Why “Pop” Matters

the many faces of pop music

A lot of people ask me how I can stomach listening to “so much pop music,” as though they consider hearing a popular song being akin to acts of sustained torture. And while I don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on the subject, I do feel that all meaningful music is worth discussing and listening to, even if I’m not the first person to have ever heard each band before I bring them to the attention of my friends, fellow music bloggers or even to magazine readers.

The problem is that the term “pop music” has come to mean, in many people’s minds, the world of mediocre radio music. And you know the kind I mean – homogenized by-the-numbers r&b hip-hop hybrids, cheezy pop-punk and other filler force-fed by corporate stations across the nation. And while I still would argue that a lot of that music still has meaning and worth, even if we do get sick of hearing the same tired Black Eyed Peas songs over and over, I can understand how that style becomes all that people think of when the words “pop” and “music” occur with fewer than three other words between them.

Still, in my mind, pop music comes down to more than whether it’s “popular.” This isn’t the eighties anymore, we can step a little beyond a basic cliched definition. When people deride me for loving pop music, I play them a few examples of what I hear as “pop,” which can mean anything from alternative pop (Oceanship) to folk pop (Griffin House), or even indie pop (The Weepies). None of these artists would ever make it onto corporate radio, but they all have music which shares key elements, whether they be ear-catching hooks, strong focus on melodic structure, or just that rare combination of addictive elements that force me to continue to sing the songs long after I’ve hit “stop” on my mp3 player.

In this day and age it’s ridiculous to continue to pigeonhole “pop music” as being merely repetitive radio fodder. I’m interested in finding music that has depth and structure, music which burrows its way into your head and won’t let up. I want to find the musicians who make such music and burrow into their minds to find out how they tick, what makes a good song in their estimation, and then bring their insights to you, my readers.

If you’re interested in the same thing, come along for the ride and subscribe to “Hear! Hear!” Because despite what you may have heard, pop music is far from devoid of quality as we enter a new decade. And as always, if you have music you think I should hear, whether you are a fan or a musician, feel free to email me at kroessman@gmail.com. I’d love to hear about it.

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