I love pop music. Completely and utterly. I love the mental Girls Aloud tunes, the rockier Kelly Clarkson anthems, the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink Gaga songs and everything inbetween. The catchy verses, the booming beats, the absolutely addictive earworm choruses, a killer key change. However, up until a few years ago, I kept that really hidden, particularly amongst my friends who were a diverse mix of rockers, dance junkies and alternative fans because at that point, pop music was really, really not cool to like. I wondered for a long time about why pop is such a hush-hush word in certain circles – is it because it’s pedestrian? Because it’s mainstream, boring?
Whatever the reason, the main fact is this – shaming people for liking pop music and shaming pop music as a genre itself really, really needs to stop.
A common argument amongst detractors of pop music is that it’s diluted – it’s a watering down of a once-good song, a once-good idea or genre. That it somehow removes some power or emotion from the tune. Sometimes that’s true. But really, having a song in the mainstream doesn’t mean that it loses any relevance or its power, particularly on the part of either the singer or the listener.
If a popular Rihanna song affects a listener’s heart as strongly as one by The Joy Formidable or Of Monsters and Men or Foals, does it really matter? What it all really boils down to is personal taste and sometimes even that doesn’t matter – I’ve had pop-hating friends admit to loving an LMFAO song and pop lovers enjoy a heavy metal tune. Pop music doesn’t dilute emotions any more than any other genre, doesn’t make it less ‘valid’. Neither heartbreak nor joy become less valid because it’s in a pop song.
Equally invalid is the argument that pop music somehow compromises one’s musical and taste integrity. There’s been this long-standing belief that somehow accepting and liking the popular music that we grow up with and hear the most – and I understand it and agree to an extent. We should listen to all kinds of music and experiment and learn what we love and we don’t – if you turn out to be a diehard rock fan or a dance fan, that’s fantastic. Honestly.
In that same respect, it’s okay to like both without compromising or corrupting your integrity or taste as someone who likes music. You can like Katy Perry and Imogen Heap equally and not be a traitor to good musical taste. Hating on pop, in the same respect, doesn’t make someone edgy if they’re doing it because it’s ‘not cool’, it makes them someone who takes the easy route. Think about all the effort that goes into hating something. It must be exhausting.
Another point is that pop is ‘cookie cutter’, easy to digest and throwaway. Pop music is pretty accessible – has been for decades and that’s part of its charm. Hell, there have even been studies on how certain songs, handcrafted pop songs to be precise, hit the right little parts of our brains to make us find more addictive and catchy to listen to. Pop is designed to be enjoyed by most people and the fact that it is accessible and draws upon other genres isn’t a weakness – it’s a strength, not a weakness.
Hell, pop songs in recent years have drawn from nearly every genre imaginable on the radio – whether it’s gently guitar-strummed ditties, big electronic club tunes, ballsy rock and country influenced anthems and everything inbetween. Hell, the very structure of a simplistic pop song is embedded in nearly every hit song on the radio – it doesn’t matter whether you’re listening to a hip-hop song or a rock one, that same structure is bound to be in that song and for some good reason: it works and it works well.
I’ve even heard from some people that a pop song that uses rock or R&B or dance or anything inbetween has lead them into exploring and developing an appreciation of that genre in of itself. They’re kind of like the covers on Glee – some of them might not be patches on the originals but I bet they’ve inspired an entire new generation to look at those original songs and is that really a bad thing?
Pop isn’t really about being good or bad – it’s like every other musical genre. It has its shining moments and its less-than-stellar ones, but all that matters is that you don’t start feeling ashamed for liking something – you should never feel ashamed for liking something (as long as it’s legal). Liking pop music doesn’t make you any more or less of a person, doesn’t make you less well-rounded or less smart or whatever the misconceptions and preconceptions are.
Listening to ‘Call Me Maybe’ doesn’t make you dumb. Liking ‘Gangnam Style’ or Kesha or Rihanna or Bieber doesn’t invalidate your sense of taste, doesn’t make your opinions irrelevant; simply, just because something’s mainstream, that doesn’t mean it can’t be smart and funny and just a darn good song.
I’m not saying that music that falls outside the norm is weird or not good – I absolutely LOVE left-field music and music that people haven’t heard of, it’s awesome! – but the same goes for the mainstream, goes for pop. The moment you commit to shutting down and disregarding pop music, you’re creating a culture where being normal or average is treated as something to be mocked. At least people who enjoy left-field music have the advantage of being unique in a society where we’re conditioned past our teenage years that being unique is something to be desired – if you listen to pop, if you listen to the mainstream, then you’re boring. Mainstream. Ordinary. Something that no one particularly wants to be.
It really doesn’t matter if you like one music genre or not – it really doesn’t, very few people are going to like a piece of absolutely everything – but what I’m asking for you to do is to respect the decisions of others. It in now way is gonna affect your music choices and your enjoyment if someone else likes something different and that’s great! There’s nothing wrong with disliking pop so please don’t start making people feel bad about liking it. On the dancefloor of life (bad analogy alert), everyone has the right and the chance to dance – so let us have some fun when ‘Call Me Maybe’ come on, alright?
Thanks for reading, guys and girls, and please feel free to leave your comments, queries, suggestions and likewise in the comments section below!
This article was first posted on May 1, 2013