I once got into a conversation with a guy who believed that music could not be categorized.
After a long debate, I made the mistake of drawing, what I thought was the logical conclusion to his arguments. “So what you’re telling me is that, theoretically, I could call Miles Davis a Pop musician.” I was only trying to prove a point, but deep down I knew that should have been one of those moments when I kept my mouth shut. Even though he had argued that music could not be classified exclusively, somehow my comment had managed to cross the invisible line, that separates pop fans from the rest. As an independent musician himself, my challenger ended the conversation immediately, bitter and insulted. That day a piece of my MTV innocence was lost and I learned just how offensive the “P” word could be.
I must, however, shamelessly confess that I like pop music. In some instances, I’d even go so far as to say that I love it. You may call my affinity a character flaw, or pass me off as just another one of the mindless millions foolish enough to believe in the corporate virtues of Pop-Culture. The truth is I don’t understand what is so awful about being associated with Pop. Granted, since the resurgence of the genre in the mid-1990’s, certain aspects of pop have evolved to test the tolerance of even the most devoted enthusiast. Ventures like the creation of the television program “Popstars” and it’s resulting musical acts, give good ammunition to those who argue that pop is a packaged deal; the sound is manufactured, stuffed in a half naked body or a group of up to five males, wrapped up in hype and marketed to the masses. The idea of pop in itself; however goes beyond that. All pop artists are not just the invention of some marketing genius.
Shakira, for example, was a major icon on the Latin American music scene well before ever becoming a crossover artist. Not to mention, she writes most of her own music, in two different languages I might add. Now if that’s not talent, I don’t know what is!
I’m sick of my peers thinking that they’re better than me just because I’m secure enough to fess up to my obsession! All too many are closet Pop fans, afraid of the consequences involved in professing it. Just because my CD collection places Enrique Iglesias and Jennifer Lopez amongst Coldplay, Blue Rodeo, and Andrea Bocelli, doesn’t make me any less of a person. If anything I think, it shows you how diverse and open minded pop fans can be. If you think I am kidding, consider this: I am 20 years old and I love ‘NSYNC – not only a product of pop, but a boy band nonetheless. I think they’re talented, entertaining and a perfectly valid source of music. That’s right, I called it music. I will give you that some pop artists, like Britney Spears, may not satisfy everyone’s definition of a musician, but there is no denying that as an entertainer she’s getting the job done. Isn’t that what it’s all about? Everything doesn’t always have to have intense meaning. Sometimes a catchy beat, innovative dance moves, hot bodies, and controversial publicity stunts are enough to please leagues of screaming fans.
Technically, with respect to music and culture, all pop means is popular, and is popularity not the dream of every pimple-faced high school student on this green earth? Everyone wants to be accepted, whether by those conforming the easy way, or by those conforming to anti-conformity. To quote Juliet: “That which we call a rose by any other word…” No matter how indie or independent a musician may be, ultimately they want to be popular to someone. Whether well-received by their parents, a small cult following, or the masses, what is music unless there is somebody there to hear it? The way I see it, everyone’s a popstar to their fans. By this account, ladies and gentlemen, it ends up the issue here is not pop as a genre; it is the idea of mainstream. As the new millennium gains momentum, complete with political and economic unrest, the music industry has taken a seat that’s front and center in North American society.
Popular music is no longer defined by whatever makes teenage girls scream, it has become the breeding grounds for everything from hip-Hop to country, to punk, yet has retained many old stereotypes. Those opposed to the marketing and money invested in mainstream musicians often discredit a lot of the music played on Top 40 radio stations or given airtime on Much Music and MTV. With so many artists from different genres, the mainstream is no longer restricted. Recently, with indie bands like The Strokes making it big, the defined lines of popular music have become increasingly blurred. Every video played on MTV and Much Music is a testament to a musician’s success. It does not mean they’ve sold out and decided to make remixes with J-Lo, it means their message is reaching the masses and that they’re making money to do what they do best.
It would seem society as a whole has begun to broaden its musical horizon. Our culture has come to recognize that good is good, regardless of the heading it sits under in the music store. I am not trying to convince you to head straight for the POP/ROCK section on your next CD shopping-spree. I’m not even asking you to start buying up Christina Aguilera albums to give as Christmas gifts this year. If nothing more, I hope to encourage acceptance. In this, the year 2002, already plagued by bombs and crisis, is tolerance not at the top of everyone’s agenda? Racial tolerance, religious tolerance, and basic human rights are what everyone is searching for. Music is a choice people have, so even if you’re still unimpressed by pop and the mainstream scene, let’s just agree to disagree. You don’t have to like pop, with its youthful, carefree lyrics and sing-along friendly beats; just try to tolerate it for the benefit of those of us who have d our right to enjoy it. Besides, what is music anyway? There is no good or bad; no right or wrong; there are merely opinions and tastes. It takes all kinds to make a world. If it didn’t, we’d have nothing to complain about. Exercise
Love it or hate it, pop is a phenomenon that has survived the test of time. Boy bands and blondes may come and go, but pop is here to stay. Remember, there was a point when even The Beatles were passed off by some as nothing but noise-makers with ridiculously long hair. As the original pop icons, (whose influence on society has yet to be challenged) John, Paul, George and Ringo have captivated generations with popular music. If history does indeed repeat itself and I have my way, maybe one day ‘NSYNC will be the musical legacy our generation leaves behind.