Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

On Pop Music

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I have a good many friends who scoff at pop music, or anything resembling it, purely on the basis that it’s popular. They refuse to listen to the university radio station here because the music they play is “too mainstream” (you can forget about them listening to the top-40 station – that’s just out of the question). And, to be perfectly honest, I think they’re just being dramatic.

Pop music has always existed. It’s right there in the name – popular music. That’s not to say that everything that’s popular is good. But I hardly think that one can dismiss a song or an artist so rapidly because they’re popular. Surely nobody can ignore the artistry of Beck, the riotous Rolling Stones and the rapping elite that is Jay-Z. I don’t know how to talk about this, so let me interject a brief interlude about food.

This is a clip from Gordon Ramsay’s show “The F Word” in which Top Gear’s James May is a special guest. In the recipe challenge, they make fish pies. Ramsay makes his complex, layered and swank version, and May makes his rather simple version. The video should automatically start at the correct time, but if it doesn’t, it’s 3 minutes, 27 seconds in.

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As you can see (or will now see, if you couldn’t be arsed to watch the video), May won that challenge, and I think this challenge draws a comparison with music. May’s dish is representative of pop music. It’s simple, straightforward and, since it’s food, it’s packed with flavour. In the case of music, it would be packed with pleasing sounds. Ramsay’s is representative of other kinds of music, for which I can’t think of an appropriate name. “Unpop” is the closest I can think of. It’s complex and it’s layered. Some might say it’s the more intelligent, the more sophisticated of the two. However, there’s no reason pop cannot be intelligent. Truthfully, most of it isn’t, but that’s OK too. Do we always want to sit down and read Othello or The Satanic Verses? Most of us do like the occasional comic strip. Some of us like comic strips more than occasionally. And that’s alright.

And so is pop music.

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