The Anti-Pop

There was recently a hefty, albeit negative, buzz surrounding Miley Cyrus and her performance at the VMAs. My news feed on Facebook the other day was stacked with awkward photos and degrading comments concerning the event. After tiring of sifting through the posts by the many trolls that reside on Facebook (yes, I know, apparently they are my “friends”), I took it upon myself to hop on over to YouTube to see this provocative performance for myself.

‘Wow, this song is pretty terrible… Ok, the twerk is cool. Not too sure about the giant, possibly inebriated teddy bears. Ok, now who is this guy? He’s kinda lookin’ like Beetlejuice. I can dig that. Now what are you up to over there Miley, what’s that in your ha- OH… OHHH!’

Buzzworthy indeed.

In the midst of all the clamor about Miley’s dancing and inappropriate behavior on stage, I failed to discover, either on YouTube or Facebook, any comments concerning her actual music. Now, the song was the first thing I noticed. It is just an average song, nothing special. It contains no lyrical depth, interesting composition, or really any creative effort at all. Shouldn’t the people care about the music, though? This question brings me to a belief that I hold most strongly, being a musician, that music is ultimately an art form that should be complex and thought-provoking, and should not be created for the sake of popular demand.

Assuredly, I share a different view than most people. Different though it might be, there have been certain influences and events in my life that have guided me to this belief. For example, one influence has come from my love of poetry. I started writing in middle school and became entranced by a sense of freedom gained by writing. Over the years I transposed my poetry into song lyrics. I tried and still try to this day to convey emotions in lyrics that effect people. The words are often hard to grasp at first, but meaning and, dare I say profundity, can be found if one is only willing to listen carefully. T.S. Eliot said that poetry should be difficult, and I agree with that statement to the end. I have studied and written far too much poetry to believe that deep thinking should not be an aspect of popular music.

Certainly, the most profound influence on my belief is the music that I have encountered that has proven to be difficult and complex and has allowed me to expand my mind towards different ways of thinking. I can relate to these artists’ attempts at creating real works of art for people to listen to and relate to. Sure, I can relate to brushing my teeth with a bottle of Jack or making it rain on an exotic dancer but I find no social or metaphysical substance in these ideas, they have no value to me.

People do love popular music, though. Stepping into someone else’s shoes for a moment, I can begin to grasp why they hold popular or mainstream music to be amazing and inspirational. The most obvious reason for this is that music is a catalyst for nostalgia. Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop” is full of fun, showcasing that it is important to be exciting and adventurous. This is something many people can relate to and look back on, especially young adults.

Musical taste has a lot to do with family and upbringing. Staying put in the same oppositional shoes, I would say that the music of our parents sticks with us. Obviously, in my generation, listening to the radio is a less frequent occurrence; but, while growing up, it was, and I’m sure this is true of generations before mine, one of the only means of being intrigued by music. It comes back to this idea of nostalgia. Sitting in the car with your parents, listening to the popular music of the time is very influential.

The last point I would like to make is that popular music is much more readily accessible to be found and purchased. The high demand of mainstream music allows it to be heard more often by more people. If I was a lover of popular music, I would say that this aspect would influence me a lot. If I didn’t have access to the internet or own an iPod, mainstream music would still be available to listen to.

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2 thoughts on “The Anti-Pop

  1. Robert,

    This is a great start to the assignment. You do a great job of laying out some of the background for your beliefs. You look closely at both what you believe and why, examining the social context as well the specifics of your own thinking.

    The second half of the response needs to be developed a little more, though, in order for the assignment to be graded satisfactory. Remember, the assignment is asking you to think about why other people might think differently from you. For instance, you say:

    “Some people do not have a heightened musical capacity or a poetic background and perhaps that is the reason for their blind following of popular music. There are popular songs, that I would not deem worthy of being called art, that do touch people. Others view music as simply a form of entertainment rather than art and that reason alone influences their dedication to popular music.”

    This isn’t good enough. The fact is that a lot of people find that pop music — even Miley Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop” — speaks to them on a very real and profound level. You might start by actually reading the lyrics of the song and reading comments online from people who genuinely enjoy it. Why do they think this way? What would it be like to watch “We Can’t Stop” as someone who finds it thrilling? The *very hard* thing about this assignment is that it’s asking you to step into someone else’s mindset. It’s not enough just to say they lack your capacities.

    Please review the assignment prompt. To receive a grade of S, this post must be revised to meet the requirements of the assignment. You have until September 24 to complete the revisions, but I strongly suggest submitting them ahead of time in case a second round of revisions are necessary. After you’ve edited the post, inform me in-class and I’ll mark it for review.

  2. Good work, Robert. It’s funny to try to think through this kind of thing, but you did pretty well. With musical taste, it’s such a hard thing to pin down for anyone, but you did good. Grade: S.

    M

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