Pop It Like It’s Hot!



Chris lives in Austin, TX, where he once shook Willie Nelson's hand.

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45 Responses

  1. Avatar NewDealer says:

    Interestingly I don’t consider most of the music you posted to be “pop” music.

    I suppose we can give “pop” music a very broad definition because it is merely short for popular music and much music that is listened to in the 21st century is someone descended from the Rock and R & B of the 1950s. Neither The Arcade Fire or The Magnetic Fields or Kayne would exist without Elvis and Chuck Berry and Little Richard and Jackie Wilson existing.

    By this metric, almost anything can count as pop music.

    I consider Feist and many of the other artists you posted to be more in the Indie and Singer-Songwriter genres. There are indie bands that are more pop than rock but the indie is still dominant.

    To me pop music is stuff like Mariah Carey or stuff that you would hear an a LITE-FM station or Z100*. It is mainly about being ultra popular, bland, safe, and usually not doing anything that would be too shocking or controversial. Madonna is the rare pop star that was once transgressive. Maybe really early Elton Jon was also transgressive.

    *NYC’s Top 40 station. I rebelled against it and listened to the sadly defunct WLIR/WDRE


  2. Avatar NewDealer says:

    I feel like you are defining pop so broadly in this piece that it loses any definition and therefore everyone loves pop by default.

    This broadness makes the definition of pop fail under a void for vagueness standard.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to NewDealer says:

      “Void for vagueness.” Ye cats, everyone’s a freaking lawyer.

      …Oh, wait. @newdealer is a lawyer.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to NewDealer says:

      I have defined it pretty broadly, but only to suggest that “pop” is a continuum rather than a specific thing.

      And “1234” is pure pop. As is Ware’s solo stuff. And Spektor could be called a singer-songwriter, but it’s also pretty clearly pop. Little Dragon, Mike Snow, and When Saints Go Machine are unabashedly electro-pop. Ingrid Michaelson is in an Old Navy commercial, which I think would be a pretty good candidate for a sufficient condition for popitude. I think that Yael Naem song might be in every TV show made in the 3 years following its release. Kanye wants to be Michael Jackson, the King of Pop.

      This is all stuff that’s firmly within pop culture, it can play on pop radio, or adult contemporary, which is basically the pop station for people who can’t handle the Michael Garrix of whatever year we happen to be in.

      None of this is Beyonce, of course, but not all pop is Beyonce.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Also, you made me do this. Made me. Now I will hear this in my sleep:


      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Chris says:


        What makes something not-pop? I concede that there is music that I listen to and love which probably can be considered indie-pop. I also concede that there is going to be a deal of subjectivity in whether a particular musician falls into a particular genre or not but there have to be objective parameters to a certain extent otherwise any argument can be won by staying within preferred subjective parameters.

        So I say I don’t listen to pop music and then us using different definitions proves for what is and is not pop music proves nothing.

        Stars is probably closer to pop than rock but they are still indie and a lot of people say their indieness is the key selling point against bland Top 40 muisc which they consider to be pop. Same with Miike Snow or Feist.

        Are the Arcade Fire pop? The Decemberists? Holy Ghost? The Magnetic Fields? Thee Oh Sees? What makes someone more indie-rock than indie-pop?Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

        New, what do you mean by indie? I get the sense that “indie” doesn’t mean much other than “kinda Portland-y” anymore, and I think it’s pretty easy to be all Porlandy-y and all Poppy at the same time. Hell, there are some really mainstream, top 40 radio artists that basically copy the Portland-y indie formula.

        You mentioned The Decemberists the other day. I think they’re mostly non-pop, though they have some seriously poppish songs, like “Los Angeles, I’m Yours.” But I wouldn’t have included that in this post, because it’s pop done by a non-pop band, and its appeal is probably limited (also, dhex might have shot me). Everything I included in this post, then, is by artists whom I consider to be pop artists first, even if they have an indie feel, or a signer-songwriter feel, or whatever. They’re making pop songs, songs that are radio friendly, TV friendly, commercial friendly, singing loudly and earnestly with a bunch of friends in the car friendly, and so on. They’re not Beyonce, but not all pop has to be multi-platinum R&B/dance/hip hop style stuff, any more than all R&B/dance/hip hop style stuff has to be pop.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to NewDealer says:

      Making things even more complicated there is also difference between traditional pop like Frank Sinatra and the pop that emerged after rock music. I think that pop now means any sort of music with a mass audience that doesn’t fall strictly into any musical genre. Whether its Madonna, Mariah Carey, or Katey Perry; what there doing isn’t quite rock or hip-hop or even R&B. Therefore, its pop.Report

  3. Avatar Jaybird says:

    While out and about today, I saw a guy wearing a shirt that said “RAP – LYING = HIP HOP”. I have no idea how accurate that is.

    The M83 song is one of my favorites from the past few years (heck, the video itself!) and I recently found out that it has not one but two sequels!!!
    http://youtu.be/DJQQrjVmQG0 is reunion (which got a small amount of airplay) and
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAwYodrBr2Q concludes the trilogy (and the time I heard it to conclude the music video trilogy was the first time I heard it).Report

  4. Avatar Maribou says:

    Well, given my obvious enthusiasm for Bastille, I’m sure it comes as no surprise that I listen to a LOT of pop.

    Here’s a particularly well-loved example:


  5. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    I loves me that Jem. She deserves a bit more love here:

    Down to Earth

    Come on Closer

    Falling For You



    I enjoy Feist and Yael very much too. But Jem is Wales’ best showbiz export since Anthony Hopkins.Report

  6. Avatar Kazzy says:

    I argued this with a friend once…..

    Madona and Mihael Jackson: Definitely pop.
    Billy Joel and Elton John: Almost certainly pop.
    The Beatles: Probably pop.

    I see “pop” as music being made for the masses, music which does not require an intimate understanding of music to enjoy and appreciate, music which crosses or ignores genres.

    By this definition, yes, nearly everyone likes pop.Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to Kazzy says:

      @kazzy The Beatles: Probably pop.

      I definitely think of the Beatles as “pop”, and the Stones as “rock”, even though both were and are extremely popular bands and crisscrossed freely between simple, catchy rock and more complex styles.

      But I think if the Beatles came out today (assuming the same basic songs and performing style), regardless of the level of popularity they achieved, they’d be considered “rock” and not “pop”; simply because they use guitars and live drums, which seemingly much “pop” today doesn’t.

      I’m not making a comparison musically; but they’d be considered more like The Strokes or something.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Glyph says:

        I agree that they’d probably get lumped into alt or indie rock were they to arrive on the scene today.

        I think the idea that pop music has to be teeny bopper and full of synthesizers is off-base and what I understand Chris to be pushing back against. That seems to be a relatively recent trend. Pop music probably carries with it a certain appeal to younger audiences for a variety of reasons (generally less sophisticated taste; less exposure to music; a tendency towards group think) but the idea that it was the exclusive domain of young artists seems wrong. Yes, Jackson got started young as did the Beatles. Madonna didn’t debut until she was 24.Report

  7. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    “Oh, and I have whole Regina Spektor days”

    Sounds like a good plan. Challenge accepted!Report

  8. Avatar Glyph says:

    Still working my way through these, but a few things occur to me:

    1.) I had my own difficulties defining “pop” – and even in that post, the type of pop under discussion was/is itself sort of a niche concern (though periodically examples do break through to much wider exposure – say, something like Weezer).

    2.) Related to #1, I note that based on this post and my own anecdotal sense, there is seemingly a preponderance of female singers and a dearth of guitars (or live drums) in what we typically think of as “pop” nowadays; my feeling is that having guys and drums & guitars in the band will these days more likely default-slot that artist out of “pop” and into “rock” (though not always – also, I have a gripe that what is called “indie rock” [and even post-rock] nowadays is often severely lacking in the “rock” department – the term used to encompass many unruly, loud, or abrasive sounds, which is to be expected from something that basically may be thought of as varieties of “post-post-punk”. Today “indie rock” often tends to refer to music that is far more genteel and tame. But that’s a different rant.)

    3.) I forgot what I was going to say here, I got so worked up about today’s so-called indie rock. To be continued.

    4.) But I do like the songs I’ve listened to so far.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Glyph says:

      I forget what eight was for.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Glyph says:

      More seriously (now that I’m on a computer instead of a phone), pop is incredibly difficult to define. My suspicion — and I could be wrong, because I don’t know NewDealer’s friends — is that when hipster types treat listening to pop as a moral imperative, they don’t really mean Miley Cyrus, they mean something closer to what I’ve presented here.

      That said, I think listening to pop is something close to a moral imperative, in that pop more than any other music reflects the times, and understanding the times you live in is important, morally. I’d have to flesh that out more in my head to defend it, though.

      And I think you’re right, guitars are generally seen as anti-pop. However, there’s a breed of “hard rock,” one might even say what hard rock in general has become, that I think is pretty widely considered pop. For example (note, I despise this whole genre in its current incarnation, and this song is no exception, but it’s one I know of):


      • Avatar dhex in reply to Chris says:


        while i’m down with pointing out that “indie” is about as meaningless as “alternative” used to be…

        this is insane:

        “That said, I think listening to pop is something close to a moral imperative, in that pop more than any other music reflects the times, and understanding the times you live in is important, morally.”

        it might be helpful in understanding the mental landscape of the person you’re talking to, but taking it as a reflection of zeitgeist is just plain jane insane in the membrane like saddam hussein on cocaine in tulane.

        my version of the 90s would reflect the times i was living in; i’m not sure it would help you understand much more beyond that.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris says:

        @dhex – saw this on DM and thought you might enjoy:


      • Avatar dhex in reply to Chris says:

        i do indeed enjoy googly eyes.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

        @DHEx, like I said, I would definitely have to flesh it out more in my head in order to be able to defend it, but I do think understanding the times we’re living in is important, and I do think art, particularly popular art (and here I may need to consider “popular” more broadly, more as a means of distinguishing it from “high” art than of distinguishing it from niche art or art enjoyed by particular subcultures), is a vital window into the times.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris says:

        @chris – sorry to interrupt, but I think that might have been more defensible when there was more of a monoculture (though in truth, there never was just one) but the more splintered/multi-channelled culture/art becomes, it probably becomes more and more as @dhex posits.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris says:

        Or to put it another way, this is the first time I ever heard Lily Allen AFAIK. I think I didn’t hear “Call Me Maybe” until a year or more after it was a big hit, and then only b/c Johanna linked a mashup of it. I just don’t get exposed to it, b/c I am usually submersed in alternate channels (some of them somewhat “popular” in their own right).

        Maybe I could make an argument that in retrospect, the aggregate creme de la creme may show us some general contours; that we can sometimes know with some certainty what *happened*, after the fact, but while it’s *happening*, nobody knows WTF is going on.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

        True, though here’s where pop music, in the narrow sense, is a great place to look, because it’s often the result of filtering multiple channels.

        So Beyonce has this giant new album out, and if you listen to it, what you will hear sounds like it’s a watered down version of what’s going on in R&B and southern (particularly New Orleans) hip hop, with a some other stuff thrown in. If you listen to that Michael Garrix song I posted in comments somewhere (don’t listen to it), you’ll hear a lot of little things from dubstep and post-dubstep.

        I remember being amazed, once upon a time, when pop artists (including “rock” bands) described who their influences were, because they were often, if not obscure artists, then at least non-pop artists. In a sense, pop music, and pop art more generally, is sort of like an aquifer, and the rest of culture is the rock and dirt through which trends get filtered before finally dripping into the vast underground lake. But if you want to find out what sorts of elements you’d find in the rocks and dirt, you can get an idea by taking samples from the lake itself.

        I’m going to have to think about this a bit more to flesh it out though. Feel free to push back, but I warn you in advance that my defenses will all look this feeble until I figure out what I actually think.Report

      • Avatar dhex in reply to Chris says:


        i getcha on the thoughtwork in progress angle.

        i think about this a lot, both as job and hobby.

        and i think at this point, however, we are all islands – if it weren’t for spotify commercials and a bit of my job overlap (more than i’d like) i wouldn’t have the first clue as to what the actual pop landscape is like. which is, frankly, the way i like it.

        i view the arts as a lens that some folk mistake for a cloak, and in my yute i was very guilty of this myself. you are not your likes and dislikes, and especially with music as a emotional resonator, i am wary of reading too much into what even local scenes mean/”mean”.

        though i’d take them to be more indicative of certain local conditions in communities than, say, beyonce – even now, despite the internet and social fracturing.Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Chris says:

        @dhex – totally OT, but…Slowdive reunion!

        I’m not saying they re-formed in response to my shoegaze posts, but I’m not NOT saying that either.

        No idea what kind of live rep they had back in the day, so I will wait for some early reports to decide whether I need to schedule a trip (‘cos god knows they won’t come to my town).

        Unrelated – if you’ve never listened to Bardo Pond’s Amanita, you should.Report

      • Avatar dhex in reply to Chris says:

        yeah i saw that about the reunion. interesting. dunno if they’ll come within 2 hours of where i live now #realamericaisterrible

        i prefer dilate to anything that came after but most of their stuff before 2001 is really solid. they start getting steadily crappier after that for some reason.Report

  9. Avatar Kim says:

    Bubble bubble toil and trouble.
    Why are we cheering housing bubbles now????

    Seriously, did I miss a memo?

    What next, are we going to say that London is Great
    because its housing prices go up with its status
    as a reserve currency???Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Kim says:

      Kim, if this comment was from anyone else, I would think they accidentally put it in the wrong thread. However, with you I’m not sure. Is this meant for another post?Report