Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Pop, Revisited

I should make it absolutely clear, before I begin to tear modern pop music apart, that I am not one of those indie hipsters, who can’t stand to listen to anything in the Billboard Top 200 for fear of appearing uncool, for lack of a better term. Nor do I object to pop music in general. I posted a short, actually fairly poorly written entry professing my love of decent pop music. But, I’m afraid, I fear that my brief fling with pop has been ruined by three things. Just three.

The first culprit are Disney’s pop princes and princesses. I am, of course, talking about Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers and the High School Musical series. And I don’t want to sound like I’m beating a dead horse here, but it isn’t that they’re bad, per se. I can find you truly terrible music, if that’s what you’re into, but at least bad music has something curiously charming about it. Disney pop somehow manages to out-do this with music that is as interesting as listening to Ben Stein explaining the Austrian business cycle theory. It’s almost as if they’ve made a list of everything a successful pop song should be and passed it around to their pop acts. The Jonas Brothers got this list, scribbled some clichéd lyrics on a napkin, learned a few power chords and got to work. This is what they came up with:

Next time I see you I’m giving you a high five Cuz hugs are overrated just FYI

I wish I could say I’m making that up, but those lyrics are so uninspired and dull that it’s embarrassing (I should point out that those are actual lyrics from their song “S.O.S”). I also wish I could say that I went and clicked on several songs to try to find the worst lyrics. Surprisingly, I didn’t do that. I merely searched for “Jonas Brothers lyrics” and went to the first link that came up. I then clicked on a random song title on that page. Simple. It isn’t just the lyrics though, it’s the delivery. The Jonas Brothers are a soulless pop machine. They are a mass-produced, family-friendly, Tupperware brand of pop. Perhaps it’s just those three brothers though; perhaps another Disney act has had more luck. How about one that’s also the descendant of a musician? This should be a walk in the park:

There’s always gonna be another mountain I’m always gonna wanna make it move Always gonna be a uphill battle Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose

Oh dear. It’s almost as if I’ve never heard that metaphor before. Interestingly, Miley Cyrus didn’t actually write these lyrics, so I suppose I can’t actually blame her. I can, though, for the mundane recitation of them.

The next cancer that is killing pop music is an unheard-of level of anonymity. It’s partially the fault of the artists (and their labels and producers), and also the radio stations that end up playing their music. Artists tend to fall into trends and gimmicks such as auto-tune, growly, post-grunge singing, and Timbaland’s Blazing House of Beats, rendering most radio-ready music a blur of similarity. Turn on a modern rock station and all you’ll hear is a Nickelback sound-alike (or maybe it is Nickelback, I can never tell). A constipated man singing about his woman, backed by detuned, overdriven guitars, lots of bass and a loud drummer. Flip to the top-40 station, and you’ll hear some nonspecific hip-hop and dance tracks, with the occasional pop-punk song thrown in for — and this is a stretch — variety. This is made worse by a downright refusal to mention the artists on just about any station. What you’re left with is a sea of music that sounds similar, without a lick of an indication of who played any of it.

The final miscreant are the Black Eyed Peas, and Boom Boom Pow.