Monday, February 14, 2011

"Catchy" like the Clap?

"It's now obvious that pop music has become the sole preserve of 12-year-old girls who spend their pocket money (or children's allowance, it's so hard to tell these days) buying ringtones by their favourite band." 
- Ian O'Doherty, "The Irish Independent"

"I've never intended to be controversial but it's very easy to be controversial in pop music because nobody ever is."
- Morrissey

The other day a friend said he just wished someone would hurry up and shoot Justin Bieber in the back of the head and get him over with. While I agreed in practice, I had to bring up the principle of the matter: if someone killed Bieber, he and his estate would be rewarded with a lifetime of "tragic hero" tales, post-humous album releases of garbage that was never supposed to be released (i.e. Michael Jackson -- not that any of Bieber's actual releases could count as anything more), and an air of mystery, like "Oh, if Bieber had only lived to turn 13, he had so much potential to be the next Bob Dylan...." I was of the opinion that all we can hope for is he'll get too many zits and his voice will sink so low once he hits puberty that his baffling appeal will diminish and he'll fade into obscurity, only to reappear 20 years down the line on episodes of Celebrity Rehab, or better yet, not at all. The best way to rid the world of the Biebers is to simply ignore them -- which is sadly, not what this blog posting is doing.

I long ago recognized that crafty advertisers have been taking advantage of unsuspecting and vulnerable children with throwaway pop music for decades, forever leaving their taste in music disabled. It is a cruel, cruel act to manipulate children. One of my constant frustrations is hearing grown adults continuing to justify the existence of awful pop music on the "But it's catchy" factor; "BY MENEN" is probably as "catchy" (and less annoying) than a Justin Bieber song (which I admittedly would not be able to identify), but that does not mean I am going to be duped into going out and buying it or repeating it in front of people at parties. Why? Because I have a brain and free will to decide when I am being insulted by advertisers (which is all the machinery of the pop singer really is). Free will is what separates humans from species that operate on classical conditioning, though Pavolv did prove that humans can be dumb and manipulable mammals when it comes down to it. 

Furthermore, there is a significant difference between commercial jingles (i.e. boy bands and Biebers) and music that has artistic and cultural relevance. And of course, just because something is "popular" does not mean it has to water down its literary or artistic merit and sophistication; music is art after all. The only person who has ever been able to successfully marry art and commercial advertising was Andy Warhol (RIP), but he did so with a conscious eye for social satire and an unmatched ability to turn the lens of society back on itself.

In a world overflowing with beautiful art amongst a species blessed with the wonderful gift of creating and appreciating it at their own volition and free will, I encourage you to exercise that will, kids. Pop music is bad for you. And bands: give your audience the credit they deserve for the intelligence they have. They will only appreciate you all the more because of it.