I have a friend who claims never to have heard the entirety of “N Sync”s “Bye Bye Bye,” a feat which leaves me wondering, “Is that really a good thing?”
Because and I”m quite comfortable in saying this that”s one quality pop song.
And you know what? There”s a whole world of simple pleasures to be enjoyed in music as soon as you admit that “pop” is not a dirty word.
The truth is, as a musical category, pop is totally benign and hugely encompassing. A solid pop music collection could just as likely include Stevie Wonder”s “Innervisions” as Guns “n Roses” “Appetite for Destruction,” or Paul Simon”s “Graceland” as Public Enemy”s “Fear of a Black Planet.” These albums are now considered “pop” because brace yourself they found popular success, and they were successful because they”re damn good.
No one would ever feel shame about owning classic albums from the pop pedigree. I mean, you don”t hear kids admonishing their friends for listening to “Zeppelin II.” But what people often forget is that great pop includes not only the timeless, but also the disposable.
In other words, for every Beatles in 1964 there is a Journey in 1984. In the distant future when historians are researching songwriters of the 20th Century, they probably won”t put Neil Diamond in the same league as Smokey Robinson, but that doesn”t take away from the fact that “Cracklin” Rosie” makes me sing like a guitar hummin”.
Sadly, not enough credit is given to the simple, catchy-as-mono pop songs that provide the Joe Cocker to our wonder years. It”s George Benson”s “On Broadway” that makes the drive home at rush hour a little more endurable, the Tramps” “Disco Inferno” that makes the morning shower a little more lively, Bon Jovi”s “Living on a Prayer” that makes the drunken sing-along a late-night tradition.
But even though it so often means good times, there exists a certain stigma about really appreciating good pop music, like it”s not quite kosher to openly profess that the Backstreet Boys” “I Want It That Way” has one of the catchiest choruses of the “90s. It”s especially difficult in today”s musical climate, in which so much of the pop sound is associated with undiscerning adolescents, for a seeming hipster the type who normally seeks out albums so indie that half of the band doesn”t even own it to feel an ease in saying, “Man, that new Shaggy single? Shit”s hot.”
Some people are just afraid to embrace the repressed pop fan within. To them I say, “Be brave”: Coming to terms with your enjoyment of pop music is just like coming to terms with your own sexuality.
Which, however, is easier said than done on a liberal campus where experimentation is not just a part of physics lab. All around you, young people are trying out supercool electronic music and emo and hippie rock, trying to find out, you know, what feels “right” inside. Then one night, your roommate comes home in tears:
“It was late and we were really drunk … one thing lead to the next and before I knew it, we were listening to (sob) “Purple Rain.” And, oh God I liked it.”
The way I see it, the man who can admit to finding pleasure in the past/present top 40 is the kind of guy who”s comfortable in complimenting another man”s outfit either way, it”s a sure sign of self-confidence.
And if you ever notice, it”s the guys who are the most critical of feel-good pop that are often the most insecure of their sexuality. Because what”s their all-time favorite line?
“Dude, that”s so gay!”
I have a dream that one day all manner of people TRL teenyboppers, golden oldies and all those in between will dance together in unashamed harmony to Kool and the Gang”s “Celebration.” I have a dream that we will no longer shy away from Phil Collins” invisible touch when we feel it coming in the air tonight.
I have a dream that when someone rolls up next to us at an intersection as we”re blasting on our car stereos the ear candy sounds of Chicago or Third Eye Blind or “My Sharona” or “867-5309,” they will not laugh and point but instead give us The Nod, that subtle yet endearing gesture that says, “Yeahhhh, man, that”s all right.”
Chris Kula gives the Nod every Thursday. Tell him your greatest guilty pleasures of pop at http://www.michigandaily.com/forum or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.