Friday, December 08, 2006

They like pop (but it's ok, a MAN is making it really)

Notice The Ticket, the weekly music section of the Irish Times leads with a piece on Pop Justice and "good pop music" this week, cue if ever there was one to lock the doors and turn on some fucked up screaming music or the most deranged CD in your collection , that is if you don't think liking pop music is big and clever and new.

This came up over on ILM recently (unfortunately the archive is down so can't link to the thread), a place where words like "popism" have been part of the casual lexicon for a couple of years now, since at least 2001 anyway. I feel now, as I did then, that the Pop Justice CD is just a desperate lunge by a site whose aesthetic is on its last legs. It's often the case in culture that acceptance and death or irrelevence go hand in hand, if you don't believe me then take note that most of the tracks on the Pop Justice CD are ancient, particularly with a genre like pop, where the sands shift quickly.

Couple that with the fact that some never were successful in the first place, and you're left wondering; whose definition of pop is this? Certainly not one vindicated by the charts anyhow...

As for the article, if you can get past the front cover of the Irish Times, a broadsheet newspaper with the usual casually rockist music section, billing this piece as "THE BATTLE TO KEEP POP MUSIC ALIVE" then that's an achievement in itself. I mean seriously, if Pop Justice ever fought any battles, it was against the constant assertion implicit in music journalism that the fleeting is worthless, that the term "style over substance" actually has any substance to it itself, that the general public are force fed this awful chicken feed music rather than choosing pop over its so often drab counterparts....

The piece opens by describing Pop Justice as approaching pop music with "ironic detachment", this despite the fact that two paragraphs later, the site's founder says, and I quote "I don't do this with any ironic detachment at all". How does one contradict the interviewee so blithely and then INCLUDE this contradiction in the final piece?

And this is is the only irony I see here, that even when posthumously fiddling with the corpse of a movement which sites like Freaky Trigger had locked down years ago, literally years ago, the IT still is full of the usual prejudices. Liking pop is "trivial", and has an "inbuilt sarcastic get out clause". Well damn those oily popists hides!

But worse is to come. Why is it that every male music fan saying they like pop must qualify this with praise for another male? Is it just in case we thought they liked Nelly Furtado? Phew close one guys, they like Timbaland not the vacuous plug in doll that is Nelly Furtado. "She's a woman for fuck sake!" CF Boyd's ludicrous (and utterly misinformed) paragraph here:

The other huge difference between the decades is in the role of the producer. Whereas before the producer would simply put a pop sheen on recordings - with the emphasis always being more on the image of the act - today's producer is an all-stop shop for the aspiring pop act. Where would Rihanna be without Stargate, or Christine Aguilera without Linda Perry? But the one person almost single-handedly responsible for the ascendancy of the pop producer is Timbaland

Erm....where would Patsy Kline be without Willie Nelson? Donna Summer without Moroder? Elvis without....whoever wrote Elvis's songs! The history of producer and diva/divo is pretty long and detailed, to suggest otherwise is just utterly idiotic. And the final sucker punch of establishing Timbaland as the male auteur behind the phony make up masks, well, if I knew the tune to that I could sing it. And who's to say what contribution Madonna makes to her work? Why can we assume she doesn't work with Stuart Price or Mirwais? Why can we assume this of Rihanna? Or whoever Linda Perry produces, how can we give her all the credit, let's not forget Linda Perry's solo career was a short affair, like many many other successful pop song writers. There's an inherent sexism to suggesting any of these acts named don't deserve their success or aren't an integral part of it. Even if they couldn't sing a note (eg Bob Dylan, the Sex Pistols) Image IS a talent.

Also can't help but mention Boyd's assertion that "a band like Steps would never make it today", at the same time as Westlife probably gear up to top the Xmas charts all over again. There's a curious failure to mention them in the piece, but then, when writing about sanitised pop music a la Pop Justice, I guess the golden rule is you must be sure not to mention the rakes and rakes of shit music people buy more of than Annie/Robyn. You know, popular pop!

While I accept it's always tempting to treat things as a "phenomenon" as a journalist, this is fatal when the "movement" in question was around long before the writer had a Constantinian revelation that "LIKING POP IS OK, SOME POP IS BETTER THAN NU ROCK". That said, in this case it's more likely the assignment just fell on the desk of the writer.

I wouldn't even bother bringing this up on this, a mostly dance blog, except that it's so symptomatic of the continuing pomp and ceremony with which the IT embraces the new, months after the horse has bolted(see also the recent lip serv...supplement on "that internet". They may have an older or aging readership, but they'll continue to age with nobody replacing them until the paper can accomodate some more credible culture/lifestyle/technology writing...from some young writers at the cutting edge...when was the last time a non news piece in the Irish papers was interesting? Answers on a postcard. Even with personal opinions aside, the above piece is pretty poorly realised, with some awfully illogical conclusions

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Anonymous Ger said...

Good post. Expresses exactly what I was feeling as I read that ridiculous article (for free thankfully) this morning. Brian Boyd and Kevin Courtney should be have been put out to seed years ago. Jim Carroll's not great either although he's made look like Simon Reynolds in comparison to the other two clowns. Nice blog by the way, keep it up.

9:10 AM  
Blogger Ronan said...

cheers this ger z?

9:37 AM  
Anonymous ger said...

No. Another Ger. I post on BT forums as easylee, found you through there.

2:14 AM  
Blogger Ronan said...

ah i remember i met you in carbon...cheers for checking out the blog

2:19 AM  
Blogger Justin Mason said...

Hey -- came here via unarocks.

You nailed it -- reading those guys' output is simply painful, they're
about as rockist as it gets. awful stuff.

7:02 AM  
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