Main | movies and education »

What is pop music?

What is pop music?
Pop music is popular at a time and place. The connotation the word elicits is more important than its formal meaning. The selected readings from the BBC (, Wikipedia (, and a Japanese opinion page ( pointed to trends and history. Common amongst all readings were resulting youth empowerment, female empowerment, shift in power, frustration, amplitude, rhythm, and money. Reading about early American “Black Face� Minstrel shows was interesting because is so nearly resembled today’s infatuation with Black culture in the form of hip-hop. Also, I thought it interesting the wikipedia article didn’t distinguish between bluegrass and country music. In talking with professional bluegrass band “Valerie Smith and Liberty Pike� country music was birthed after Bill Monroe created the “Blue Grass Boys� sound in 1939 and the invention of the amplifier in 1930. As far as Valerie and the other musicians have told me, country music is a combination of Bluegrass and rock n’ roll. The defining difference is the utilization of amplification and drums. Since I know bluegrass musicians I was miffed that the only reference to the music was “hillbilly� music. There’s a joke the band likes, “What’s the difference between a country and bluegrass musician… about $10,000.� This is further supported by the article’s assertion that with loud music, rhythmic emphasis comes financial and popular support. Yuri Mrakadi makes an interesting point about the tension of artistic vision and quality versus business.

"When I used to have a production house, before I started singing, I once had a major artist who came to me and said, I want to do a video clip. "I said OK, we can do that, and I asked about the song. He said: 'No, I don't have the song yet, but I have the car and the villa.' I swear to God! "I said: 'Oh, really. He said: 'Yes, we're ready.'" -Yuri Mrakadi

Yuri Mrakadi hits on the tension of artistry and capitalism within this quote. I agree with Yuri that creating “bling� with no content is artistically frustrating. As much as the youth and individuals desire a genuine expression for an inherent desire to be an individual so do artists desire a canvas. Just like individuals need a family to rebel against to be seen as autonomous, so too does a musician need to both accept and fight business.

As I look over this entry, I can’t help note that I’m listening to my favorite play list on itunes which contain songs and music that evoke a variety of memories that I use to drown out the small attention deficit disordered child in my head crying for gratification or diversion. As I have now turned off the music I notice my finger creep towards the volume button to resume my monologue with theme music. Now scrolling through my play list, which ironically has no blue grass included, I can tell the kind of mood I was in the day I downloaded it and the type of day I was having when I first grew to like the song. Perhaps rather than thinking of pop music as a diversion we can use to slip our students some wholesome education, pop music is a way in which we color our experience deriving a background from pre packaged tiles. Pop music individually is derivative, redundant, and highly commercialized. A single glass tile by itself is boring, but when combined with other boring glass tiles becomes an entirely new mosaic taking on a new larger meaning. Pop music, is the song that jumped out of the speaker at a time, place, and emotion, and perhaps made us realize some simple thing about ourselves in a time and place and combined with other simple reflexive experiences make a play list. Even in my example of Bill Monroe and the “Blue grass boys� being over sighted by wikipedia, I made the assertion because of my relationship with my friends the blue grass musicians not because I particularly like the blue grass boys, but because I like my friends. I think our connection to pop music is similar. It’s not necessarily how popular the song is, as much as it is that the song “popped�.