too much typing—since 2003


this is pop?

Clap Clap has written a very useful anatomy of what we mean when we say "pop": obviously, we mean very different things, depending who we are and what context we're speaking in. While the definitions on offer there are generally lucid and make sense to me (that would be a redundancy, since hey, who the hell else is talking here?), I'd offer a couple of modifications. First, it should be clear that "pop" is not a particularly portable phenomenon: different regions will have different musics and artists that fit each of these categories. (This distinction just might help clarify the question of "world music" - or not; but then again, the schema shouldn't be thought of as an attempt to be all-inclusive.)

Second, I think there needs to be another category, kind of a modification of Pop I.5 ("music that sounds like the current pop sound but is not actually, for whatever reason, on the charts") and Pop II ("Anything that sounds like anything that's ever been pop" - "pop" here being "Pop I," or music that charts). Music described as "pop" when Pop II is the operative definition refers primarily to generally popular sounds, not to just anything that's been on the charts. For example, if I described a song as consisting of nothing but drums, tambourine, an amusing but slightly disturbing vocal, and a siren, very few people would consider this "pop" of any type...yet the song I'm describing, "They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Ha!" by Napoleon XIV, was a chart hit. Okay, that might be an extreme example, but...consider a song that's reminiscent of Wall of Voodoo's "Mexican Radio" - I dunno, analog synths, harmonica, junkshop percussion, spaghetti western guitar, and snake-oil salesman vocal. That was a chart hit - but it was an outlier, sonically, and produced no soundalike hits (i.e., it didn't establish a popular style).

I don't know what to call this category - Accidental Pop? - but it's sort of an exception to Clap Clap's schema, in that although it technically fits into Pop II, songs that sound like "They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Ha!" are unlikely to have "pop" used as a descriptor - since to do so would be more misleading than informative.

No comments: