote Taylor Swift…. “Just think while you’ve been getting down about the liars and the dirty dirty cheats of the world you could’ve been getting down to this sick beat.”


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Sam Moloney

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