pop music onto the cultural shit heap as unbearable drivel - trite and momentary.
I suspect self-consciousness is at play amid this elitist mentality. I am inherently shady towards anyone who cringes when I Want it That Way blasts it’s 5-part harmony on the radio. That same d-bag who scoffed at my Pink album knows every single lyric to Since U Been Gone and sings the chorus at the top of his lungs when nobody is around.
Pop music reaches a much larger audience than rap, heavy metal, and country music, and as such good pop music eradicates regionalism. Miley Cyrus may be a manufactured prop, but her gem of a mass-produced single Party in the USA makes explicit what the lyrics' Nashville-to-L.A. pilgrimage and Jay-Z and Britney name-drops suggest—this isn't a mere single so much as a red state/blue state, hick/elite, rural/urban convergence. Jay-Z gets play in West Virginia and Kenny Chesney is loved in New York City. A great pop hook transcends cultural differences.
Speaking of bridging gaps, I’d argue that no pop performers (save for Madonna) have done more to promote tolerance in the past decade than Adam Lambert and Lady Gaga. Lambert gender bent his way to mainstream success, single-handedly making American Idol relevant again. And has any artist of any genre had more success than Gaga this year? Her New York-inspired performance art makes headlines every time she takes the stage. Do I get the Kermit the Frog ensemble? No. Do I jock Bad Romance? Hell yes!
RA RA RA AH AH AH, ROMA RO MA MA, GAGA OOH LA LA. That is some genius shit right there.
What is exciting – and dare I say important – about both artists is their unabashed embrace of their sexuality. The uncompromised integrity and nonchalant nature with which they approach the topic has been met with mainstream commercial success. Very telling in such a politically divided climate. Could an artist like Adam Lambert or Lady Gaga exist in the rap world? Would limited exposure on the indie circuit have been as impactful? Both artists have publically pushed boundaries of what is deemed socially allowable. Only pop music can promote such social change.
Pop music endures because of function. Pop songs have become personal cultural milestones. I remember exactly what was popular around 9/11 (Ms. Jackson), and what was on my radio when I heard about MJ’s passing (Boom Boom Pow). Every time I hear Tonight Tonight by the Smashing Pumpkins, or Stay by Lisa Loeb, I am transported to very specific sights and feelings of my adolescence, from turning on the radio for the first time as a licensed driver, to falling face first into bushes performing a sloppy version of Friends in Low Places.
Any 'best of' list these days will draw criticism simply because culture and music tastes are so fragmented. A lover of music in general, I greatly enjoyed Jacob’s top 50 list over at ISO50 – Empire of the Sun is a particular favorite. Having said that, it is impossible to quantify the amount of joy pop music has granted me this year into a ranked list. Instead I’m just going to include twelve cuts that helped me get the party started in 2009. Be careful – If you let your guard down these beats just might infect you.
The set list:
La Roux – Bulletproof
Black Eyed Peas – Meet Me Halfway
Adam Lambert – Music Again
P!nk - Please Don’t Leave Me
Kelly Clarkson - My Life Would Suck Without You