The first glaring issue with pop music is that at its basest level is pop boils out any nuance and risk in favor of appealing to a mass audience. To get a large mass audience you aim for the lowest common denominator. To do that you churn out predictable uninspired overproduced nonsense. True artists will often eschew this tactic, and its potential hordes of money, to pursue loftier ideals of harmonic bliss. But the urge to give in to letting money dictate you musical choice and not simply follow your inspiration is not limited to the pop genre. A lot of people will find a particular demographic and exploit them. Not because the musicians are just that metal, or really into soul, or what have you, but because it will make money. I understand wholeheartedly and don’t judge this action. It is simply consumable entertainment and the value is assigned by the listener. But pop music is unabashed in it naked money grab and its simplicity. More so that other genres. It’s in the name: popular music.
Something interesting to point out is that some artists begin their careers as simply pop musicians and at one point manifest into purveyors of music that has depth. A shining example would be the Beatles. Not all of their music is wonderful or original (some seems to be blatantly lifted) or innovative but quite a lot is. They cast off the boy band simplicity said a whole lot less about holding hands.
Current pop music seems to fall into a few reasonable tidy categories.
I don't want you
I want you
I do what I want, isn't that awesome/Parents suck
I want you
I do what I want, isn't that awesome/Parents suck
The “I don’t want you” category is being filled to brim by Taylor Swift and her secret total private so no peaking notebook of breakups. She’s the more vapid version of Adele. You might argue that Taylor isn’t vapid. You might try to point out that she writes her own music. This indeed puts her above other pop musicians (not a enormous victory). But lyrics like “we are never, ever, ever, ever [and it keeps going] getting back together” don’t seem so terribly eloquent. Thoreau begged simplicity (however he did so by repeating himself three times) but this was not quite what he had in mind. But still Taylor Swift does seem far and away the least likely to erupt into a pile of shapeless atoms as she has enough integrity to hold herself together at least. Other pop stars seem likely to combust. And her writing, while simplistic, at least follows some manner of logic. Other songs hold only true that lyrics make sense if sung impassioned. They ignore lyrics before and after hoping that the listener will as well as they merrily hum away or join in with windows firmly rolled up as they drive about.
Need some examples? I’ve got a few. I subjected myself to sitting through the horrors of pop music videos on Vevo to try and understand the lyrical content. I came away with a deep need for alcohol and console myself for not taking an easier path in life like these soulless idiots (too harsh?). Take the inane gibberish of Selena Gomez’ I love you like a love song. Hey, remember when your English teacher told you never to use the word you are describing in its own description? That title begs that Gomez didn’t. Also real fucking original title. What the fuck does it mean to love someone like a love song? If it’s like this one its over in three minutes, uninspired and easily forgettable. Not quite the impression I’d want to make regarding love and you can extrapolate the double entendres there. Then there is the lyric, “hypnotized by your destiny”. That sounds like something the Ultimate Warrior might say (i.e. insane).
But let’s not leave out Bieber’s crappy lyrics.
“As long as you love me
We could be starving
We could be homeless
We could be broke”
Why lead with starving? Should it not be the opposite direction? Broke often only implies not having money past bills and securing basic necessities. Homeless is worse but you could have some food and prospects. Starving, well that’s reasonably awful. That view of love is nice but you can't subsist on an emotion. Marriages break up over money all the time and that the lesser of those three things. The whole song is a childish exercise that equates to puppy love/first love. Here every emotion is raw and powerful. The emotion so new and unknown is intense. A mild attraction if it’s the first time can be confused with the power of love. Here we see someone emotionally inexperienced. That’s the problem with teenagers. They have enough intelligence to piece together cohesive thoughts but enough emotionally maturity to be anything but annoying to those in another age bracket.
The “I want you” category has a bit more variety. It’s full of the garbage our love is powerful even though we’re twelve nonsense, the barely hidden meaning ‘we should bang’ nonsense (which as an adult is rather uncomfortable to listen to young people sing), and the I’m better than the other person nonsense.
An especially ridiculous example of this is the song “Want U Back”. I can forgive the texting vernacular in the title. I can forgive the hypocrisy… not actually, nothing in this song, catchy as might be, is forgivable. It is full of ad hominem and bullshit. Insulting someone by saying you’re simply better is not a good argument. She probably followed the Avril Lavigne school of bitchy cattiness. But I shouldn’t insult Avril she’s dating the lead singer from soon to be playing in elevators band Nickleback. No one deserves that fate not even hollow, fake brats (Gosh, I’m sunny today).
The song is absolutely horrendous. It treats the boy as a thing. She only wants him because another person has him. The aforementioned boy was supposed to be so ruined after the breakup he couldn’t bear the sight of another female. She only wants him as a lifeless husks incapable of feeling anything besides pain and remorse. Also the lyric “You didn’t think this through” just points to the sheer ego of the singer. It’s said with no shame. You dumped this guy and he got another girlfriend. He didn’t think it through because you say his new ersatz girlfriend isn’t as good as you. Yeah, I think he should stay with this ‘worse’ girlfriend. But this echoes the mentality of instant gratification and ego. I’m better simply because I believe so and because I’m better I should have what I want now. The fact that I don’t have this now is unfair and that’s why I’m mad.
For the “I do what I want, isn't that awesome/Parents suck” genre it’s awful and unbearable to anyone but kids. The reason being what kids think is cool is bucking authority, insulting authority but doing so in relative safety without expectations of repercussion. You know, the world no one lives in because it’s an immature fantasy. This is reasonably harmless and is the younger idiot brother of songs about real rebellion from people/bands like Bob Dylan, Rage against the Machine, Pearl Jam and others.
The our love is powerful is almost cute so I won’t really muck it with it as much. It’s still childish but that’s because like all the rest it’s aimed at teens and tweens for their obsessive consumerism. There is always a few gems in the rough but they are more often than not overshadowed by bad behavior. The industry seems to reward rather than punish bad behavior. This is where the adults come in. To us these teen aged and young twenty somethings are jokes. They are ill mannered disasters to be mocked. This exist for our derision and to watch garbage like the E! Network and poke fun at them. While secretly we wish to indulge in some of their lifestyle.
They are the worst of us and they are a fantasy. A way for us to live out a desire of being blissfully ignorant. Of being animalistic and needy. Full of false unearned and unconditional bravado. So many are worshiped blindly. Are they the problem or are we the problem for enabling them. Would they have been such disasters of role models before our attention and money or did it ruin them?
The perfect case study is the evolving train wreck of Miley Cyrus. She had inklings of this disaster in motion earlier but her notoriety has skyrocketing with her MTV gyrations. He last two music videos were awkward attempts at sexy. Her twerking with a giant bear costume is nothing short of confusing. Her predilection with showing us her tongue is frustrating. Her immense need for nudity and attention to her body is rather unnerving. Put your bits away Miley. I’m sure your male fanbase has grown by leaps and bounds. More importantly for the love of all things good put your tongue in your mouth. You were licking a sledgehammer. That is not sexy, it’s unclean and gross. It’s too bad your father is too consumed by you churning out small mountains of cash to be concerned with the fact you’re having a slow flaming psychotic break in front of America. It’s entirely possible she’ll shave her head, have multiple failed marriages, and a bad reality television show like another house of mouse star.
I hope you are proud of yourself Disney. You’ve unleashed your unholy army of witless teenage sex symbols to slowly lower the IQ of a generation of Americans. Maybe it’s our fault for letting it happen but dammit Disney you should have know better.