Amongst music circles, there lies a hushed murmur from critics and music snobs alike, that pop music sucks. “It’s too loud”, “It’s unoriginal”, “They can’t sing”, you’ve probably heard some of these statements in passing music discussions. Despite the pretentious and snobbish scoffing and scorn towards pop music, there is a legitimate claim to be made about pop music’s artistic decline.
If you’ve ever listened to “Top 40” radio as you wait through traffic, after a couple of minutes of head bobbing to a series of songs, you’d notice that though the artists are different, they sound eerily similar in style and composition. You would also notice that the structure of each song sounds the same. Your observations would be correct, considering that most pop songs follow a very simple pattern: Verse/ Chorus/ Verse/ Chorus/ Bridge / Chorus.
Max Martin, is a Swedish producer and songwriter, known for producing and writing some of your favourite hits. Taylor Swifts “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”- he wrote it. He co- wrote and produced Ellie Goulding’s “Love Me Like You Do”, The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face” and Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling”. With an approximate networth of 260 million in 2017, Max Martin has become the go-to guy in the music industry. However, it is worth noting the similar imprint in most hit pop songs, judging that many of them come from one individual.
Max Martin, acclaimed Swedish producer and songwriter, with one of his many Grammy awards
Photo courtesy of Michael Tran courtesy on Getty
Not only does pop music follow a very calculated structure, it is meant to be repetitious. In doing so, the songs become ingrained your head, thus causing you to be able to sing along, and though things we are familiar with, can create comfort, the adverse effect, unfortunately is that familiarity can also breed contempt. And boy does it become nauseating hearing a chorus repeat over and over again, the same refrain, until you’re left lifeless- void of feeling.
Many songs which carry a weighted message, wind up being sung to the backdrop of uncomplimentary musical vibes. The serious music becomes lost in a whirlwind of catchy beats and melodies. You can have a song dealing with murder, to a catchy and groovy beat, and it’ll for sure get our heads nodding and hips moving at your summer pool party, as we passively listen to the true meaning of the song.
Furthermore, not only are most modern pop songs extremely cookie-cutter, but they are cruelly battered into the masses eardrum- it’s inescapable. The same hit song is played from the radio station to the grocery store, in your Uber, your favourite clothing store, heck even at your cousins Bar Mitzvah. It’s like a widespread epidemic. Radio torments the masses with the same song for weeks and months on end, nullifying just how “hot” the top 40 becomes. Songs come in hot, and leave stale as can be, all due to the circulation of the same songs over, and over, and over again.
But it’s a losing battle when one is to say that “pop music isn’t that great anymore”. Our pop icons now have much reputation. Streaming numbers and popularity are more prone to receiving accolades than the body of work. Thus, you could be a horrible singer, with absolutely no talent whatsoever, but if you manage to direct your fans (from a pre-existing social media presence), you can manage to get streams and album sales, and thus your album can go platinum or gold, validating you as an “artist”.
However, the scary effects of this formula are a direct by-product of the Behemoth, which is the music industry. When pretty faces are chewed up into the industry, where writers scribble furiously to create lyrics, producers create music for you, auto tune allows for you to stay in tune for mediocre singing abilities, as you travel the world, doing backflips and gyrating your hips, without uttering one word, thanks to the miracle of lip syncing, it really begs the question as to… what is “artistic” about any of this?
The revered RIAA Gold Award (Recording Industry Association of America ), one of the many awards given to artists. This one represents an artist who sold 500,000 units
Photo Courtesy of RIAA
Pop music has always been to entertain, and it stills reigns supreme in doing so. However, music is an emotive exploration of melody and message, as well as creativity and couth. Pop music, nowadays, has become stale and lifeless. It is a cluster of old ideas, similar melodies, stagnant song structures, limited artistic ability, and voided messages. It sadly poses as a fleeting echo in the vast and rich history of music, with its only accolade being its chart topping.