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Friday, 20 April 2012

We Interrupt This Broadcast...

Hello, flock!

We interrupt our usual science fiction programming to bring you an important, if obvious message: pop music sucks.

Now, I can hear 90% of you crying, "why have you bothered to interrupt us with this terribly boring statement?" I'll keep this one short for the sake of not going over a topic that's been written about far too often. Still, there's something to say about it, and I want you guys to give it a few minutes of airtime on your own brainwave broadcasts.

You can blame Robyn for this thought trend; listening to her eponymous album, and a bit of Body Talk Pt. 2, I wondered why this Grammy-winner wasn't hitting the airwaves more often up here in The Great Multicultural North, Canada. Now, pop music being what it is, and retail zombiehood being what it is, I end up being subjected to popular music day in and day out when I'm at work. Virgin Radio is an especial culprit for overplaying the most recent big hits several times a day. When Gotye's Somebody that I Used to Know came on, I would breathe a sigh of relief before the next onslaught of Nicki Minaj hit me like an obnoxious tidal wave of cheap perfume and loud, poorly-applied make-up.

Now, I should clarify: I don't hate pop music.

Quite the opposite. There have been a few songs I couldn't help enjoying, of course--I am a sheepish Lady Gaga fan, I actually enjoyed Ke$ha's second album Cannibal a lot, and Usher's DJ Got Us Falling in Love Again is a song that makes me smile every time I hear it. I also enjoy old-fashioned hot jazz, Led Zepplin and other classic rock faire, punk, 90s alt rock, Leonard Cohen and other guitar poets like Neko Case, British soul-pop and rock (both Invasion era and modern), Canadian independent music, and a nice helping of Bizet every now and again. A pinch of thrash or some hip-hop complete my day. Point is, my tastes are at least somewhat diverse, and I'm willing to give almost any artist a fair shot.


Can't read her, can't read her, no we can't read her duck lip face. D-d-d-duck-face d-d-d-d-duckface muh-muh-muh-muh. I'm not even going to comment on the Justin Bieber I'm subjecting you to.

So why is it that Nicki Minaj, Bieber (shudder) and Pitbull make me homicidally annoyed and depressed about the fate of humanity? Well, it's not because people buy their mediocre work, or that they're successful. It's the fact that they are megahits. Now, the Spice Girls (anyone under the age of 15 might have to use Google to find out who they are) were almost equally mediocre, and they have not lasted. N'Sync also comes to mind. However much of a relief it is that these artists have had little-to-no staying power, their megahit contemporaries may be a bigger menace. No-one is saying that Nicki Minaj, for example, is a Great Artist, but to look at music stores and magazine covers, it's hard to find anyone capable of competing with her. The big companies are marketing her hard, and I think I've figured out why.


Simply, the issue is this: stupid artists, who can sing and perform but aren't smart enough to cause trouble, are easier for them to advertise. Pitbull is never going to cause trouble by demanding to be seen as a legitimate artist in his own right. These singers are auto-tuned to death, and don't care about being taken seriously as creators of new ideas. We haven't had very many new ideas or approaches come out within the last few years that caught the limelight. It may be to early to tell--I hope--but the club music that's followed in the wake of that five-minute indie craze and the preceding wasteland of hardcore gangster rap we had in the early-to-mid 2000s hasn't given us anything new. In fact, quite a few artists who made their names in the 90s have been recycling their sound to make a comeback. And that is bad news for producing a good

Katy Perry, in contrast, may be heading in a different direction--for all the poppy sugar-coated fun and brainlessness of most of the Teenage Dream album, a good half of the album, which didn't hit the radio, was really dark and quite meaningful. Her most recent single, Part of Me, has an empowering, non-sexploitational portrayal of a woman joining the female division of Marines after a bad breakup. Given that this is coming in the wake of a nasty divorce from her husband Russell Brand, we may be in for a treat involving a new artistic direction and more than the bubblegum pop she's produced up to this point. if we're lucky, Katy Perry is going to be trouble.

Adele is another artist who holds some promise. If she can get over her general trend of hating on her ex-boyfriend(s?) we may see some interesting stuff come out of her. Either that, or she'll wash up badly. I give it ten years to go in either direction.


...I hear you cry. And it's true, to a certain extent. A good friend of mine brought up a decent point: the stuff that I think isn't all that challenging or controversial, such as Lady Gaga's music, could be a lot more so for someone else. And, we've had stupid popular music for years--why would having stupid music now change anything? I should point out that the friend in question has taste even more eclectic and generally exquisite than mine, so it's not as though she's a radio robot.

And frankly, it's a good point. This said, though, there's a lot less work involved in a Justin Bieber song than, say, an Offspring song, or even a James Blunt song. And no, not everything has to be either a) classical music, b) deeply emotionally moving and oh my god what is this, or c) the most musically or lyrically complex shizzle ever to rock the block. Sometimes, mindless, fun music is a good thing. But still--cheap, easy to make crap is easy to put out, and some intellectual and emotional challenges with our daily serving of beats would be nice.

Well, that's all the time I have for today. Hit me up on Twitter at SciFiMagpie for more funny, updates on new posts, and general fuckery. This is the one and only SciFiMagpie, checking out!

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