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[P]
The Anatomy of Songs -- Pop Music

By VoxLobster in Media
Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 10:07:45 AM EST
Tags: Music (all tags)
Music

Ever wondered what makes a particular song belong to a particular genre? If you have, then you will probably want to read on. In what will hopefully be a series of articles, I will attempt to explain the differences between types of music, what makes a song tick, and why you would classify it in a particular genre. In this first article, I will provide an analysis of Popular music.


Terms and Concepts

Here I will define some of the terms and concepts that I plan on using during this series of articles.
Hooks -- . Hooks are what make songs interesting. Usually, it's a riff of some kind played on a musical instrument, but can also be a particular catch phrase, or some kind of other noise, and it's usually very early in the song, so that it catches your interest quickly.
Phrasing -- Phrasing defines how long things happen in music.
Beat -- Beat defines a couple of things. First, it helps to define the "groove" of a song, that is, the direction or mood of the song, and where it's going. Secondly, the beat determines the speed or "tempo" of the song.
Arpeggio - when a music chord is played one note at a time, while previous notes continue to ring.
Time Signature - The number of beats per measure of music.
Riff - a series of notes, usually catchy.
Chord Progression - a series of chords.

Pop Music

To begin, what exactly is pop music? As a genre, it isn't all that well defined. Essentially, pop music is any music that can be designated as well known by the populace, or simply, popular. This means that pop music could include many different styles of music, and could have a widely diverse set of artists and talent. For simplicity's sake, we'll take a look at music that has been defined in the past as pop, and some of the current trends in popular music as well.

Let's look at some of the things that almost all modern pop songs have in common, hooks, phrasing, beat, and lyrical subject matter For example, let's take a song that most people probably hate, "Who let the dogs out?" by the Baja Men. This song has a very obvious hook which you are introduced to early in the song, the phrase "Who let the dogs out", followed by barking noises. This hook worked particularly well because no one had ever heard this particular phrase before in a song. This type of hook is designed to catch interest quickly, but has the problem of becoming very irritating, partially due to the particular phrase used, and partially due to its overuse in the song. Now that you understand what a hook is, let's look at a better example of a hook. Take the song "Sunday Bloody Sunday" by U2. This song has an excellent hook that comes into the song only a few seconds in, and is one of the main driving forces of the song. I am of course talking about the arpeggio guitar riff played by The Edge. This riff works very well in this song for several reasons. First of all, it isn't present during the entire song. The riff is only used during verses, and thus doesn't suffer the overuse problem. Secondly, when it's being played, that is, during the verses, you have lyrics being sung that take some of the focus away from it, thus prolonging the lifetime of the riff. Lastly, it's simple. Simplicity is one of the biggest driving forces in popular music, due to the fact that most people who listen to music don't have much musical talent. A simple musical hook is easy for non-musical people to understand and enjoy, since it doesn't require any musical knowledge to understand.

Now let's look at phrasing. Pop music phrasing usually is done in 4, 8, 12, and 16 measures. Even numbered phrasing is simple to follow, and thus, makes the music easy to understand for the non-musical. Usually a particular phrase will be repeated an even number of times, which again adds to the simplicity of the song. For example, take a chord progression of G-D-E-C, a fairly common progression in many types of music. If the time signature was 4/4, the progression would probably be phrased such that each chord would be played for one bar of 4 beats. This would make for a phrase of 4 bars. This phrase would probably by played 4 times, and that would make up a verse or a chorus. Simple? Yes, and that's the point. The simple phrasing makes the song easy to remember, which means that more people will remember the song. That's all there is to phrasing in pop music.

Lastly, we'll have a look at beat. Have you ever noticed how often people will say "This song has a great beat"? Beats for pop music are usually simple, just like everything else about pop music. A simple beat is easy to follow, and equally easy to dance to. Usually the beat will be created by drums, either real or synthesized. A good simple beat (in 4/4 time of course) usually has a kick drum hitting on the first beat, a snare hit on beat three, and usually a hi-hat cymbal or something similar (like a tambourine) hitting on every beat.

The final topic thing that almost all pop music songs have in common is lyrical content. Music that becomes classified as pop music tends to have light, fun, and happy lyrical content, or content about love, or the opposite sex. You'll notice that if you scan the top 40 songs on your local pop music radio station or MTV, most of the songs sung by men are about women, and most of the songs sung by women are about men. The reason for this is to make the music easy to identify with. Love and relationships are things that most people have some ability to relate to. If your audience can relate to a song, it makes it easier to remember, and it gives the audience something to identify with. People with similar interests and problems tend to cluster together. When you use subject matter that people can identify with, they're going to want to listen to it, plain and simple.

If you have these main things in your music, chances are, it'll be classified as popular, but that can't be all there is to it, can there? Nope, there are a few other things that contribute to pop music: Clean, well played instrumentation, Simple Harmonies and Melodies, Cliché Chord Progressions, and Repetition. Most of all, there must be an overall lack of innovation. This may sound like a derogatory comment, but in actuality, it's quite true. Given all of the previously stated elements of popular music, it becomes obvious that the aim is to produce something that is guaranteed to sell. This means that when you find something that people like, you do it over and over again until people don't like it anymore. Hence, when boy bands became popular, there were scads of them being formed and releasing albums. Right now, young female performers are popular, thus we have Britney, Christina, Shakira, and a host of others. Truly, copying everyone else is the true heart and soul of popular music today.

Next time

The next article will feature a look at the Alternative Rock genre of music, what makes it tick, and what makes it an alternative.

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The Anatomy of Songs -- Pop Music | 137 comments (109 topical, 28 editorial, 0 hidden)
Catchiness (2.00 / 1) (#11)
by timg on Sun Sep 08, 2002 at 10:51:49 PM EST

I've always wondered what made one song catchier than another. A few months ago, I read about a researcher in Indiana (?) doing a scientific study about the catchiness of music. I wonder if anything has come of that.

-Tim


ive heard thats its repetitiveness -nt- (none / 0) (#33)
by Xcyther on Mon Sep 09, 2002 at 09:40:56 AM EST



_________________________________________
"Insydious" -- It's not as bad as you think

[ Parent ]
ive heard thats its repetitiveness -nt- (none / 0) (#80)
by azzl on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 04:02:10 PM EST

ive heard thats its repetitiveness -nt-
ive heard thats its repetitiveness -nt-
ive heard thats its repetitiveness -nt-
ive heard thats its repetitiveness -nt-
ive heard thats its repetitiveness -nt-

Well?  Do we have a breakout pop k5 comment on our hands?

[ Parent ]

Definition (2.80 / 10) (#19)
by godix on Mon Sep 09, 2002 at 12:34:03 AM EST

You seem to misunderstnad what pop is. Pop isn't a style, pop is just whatever music that was bold, original, and cutting edge 5 years perviously. At various points in time pop music was rap, alternative, hard rock, female vocalists, rock and roll (the classic Chuck Berry type), rock and roll (the Michael Jackson type), pure shit (the Elvis type), and more pure shit (the Beatles type).

This article would have been a lot more interesting if you hadn't tryed to take so many different styles that have been 'pop' in the last 50 years and combined them into one article.


Don't mind the plummeting noise, mojo always makes that sound after I post.


Hook (4.45 / 11) (#20)
by Rasman on Mon Sep 09, 2002 at 01:17:07 AM EST

It doesn't matter what I say
So long as I sing with inflection
That makes you feel that I'll convey
Some inner truth of vast reflection
But I've said nothing so far
And I can keep it up for as long as it takes
And it don't matter who you are
If I'm doing my job then it's your resolve that breaks


Because the hook brings you back
I ain't tellin' you no lie
The hook brings you back
On that you can rely
...
-- Blues Traveler, Hook


---
Brave. Daring. Fearless. Clippy - The Clothes Pin Stuntman
Pop vs. Jazz (4.00 / 1) (#21)
by borful on Mon Sep 09, 2002 at 01:50:24 AM EST

As an example, (maybe when you get to the jazz section) could you show what a pop song is by contrasting the jazz version of the same song. Ella Fitzgerald, among others, recorded many versions of the "standards" of the day. Usually, the older recordings were in the pop style; later they recorded her in concert with jazzier or swinging versions of the same tune.

What would really help are examples . . . but I don't know how legal it would be for you to post somone else's work . . . does K5 fall under the education fair use exemption?

Thanks,
-borful
Money is how people with no talent keep score.

K5 falls under the don't be a gaywad exemption (none / 0) (#95)
by _cbj on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 09:11:42 PM EST

If you have something to say, say it. It could only ever be a problem if someone sufficiently petty and bored objects. Granted, that's our core readership, but the odds are still enormous.

[ Parent ]
Music Articles (4.00 / 3) (#23)
by kholmes on Mon Sep 09, 2002 at 05:15:14 AM EST

Hello, I just want to say that if this article doesn't get posted I'd like to see more music articles anyway.

This is because...I don't listen to music. I really haven't found any music that I like. I've listened to all sorts of more popular music, but few of them appeal to me.

I do like the music they put into the opening themes of some of the star trek series and movies...what kind of music is that called? It has not lyrics and isn't classical.

Whats appealing about classical music. Whats the point?

I've heard music that I thought sounds like techno but isn't techno. What is and is not techno?

These are the kinds of things I'm wondering. I have all but given up on finding music that I like. Probably the biggest problem is that I am not willing to pour in $$$ on CDs that I probably won't like any way.

So...I'd like to know whats out there and what other people think distinguishes good music from poor music.

If you treat people as most people treat things and treat things as most people treat people, you might be a Randian.

Classical music... (3.66 / 3) (#25)
by Tezcatlipoca on Mon Sep 09, 2002 at 06:17:30 AM EST

It is about the greatest musical minds of all times.
It is about the most complex use of sounds achieved by humanity.
It is about putting those minds and complex organizations to the service of the higest human ideals (love, hate, religiosity, literature, politics).
Classical is about historical perspective as well.
I can't describe it, as with any music, you either "get it" or not.

What amazes me is that you would say you don't like any music. Music is an inherent huamen phenomenon, the ntural rythms in our lives are introduced in our cultural experience using music.

Don't you dance? Don't you sing? Don't you read poetry? Don't you clap your hands, hume or whistle something? Anything!
---
"Every duck should aspire to be crispy and aromatic." sleepyhel

[ Parent ]

So the greatest musical minds (4.00 / 1) (#31)
by davidduncanscott on Mon Sep 09, 2002 at 08:56:27 AM EST

of all times all lived in what, a 400-year span (never mind virtually all living in Europe)? Doesn't that seem sort of remarkable to you?

[ Parent ]
Well the greatest minds in physics... (none / 0) (#41)
by Humuhumunukunukuapuaa on Mon Sep 09, 2002 at 01:34:56 PM EST

Classical music is a generic term covering a wide variety of forms.
--
(&()*&^#@!!&_($&)!&$(*#$(!$&_(!$*&&!$@
[ Parent ]
You're absolutely right (none / 0) (#42)
by davidduncanscott on Mon Sep 09, 2002 at 02:13:59 PM EST

...but 95% of the time, people mean, "European symphonic or chamber music written between (roughly) 1500 or so and 1900 or so" -- Bach and all those dead Germans.

Yes, the word "classic" simply means typical of a class (as in "classic rock"), but walk into the "classical" section of your local music store and see how much sitar music you find (except, perhaps, in India.)

[ Parent ]

And I was also going to point out... (none / 0) (#43)
by Humuhumunukunukuapuaa on Mon Sep 09, 2002 at 02:21:21 PM EST

...(as you might guess from my hanging title) it's not that unusual, after all the best physics in the world (until very recently) was also carried out in the same region of the world over the same time period. Same goes for many other sciences. Why should music be so different?
--
(&()*&^#@!!&_($&)!&$(*#$(!$&_(!$*&&!$@
[ Parent ]
There is a difference, though... (4.66 / 3) (#45)
by davidduncanscott on Mon Sep 09, 2002 at 02:50:00 PM EST

it could reasonably said that "physics", as a science, didn't exist before, say, Galileo, since it can be argued that science, as we understand the term, didn't exist. Music, OTOH, has existed for thousands of years. This is probably why there are numerous Grecian urns, for instance, showing musicians playing harps, and very few showing physicists calibrating cyclotrons. :)

[ Parent ]
I guess... (none / 0) (#55)
by Humuhumunukunukuapuaa on Mon Sep 09, 2002 at 06:44:46 PM EST

...you're right :-)
--
(&()*&^#@!!&_($&)!&$(*#$(!$&_(!$*&&!$@
[ Parent ]
Oh? (none / 0) (#76)
by SLTrigger on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 01:51:00 PM EST

So those Aristotle and Ptolemy guys were, what? Sure, they were wrong about a lot of things, but Newton's theories turned out to be flawed, too.

It's only gonna get weirder, so let's get on with the show!
[ Parent ]
Aristotle & Co. (none / 0) (#83)
by phliar on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 04:46:36 PM EST

So those Aristotle and Ptolemy guys were, what?
Philosophers.

Physicists follow the scientific method, something codified only recently. This involves hypotheses, predictions, and experimental validation, and has a strong thread of mathematical formalism. The Ancient Greeks had many of the tools -- the Peripatetic School and their tradition of dialectic, and the axiomatic treatment of geometry is very close to our idea of proof. However there was a strong mystical flavour to it -- the Music Of The Spheres and all that.


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

for one thing (5.00 / 2) (#73)
by adequate nathan on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 01:01:49 PM EST

Western Europe during that period became sufficiently wealthy as to allow for a greater proportion than ever of artists to peasants. This also allowed great specialisation in instrument manufacturing, the development of a very sophisticated notation, etc.

Western Europe was the first place on earth to achieve modernity, with concomitant if fleeting primacy in many many areas. Just as China developed first in the Bronze Age, Western Europe developed first in the industrial age. While Mozart and Beethoven may not have been 'intrinsically' better musicians than anonymous medieval Indonesians, they did have a wider range of material, both physical and abstract, to work with.

As industrialism has now become the dominant world system, people from many cultures have access to the same and to derived materials. So, modern international academic music is flavoured with many cultures; I myself, as a violinist, find myself playing lines suggested by gamelan, erhu, and more exotic instruments. I'm also learned Tuvan throat-singing.

The appeal to 'intrinsic musicianship' is not well taken, as to our modernly historical perspective, all those other greats we'll never know existed outside of history.

Nathan
"For me -- ugghhh, arrgghh."
-Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, in Frank magazine, Jan. 20th 2003

Join the petition: Rusty! Make dumped stories & discussion public!
[ Parent ]

It is remarkable and unfortunate. (5.00 / 2) (#46)
by Tezcatlipoca on Mon Sep 09, 2002 at 03:11:25 PM EST

We have to circunscribe ourselves to just over 400 years because more precise written musical notation is a relatively recent pehnomenon, not necesarily embraced by all human cultures.

Also the musical traditions of non Western cultures have tended towards simpler (not worst or best, just different, but simpler) uses of sound.

African music is mostly percusive in nature or with basic melodies and very rudimentary harmony. Native American music is similar in nature, and thanks to colonization, mostly forgotten.

Most Asian music is very rich melodicaly and rythimcally but is harmonically simpler.

Western music has used 2 modes of the musical scale (plus ocassional wanderings in more ancient modes) while non western music have not ventured too much into modal variations (perhaps India or China, but certainly circunscribing themselves to the same tradition and not experimentin much until recently).

Certainly 20th century modern movements that explored disonance, atonalism, serialism, aleatory music, electronic music and mix of other cultures' music was an eminently Western phenomenon.

So, yes, I find it remarkable (the same may have happened anywhere else, but it happened in the West): the combination of complex musical notation, experimentation in all the different fronts of music (harmony, melody, rythm and instruments, of which other cultures invented few and far between) is a remarkable coincidence. And unfortunate, because the strenght of Western musical tradition has silenced up to a point all the interesting stuff that has been created in other cultures (to the degree that the convenience of Western tradition is killing smaller musical traditions, subject that would deserve a full article by itslef...).

---
"Every duck should aspire to be crispy and aromatic." sleepyhel

[ Parent ]

"greatest musical minds of all times" (none / 0) (#103)
by trane on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 02:24:55 AM EST

Please include Jelly Roll Morton, Armstrong, Ellington, Parker, Coltrane...

[ Parent ]
Music, etc. (4.00 / 3) (#26)
by evilpenguin on Mon Sep 09, 2002 at 06:26:36 AM EST

I do like the music they put into the opening themes of some of the star trek series and movies...what kind of music is that called? It has not lyrics and isn't classical.

Pop-classical? Hrm, I don't know. I imagine it would be in the same genre as Nobou Uematsu's compositions (Final Fantasy, Chrono Cross/Trigger).

Whats appealing about classical music. Whats the point?

Some enjoy it for its complexity, others for its performance. Some may just be snobs trying to get "cultured", but that's probably a minority.

I've heard music that I thought sounds like techno but isn't techno. What is and is not techno?

Purists will not agree with my definition, but I would label all music which is composed completely of samples and synths as techno. From there, you can get into more specific catagorizations (trance, ambience, drum & bass, etc).

These are the kinds of things I'm wondering. I have all but given up on finding music that I like. Probably the biggest problem is that I am not willing to pour in $$$ on CDs that I probably won't like any way.

So then download a few tracks from a file-sharing service first.

So...I'd like to know whats out there and what other people think distinguishes good music from poor music.

In my opinion, there's no such thing as an absolute definition of good vs. bad -- it's all subjective. Personally I think pop music is crap -- I can't stand the simple progressions, similarities, daft lyrics and over-production. I listen to jazz, flamenco, "heavy wood" (what Don Ross calls his compositions), and surf rock (instrumental -- NOT the Beach Boys, and with more variety than just "Wipeout"). It's what I think sounds good and is intriguing and fun. What else matters?
--
# nohup cat /dev/dsp > /dev/hda & killall -9 getty
[ Parent ]
At the risk of going off-topic: (4.00 / 1) (#62)
by PurpleBob on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 02:31:55 AM EST

Yasunori Mitsuda did the music for Chrono Trigger/Cross (plus Xenogears and Xenosaga), not Nobuo Uematsu. I happen to like Mitsuda's music much better - perhaps this is because he has more time to write it, while Uematsu has to crank out a soundtrack every six months or so to keep up with the FF games.

[ Parent ]
you sound like me (none / 0) (#49)
by Shpongle Spore on Mon Sep 09, 2002 at 05:29:43 PM EST

This is because...I don't listen to music. I really haven't found any music that I like. I've listened to all sorts of more popular music, but few of them appeal to me.

I do like the music they put into the opening themes of some of the star trek series and movies...what kind of music is that called? It has not lyrics and isn't classical.

I used to not listen to much music either. Funny you should say you like the Star Trek music, since the first tape I recall buying was the Star Trek VI soundtrack. I agree with the person who called it "pop classical", or you could call it instrumental operatic--opera was the pop music of its time.

I've heard music that I thought sounds like techno but isn't techno. What is and is not techno?

Techno is (usually) kind of a generic term, so it's probably "correct" to call anything that sounds electronic "techno"--just don't expect to be taken seriously by electronic music fans.

Since you seem to be having trouble finding music you like, here are some recommendations for techno that I consider vastly superior to 99% of what's out there, and pretty easy to like:

  • The Best of Platypus, fairly poppy trance, but has a lot more depth than might expect
  • Hybrid, Wider Angle, good techno with a lot of jazziness mixed in, about half the tracks have lyrics
  • Hallucinogen, Twisted, fast, trippy, all instrumental, sounds a little generic at first but holds up very well to repeated listening
  • Shpongle, Are You Shpongled?, very weird and trippy, a blend of ambient, classical and world music styles; has some very pretty flute solos

__
I wish I was in Austin, at the Chili Parlor bar,
drinking 'Mad Dog' margaritas and not caring where you are
[ Parent ]
Not liking music (none / 0) (#70)
by mike3k on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 11:57:57 AM EST

I got completely disgusted with music in the early 80s and pretty much stopped listening for a long time. When I heard Paul Simon's album "Graceland", I became interested in music again and developed a strong love of music - I now consider music one of the most important things in my life.

The funny part is, I was never a fan of Paul Simon - I really disliked his whiny folk music from the 60s & 70s. That album introduced me to a sound I'd never heard before - African Music, which is still my first love.

After listening to that album, I moved on to buying music by Ladysmith Black Mambazo and other South African artists, and I finally got hooked on West African music. By that time, I began to enjoy all kinds of music again.

[ Parent ]

Techno (none / 0) (#64)
by zordon on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 07:52:14 AM EST

Techno is one of those broad terms that people try to make a genre out of, even though it isn't. Techno is more of a general term to group dance, industrial, trance, acid, etc.. into a single group. Just like people use Pop to classify whiny girl, pretty boy band, wigger rap, alternarock, etc.. into a single genre.
zordon
[ Parent ]
Classical at the library (4.00 / 1) (#69)
by borful on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 11:31:38 AM EST

If you want a very basic introduction to classical, I recommend you start at your local public library. They usually have classical music available to be checked out. Try some of these are a very basic introduction:

  • Any Mozart symphony numbered 35 or greater or a piano concerto numbered 10 or greater.
  • Any Beethoven symphony (The Fifth is a good start - the most famous opening in classical music) or any piano concerto.
  • J.S. Bach - any of the orchestral suites or the Brandenberg Concertos.
  • Vivaldi - The Four Seasons
  • Dvorak Symphony number 9
  • Rachmaninov - Piano Concertos 2 or 3.
  • Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1
The list can go on and on. There's lots of good stuff, and classical varies quite a bit within the genre. There's a site called classical.net that looks like a good place to start.

-borful
"Don't open the gates, who the hell needs a wooden horse that size?"
[ Parent ]
Classical Recommendations (none / 0) (#85)
by phliar on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 05:05:06 PM EST

These are of course my prejudices, but I'd leave out Mozart entirely.

More J S Bach (the Cello Suites, Goldberg Variations, or The Well-Tempered Clavier) and rather than a Beethoven symphony, start with the string quartets (I suggest Op. 18, the "Early Quartets") -- same musical ideas, but simpler and more uniform orchestration.

Vivaldi I find trite, probably because themes from The Four Seasons have been used so often in so many crappy commercials.

I'd add Schubert -- probably The Trout Quintet, or Death and the Maiden, and Stravinsky's Pulcinella. Some Steve Reich -- Six Marimbas or Desert Music. And there must be some Bartok -- Miraculous Mandarin perhaps.


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

Odd thing about Vivaldi (none / 0) (#127)
by borful on Thu Sep 12, 2002 at 04:42:22 PM EST

I've had more success introducing people to classical music using Vivaldi/Four Seasons than anything else. I find it hard to belieive, but there it is. Maybe the familiarity with the themes is what makes the piece accessable - people discover the power of the whole thing.

Another odd thing is that newbies (at least, in my experience) don't really get the small group stuff - trios, quartets.

If I had a better grasp of the composers who flourished after Beethoven, I'd have included more examples . . . but I don't know all that many pieces by name.

-borful
"Don't open the gates, who the hell needs a wooden horse that size?"
[ Parent ]

classical music (4.00 / 1) (#72)
by ethereal on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 12:22:00 PM EST

The thing with classical music, for me at least, is that it demands concentration and respect to appreciate. It's not like pop music where you can leave it playing on the radio while you read a book or talk to someone; you really get the most appreciation out of it when you put more attention into it. Which made it tough for me to really pick up on when I was younger (through college) since I was always sleep-deprived. Whenever I'd sit down to just listen to music, I'd find myself zoning out to take a nap rather than pay attention to the music.

I find that I have to treat classical music more like a play or an opera or some other art form that also has a visual impact; I have to give the music that same level of attention in order to really catch what's going on. For a long time I would have agreed with you - "what's the point?" - but I eventually was able to get past that.

--

Stand up for your right to not believe: Americans United for Separation of Church and State
[ Parent ]

Respect and Attention (none / 0) (#86)
by phliar on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 05:21:11 PM EST

The thing with classical music, for me at least, is that it demands concentration and respect to appreciate. It's not like pop music where you can leave it playing on the radio while you read a book or talk to someone; you really get the most appreciation out of it when you put more attention into it.
I'd put it slightly differently: The thing about classical music is that you can listen to it without paying attention; you can leave it playing while you do something else. And you can choose to pay attention, and then you find that it gives you so much more that it defies reason. (This is the distinction between, as Copland put it, the sendual listener and the attentive listener.) There is nothing wrong in being a sensual listener and putting on some Bach (or Charlie Parker) while you cook dinner.

Classical music has the advantage that so much of the music you hear in this society is based on it that it's very easy to listen to. For most people, jazz does not have this property since they are not familiar with the popular music of the first half of the 20th century; a huge amount of jazz makes references to that music.


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

Pops, Electronica (none / 0) (#77)
by drivers on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 02:04:19 PM EST

I think classical soundtrack music could be called Pops, and the music that is like techno but isn't is called Electronica (Electronica encompasses Techno, Ambient, Trance, etc..., everyone seems to have their own term for subtle genres of electronica).

Specifically:
Boston Pops. Or maybe I'm only thinking that because they play lots of John Williams (you know, the guy who wrote the music for Superman, Star Wars, ET, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurrasic Park, ... and much much more).

On the electronica side, here's a hierarchical list of over 50 types of electronica: here

[ Parent ]

Music and labels (none / 0) (#82)
by phliar on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 04:37:56 PM EST

I do like the music they put into the opening themes of some of the star trek series and movies...what kind of music is that called? It has not lyrics and isn't classical.
Movie music. Soundtrack. Orchestral. Why isn't it "classical"? You might be interested in reading more about Korngold who said,
Music is music whether it is for the stage, rostrum or cinema. Form may change , the manner of writing may vary, but the composer needs to make no concessions whatever to what he conceives to be his own musical ideology.

You ask about "the point" of listening to classical music. Why should there be a point? The point is that music is great, music is cool, and you should listen to it on your own terms. I don't care about the vast corpus of polka music played on accordions, but if that's what someone likes to listen to, good for them.

What makes music "good"? That's up to the listener. However, there is music that we call "great" -- and that's where we find people like Bach, and Beethoven, and Charlie Parker, and Miles Davis. I couldn't tell you in a few words what the difference is between "Bye Bye Blackbird" -- a popular song of the 50s -- as originally performed and as Miles Davis played it -- but it's a difference I feel so strongly it can make me weep or laugh out loud.

You might want to read the book by Aaron Copland -- What To Listen For In Music. Out of print of course but you can find it in used bookstores and on the web. (McGraw-Hill, 1939.)

Probably the biggest problem is that I am not willing to pour in $$$ on CDs that I probably won't like any way.
Yup, this really is your problem. It can be ameliorated by making a friend with a varied taste and a large collection. Widen your social circle until you find such a person. He or she will be more than happy to talk your ear off about music, about what makes something good, while playing examples for you. I know I'd do this for anyone foolhardy enough to ask me!


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

Eek. (3.66 / 3) (#24)
by m0rzo on Mon Sep 09, 2002 at 05:26:08 AM EST

Music is to be listened to and enjoyed, not dissected! I don't know how you can catagorise pop music like this, anyway. It's a notoriously ever-changing genre. Back in the 1960s, 'The Beatles' were the contemporary pop music; quite different from 'The Baha Men', I'm sure you'll agree.

Sorry, a -1 from me. This article just sounds to supercilious - not to mention the fact that it reads like it was written by an aging, back bench MP.


My last sig was just plain offensive.

Um (5.00 / 1) (#29)
by trane on Mon Sep 09, 2002 at 07:54:06 AM EST

Music is to be listened to and enjoyed

Or played.

[ Parent ]

And dissected (none / 0) (#32)
by netman on Mon Sep 09, 2002 at 09:07:40 AM EST

Music is to be listened to and enjoyed

Or played.

And composed, etc...

And to learn how to compose you have to dissect other musics first and understand them. Like the OP said we were not supposed to..

Order is for idiots. Geniuses can handle chaos.

[ Parent ]

History repeats itself... (4.20 / 5) (#30)
by evilpenguin on Mon Sep 09, 2002 at 08:09:12 AM EST

Music is to be listened to and enjoyed, not dissected!
I couldn't disagree more. When you dissect pop, you'll often find the same chord progressions and similar patterns. It's trite and dull, without substance, and this is why I cannot stand listening to a cawing siren such as Britney Spears -- I don't care how big those implants are, the music is like living inside the head of a ditzy 15-year-old girl.

It's a notoriously ever-changing genre. Back in the 1960s, 'The Beatles' were the contemporary pop music; quite different from 'The Baha Men', I'm sure you'll agree.
Not really. They're actually quite similar as far as the pop culture analog extends. A better comparison would be 'The Beatles' to 'N-Sync' -- both have scores of screaming young girls pummeling each other to get close to them, both have inconsequential, shallow lyrics about love and similar themes, and both have simple musical backing. The only difference is the era and that 'The Beatles' used live instruments instead of synths and sampling.

It's my opinion that pop music is reflective of the decade in which it was created, and people tend to relate to a certain decade (not neccisarily the one they grew up in). Personally, I love The Doors, Hendrix and The Beatles -- pop music of the 1960s. You could create present-day analogs of these bands, and they would keep to the aforementioned elements of pop music whilst straying in the actual content. Beyond that point, whichever 'decade' of music you choose to relate to is entirely subjective. I guess that makes me a "1960s" person -- so be it. It's suprising just how much can be described this way.
--
# nohup cat /dev/dsp > /dev/hda & killall -9 getty
[ Parent ]
Uniqueness does not mean weird chord progressions. (5.00 / 6) (#75)
by ghjm on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 01:45:38 PM EST

There are not that many commonly used chord progressions in any kind of music. Is Bach's choral music trite and dull because it nearly always ends on a perfect cadence, or because the chord progressions follow highly formalized patterns?

What about the most wannabe, garage-band, repetitious progression of them all: I-IV-V. This gives us Twist and Shout, Me and Julio Down in the Schoolyard, La Bamba, I am a Rock, Summertime Blues, Hang On Sloopy, Wild Thing, That's What I Like About You, Great Balls of Fire, Like a Rolling Stone, etc, etc, etc.

You can't seriously tell me that none of these songs have personality or uniqueness. Sure, it isn't in the chord progression. But that's not where you would normally look for uniqueness or personality anyway. What's unique about Shakespeare's Sonnet 130 ("My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun")? Is it that the verse structure is in iambic pentameter (like tens of thousands of other poems), or that the words themselves convey something of interest?

The attempt to use chord structure as a method for expressiveness in and of itself is a reasonably good definition of what constitutes modern jazz. If it isn't modern jazz, the chord progression is a base to be built on, not an end in itself. Even classic jazz was not strongly focused on the complexity of the chord progressions. I'm pretty sure I could pull out some old Louis Armstrong tapes and find myself a few examples of I-IV-V. Cuban Pete, maybe? Hell, I'll bet that Chet Baker probably sang at least one I-IV-V song. And isn't Sing me a Swing Song and Let me Dance (performed by Ella Fitzgerald, among others) an I-IV-V progression? I'd have to go listen to it again.

Where I'm going with all this is that it's quite all right for you to like and dislike whatever you feel moved to, but don't try to write off your dislike of certain pop music as if there were something objectively lacking in the music itself. Particularly not the chord progressions.

As to your observations about particular bands - I like the way Britney has merged techno-synth into the traditional '80s-'90s pop format. I like the use of quick silences to drive home the sugary pop hooks. I'm not particularly fond of the aggressive marketing, but sex appeal has always been part of vocal music, particularly on the female side. Don't try to tell me that Diana Krall's producers are not completely aware of her sexuality and the resulting commercial appeal.

Also, I disagree that the Beatles were merely the 1960s version of N-Sync. Yes, they practically invented the "mob of screaming girls" rock cliché. But that was early in their history; they matured far beyond that point. Tell me Elenor Rigby doesn't have complex lyrics. Or She's Leaving Home. Or even Strawberry Fields, or Norwegian Wood, or The Fool on the Hill. Tell me the back side of Abbey Road didn't have complex chord progressions.

And I must vehemently disagree with you that people necessarily have to tie themselves to a particular decade, genre, style, or type of music.

I believe that in the study of any topic, there are three distinct phases: child-like acceptance, when you know nothing about a topic, and simply accept any information given to you; adolescent rebellion, as you gather a critical mass of information and form a pattern, which you then defend aggressively; and adult maturity, where you have learned that there are many possible patterns, and understand that new knowledge is not a threat to you.

In the case of music, most people do not put much effort into their appreciation. As children they hear whatever was on at the time, and accept it as "good music." As adults they have built a pattern of "good music" that they use to evaluate everything else, and - like anyone else in that adolescent rebellion stage - they get very defensive and upset if their notion of "good music" is threatened. And that's where most people stop.

My challenge to you is to put forth the effort to get to the next level. To do this you must learn at least one completely different pattern of what constitutes "good music." My prescription, therefore, is that you listen to enough Britney and N-Sync that you begin to understand what all those millions of teenagers see in it.

Thank you and goodnight.

-Graham

[ Parent ]

I'm sure you know this... (none / 0) (#104)
by trane on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 02:45:10 AM EST

The attempt to use chord structure as a method for expressiveness in and of itself is a reasonably good definition of what constitutes modern jazz. If it isn't modern jazz, the chord progression is a base to be built on, not an end in itself. Even classic jazz was not strongly focused on the complexity of the chord progressions. I'm pretty sure I could pull out some old Louis Armstrong tapes and find myself a few examples of I-IV-V. Cuban Pete, maybe? Hell, I'll bet that Chet Baker probably sang at least one I-IV-V song. And isn't Sing me a Swing Song and Let me Dance (performed by Ella Fitzgerald, among others) an I-IV-V progression? I'd have to go listen to it again.

The blues (in simplest form) just uses 1, 4, 5. And the blues is (and always has been) a very important part of jazz.

[ Parent ]

Well, sure... (none / 0) (#112)
by ghjm on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 03:17:18 PM EST

And certainly I should have included Bad to the Bone and a few other examples of 12-bar blues in my list of I-IV-V songs.

But I was differentiating between "modern" and "classic" jazz - by "modern" jazz I mean the complex, almost postmodernist school. Sorry if that wasn't clear.

-Graham

[ Parent ]

If the Marsalis brothers are part of modern jazz.. (none / 0) (#113)
by trane on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 04:21:20 PM EST

then the blues are still an essential part of modern jazz. (Check out the forum on www.branfordmarsalis.com...)

[ Parent ]
Yes, of course. (none / 0) (#121)
by ghjm on Thu Sep 12, 2002 at 09:52:34 AM EST

And as long as Miles Davis is still recording (which I think he is). But I still haven't been clear.

There's an ambiguity inherent in the term "modern jazz." On the one hand, it could mean "all jazz recorded recently." In this case then nothing I said makes any sense. On the other hand, it could mean "the school of jazz, no matter when it was recorded, which regards modernity as its key characteristic." This is what I was referring to.

-Graham

[ Parent ]

Miles is still recording (none / 0) (#123)
by phliar on Thu Sep 12, 2002 at 02:18:37 PM EST

At least, I like to think so. And when it's time for me to go to my final reward, I'll be able to hear what he, and Bird, adn Jelly Roll and Roy Eldridge and all the others have been up to.

Alas, Miles left us in '89.


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

OK (none / 0) (#130)
by ghjm on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 10:59:57 AM EST

Well, he has an album in the record stores being promoted as a new release. Id's a pretty good album, particularly for a dead guy.

-Graham

[ Parent ]

Definition of jazz... (none / 0) (#124)
by trane on Thu Sep 12, 2002 at 02:27:37 PM EST

"the school of jazz, no matter when it was recorded, which regards modernity as its key characteristic."

If it doesn't incorporate the blues, it ain't jazz (modern or otherwise). So say the master practitioners of the art (by "the blues" they mean more than just the blues form however: using blue notes, bending notes, etc.) In other words, blues is a necessary condition for jazz...

[ Parent ]

I don't think so (none / 0) (#129)
by ghjm on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 10:55:55 AM EST

Sure, if you redefine "the blues" to mean anything with a bend, or a passing note, or played eight to a bar. But I've certainly heard artists play who would describe their own music as "modern jazz" where I, personally, could discern no remaining trace of the blues.

-Graham

[ Parent ]

Well... (none / 0) (#131)
by trane on Sat Sep 14, 2002 at 12:40:00 AM EST

this is the question: is it jazz, if it doesn't include the elements of the blues? I agree with those who say no, because the blues is an essential part of jazz.

[ Parent ]
Very good, but why? (none / 0) (#134)
by _cbj on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 08:04:17 PM EST

Why must jazz contain elements of blues? Your position reminds me of those asinine assertions from the olden days that jazz must swing? Why why why? Just because it once did? Is that all?

[ Parent ]
Because the highest practitioners of the art (none / 0) (#135)
by trane on Sat Sep 28, 2002 at 07:54:06 PM EST

...say it should (please see the forum at www.branfordmarsalis.com for examples). I acknowledge they know more about it than I do, so I follow them. (They are closer to the music...) Besides, swing just _feels_ good...

[ Parent ]
That isn't an answer (none / 0) (#136)
by _cbj on Sun Sep 29, 2002 at 12:28:51 PM EST

Most of the highest practitioners of the art say jazz needn't swing (only the minority Marsalis school, largely ignorant about music, disagree). Less than most, but certainly many, of the highest practitioners says the blues can also be omitted.

[ Parent ]
Can you provide sources? (none / 0) (#137)
by trane on Fri Oct 18, 2002 at 04:35:39 PM EST

I guess we each get to vote on what the fundamental elements of jazz are. I vote for including swing and the blues. We'll see...

[ Parent ]
Commonness means more than dull chord progressions (none / 0) (#126)
by Rock Joe on Thu Sep 12, 2002 at 03:35:18 PM EST

Where I'm going with all this is that it's quite all right for you to like and dislike whatever you feel moved to, but don't try to write off your dislike of certain pop music as if there were something objectively lacking in the music itself. Particularly not the chord progressions.

You're trying to read into what he's saying. Don't forget that the opposite of "complex" is "simple", not "bad". And yes, a song isn't merely a sequence of chords, but the sequence of chords is a huge part of what makes the song what it is. To sum it up, two songs will ALWAYS be different on the surface. Or else, they'd be the same song. Now if you can dig deep and take the songs appart and still see differences, then one of the songs probably won't be pop. But if you take appart pop songs, the similarities tend to reveal themselves as soon as you scratch the surface. There's nothing wrong with that. It is my personal opinion that anyone who will dissmiss a song merely because it's common when you scratch the surface is an intellectual snob. Take dance music for example. The patterns there are even MORE clearly defined than they are with pop, yet there are still some pretty kick-ass dance songs, and anyone who says different is simply refusing to leave the song as it is and appreciate the beautiful surface. Mixing your concepts of "good/bad" with "simple/complex" will lead to many needlessly long debates, and the worst part is that everyone involved will be convinced they are talking about the same thing. Apples and Oranges.

Signatures are for losers!
--Rock Joe
[ Parent ]

Give credit where credit is due. (none / 0) (#125)
by Rock Joe on Thu Sep 12, 2002 at 03:07:34 PM EST

When you dissect pop, you'll often find the same chord progressions and similar patterns. It's trite and dull, without substance, and this is why I cannot stand listening to a cawing siren such as Britney Spears -- I don't care how big those implants are, the music is like living inside the head of a ditzy 15-year-old girl.

I'm far from being a Britney Spears fan, but you gotta admit "I'm a slave for you" is a good song. And the video is hot too! Although I wouldn't let my kids watch it (if I HAD kids). The implants kinda help her there... :o)

Signatures are for losers!
--Rock Joe
[ Parent ]

Everything is to be dissected! (none / 0) (#38)
by Humuhumunukunukuapuaa on Mon Sep 09, 2002 at 01:20:12 PM EST

I guess you're just not the scientist type
--
(&()*&^#@!!&_($&)!&$(*#$(!$&_(!$*&&!$@
[ Parent ]
Check this place out. (5.00 / 1) (#35)
by Work on Mon Sep 09, 2002 at 11:12:45 AM EST

International Association for the Study of Popular Music.

Yes, this is a real academic association made up of musicologists from all over the world. Lots of interesting stuff on here. I had a professor a few semesters ago (in a 'History of Rock Music' class no less) who was an avid member.

Missing the main ingredient (3.50 / 2) (#39)
by frankcrist on Mon Sep 09, 2002 at 01:21:00 PM EST

You're writing an article about what makes up Pop Music, but I don't see the word "bubblegum" used once.

--x--x--x--x--x--
Get your war on!
show pop music fans some respect (3.75 / 8) (#40)
by DavisImp on Mon Sep 09, 2002 at 01:26:03 PM EST

The only thing this article makes clear is that you don't like pop music. Look at the adjectives you use to describe it: "obvious", "simple", "cliche", "repetitive". Any music, from jazz to rock to yodeling, can be obvious, simple, cliche or repetitive.

Pop music as a genre is something that's both a lot narrower and a lot wider than what you've defined. If you want to talk about *just* modern pop music, you have to look at Britney, 'NSync, Backstreet Boys and the like -- primarily vocal-centric groups with an emphasis on harmony, melody, and dance-oriented beats. If you want to talk about pop music as a whole, you have to include groups like the Beatles, the Talking Heads, Elton John -- groups that are clearly innovative -- as well as groups like Poison, Twisted Sister, Metallica, Creed, Alice in Chains, Sarah McLaughlin, and everything else that becomes a mainstream hit.

Mainstream radio is something of a wasteland right now, for many reasons, but it's not the fault of pop music as a genre. There's good and band pop, just like there's good and bad garage rock, good and bad jazz.

I'm not sure what your preferred genre is, but whatever it is you'll find people with well thought out reasons to dislike it and people who hate it without really understanding why . It'd probably bug you if someone wrote an article briefly sketching the outlines of your preferred music ("heavy metal is best represented by the band Spinal Tap, in that they incorporate repetitive and simplistic guitar work with silly lyrics"). If you expect people to respect your music tastes, please show the same respect for pop fans.

Wait... (none / 0) (#57)
by rachsumat on Mon Sep 09, 2002 at 07:18:04 PM EST

I disagree. The author obviously has respect for pop music, why else write this essay about it?
--
"Be the wire. Shhhh. Wires don't talk..."
[ Parent ]
The problem with so called pop is not the Genre (none / 0) (#65)
by z1 on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 09:30:29 AM EST

Because the genre is dead, and was killed when it went corporate. Prior to roughly 87-88, various bands had unique sounds more than the present but the corrosion was underway then. Once things became corporate art stopped being art and became a commodity to be packaged to fit the bill. There was no longer room for form that didnt conform.
The culmination of Human history is me.
[ Parent ]
related info (2.00 / 1) (#44)
by dirvish on Mon Sep 09, 2002 at 02:46:08 PM EST

that guy from Weezer also analyzes songs, trying to understand what makes a good song. he takes detailed notes. I read all about in some magazine but those are the only details I remeber.

Technical Certification Blog, Anti Spam Blog
Yes, He Does (none / 0) (#117)
by MadBrowser on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 06:25:59 PM EST

Yeah, I think it was in Spin. He listens to Nirvana, Beatles and Green Day songs and is trying to derive their mathematical forumula so he can write perfect pop songs.

[ Parent ]
Would love to read an analysis of... (4.50 / 2) (#50)
by maynard on Mon Sep 09, 2002 at 05:35:15 PM EST

Burt Bacharach, Elvis Costello, and any other classically trained pop composers writing complex hits. I've just recently re-"discovered" Bacharach after taking a closer look at Costello's work. Sidenote: I was a kid during the early eighties when Costello was a pop hit. At the time I hated his work -- preferring The Clash, Dead Kennedy's, Bad Brains, etc. Lately, I've come to realize Costello is a serious composer. It was Costello's collaberation with Bacharach which led me to review Bacharach's earlier work with Dionne Warwick. I'm particularly impressed by "I say a little prayer", "Do you know the way to San Jose" and "I'll never fall in love again". Forget the smaltzy lyrics and instead focus on the long and complex melodic lines and the wide vocal range expected from his singers. It's serious music. Anyway, JMO. --M



Read The Proxies, a short crime thriller.

absolutely. (5.00 / 1) (#51)
by Work on Mon Sep 09, 2002 at 06:10:39 PM EST

Burt Bacharach is one of the greatest (and by far, the most popular) composers of our time. His influence is felt far beyond even what most consider him to be in the 'easy listening' crowd. I once read of an interesting comparison with some of his melodies from the 60s with 80s metal. Alot of the influences on metal originated with bands in the 70s which were influenced by bacharach. Weird how music evolves like that.

[ Parent ]
Pop Icons (none / 0) (#56)
by windsor on Mon Sep 09, 2002 at 06:47:10 PM EST

Speaking of pop icons who deserve a closer look don't forget Holland-Dozier-Holland who not only put their some of their hooks right up front when they wrote songs for Motown but had no problem throwing in some minor chords. And in most of their songs, the verses are just as catchy as the hook(i.e. "Stop in the Name of Love").



[ Parent ]
obligatory question... (3.00 / 2) (#53)
by loteck on Mon Sep 09, 2002 at 06:30:02 PM EST

did i listen to pop music because i was miserable?

or

was i miserable because i listned to pop music?

-Nick Hornby
--
"You're in tune to the musical sound of loteck hi-fi, the musical sound that moves right round. Keep on moving ya'll." -Mylakovich
"WHAT AN ETERNAL MOBIUS STRIP OF FELLATIATIC BANALITY THIS IS." -Harry B Otch

Da Vinci's Notebook (4.93 / 16) (#54)
by kevsan on Mon Sep 09, 2002 at 06:39:11 PM EST

An a capella group named Da Vinci's Notebook wrote an absolutely brilliant song diagramming the anatomy of boyband songs.  I'll post the lyrics and hope I'm not infringing upon any copyright law.

"Declaration of my feelings for you
Elaboration on those feelings
Description of how long these feelings have existed
Belief that no one else could feel the same as I

Reminiscence of the pleasant times we shared
And our relationship's perfection
Recounting of the steps that led to our love's dissolution
Mostly involving my unfaithfulness and lies

Penitent admission of wrongdoing
Discovery of the depth of my affection
Regret over the lateness of my epiphany

Title of the song
Naïve expression of love
Reluctance to accept that you are gone
Request to turn back time
And rectify my wrongs
Repetition of the title of the song

Enumeration of my various transgressive actions
Of insufficient motivation
Realization that these actions led to your departure
And my resultant lack of sleep and appetite

Renunciation of my past insensitive behavior
Promise of my reformation
Reassurance that you still are foremost in my thoughts now
Need for instructions how to gain your trust again

Request for reconciliation
Listing of the numerous tasks that IÇd perform
Of physical and emotional compensation

Acknowledgment that I acted foolishly
Increasingly desperate pleas for your return
Sorrow for my infidelity
Vain hope that my sins are forgivable
Appeal for one more opportunity
Drop to my knees to elicit crowd response
Prayers to my chosen deity
Modulation and I hold a high note"

How's that for the anatomy of a song?  :)

-K

That was BRILLIANT! (n/t) (none / 0) (#58)
by evilpenguin on Mon Sep 09, 2002 at 07:40:33 PM EST


--
# nohup cat /dev/dsp > /dev/hda & killall -9 getty
[ Parent ]
The music.. (5.00 / 6) (#59)
by AnalogBoy on Mon Sep 09, 2002 at 07:53:27 PM EST

http://www.bobandtom.com/gen3/title_song_windoid.html

I heard them on the Bob and Tom show.  It's absolutely freaking hilarious.
--
Save the environment, plant a Bush back in Texas.
Religous Tolerance (And click a banner while you're there)
[ Parent ]

Should be Leonardo's Notebook... (none / 0) (#67)
by The Crapfish on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 10:49:02 AM EST

Cool, although you should never trust anyone who refers to the man as "Da Vinci". It's either "Leonardo" or "Leonardo da Vinci". It's the equivalent of calling "Lenny of Chicago" simply "of Chicago". Sorry for being an art history geek.

[ Parent ]
obligatory k5 self-referential link (5.00 / 1) (#79)
by Wah on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 03:35:41 PM EST

presented in linked format
--
You didn't know we had cameras in your room, Parent ]
interesting... (none / 0) (#107)
by han on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 08:26:10 AM EST

Looks like they're disturbingly authentic. Is that by any chance available in mp3 format? (I couldn't access the link someone else posted.)

However, I am pretty sure most boybands have several other songs. At least I think I have heard some, but for some explicable reason I cannot remember any details. So, would you happen to know if Da Vinci's Notebook have made parodies of the other boyband songs, or is this the only one?

[ Parent ]

Only one other boyband song... (none / 0) (#128)
by gte910h on Thu Sep 12, 2002 at 08:39:08 PM EST

However they have plenty of other witty songs making fun of one thing or another. Ally McBeal is making fun of Callista Flockhart, set to "How does it feel". "Magic Kingdom in the Sky" is making fun of the southern baptist uproar about "gay day" at disneyworld. Although not a parody, "Enourmous Pen*s" is one of my favorites. Its a song to about getting over the blues. Check out http://www.davincisnotebook.com/sounds.htm for more samples

[ Parent ]
Wow! Thanks a lot! [nt] (none / 0) (#132)
by han on Sat Sep 14, 2002 at 03:24:57 AM EST



[ Parent ]
Definition of Pop (3.00 / 1) (#63)
by loveaxelrod on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 06:11:21 AM EST

The definition of Pop music as being "Popular Music" reminds me of a cartoon appearing around the time that Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica started making the top ten of various best album polls. On being asked what music they like the geeky music fan replies "Oh you know...popular, mainstream stuff - like Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band"...I guess you had to be there.

Regardless, I'd argue that a better definition of Pop is onomatopoeia. That is, pop is punchy, sweet and doesn't waste any time.
------------------
He's got his eye on the gold chain, that the next man's wearing

www.intune.org (1.50 / 2) (#66)
by Noodle on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 10:08:51 AM EST

You should also try to get this posted there. {The Nefarious Noodle}

interesting distinction in comments (4.00 / 1) (#68)
by shrubbery on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 10:55:57 AM EST

There seems to be 2 ongoing definitions of pop music in all the article and comments. I'm reading this and people are using them interchangably and it seems to be confusing issues.

a) popular music - anything that's enjoyed great popularity regardless of music type. This could be anything from U2, The Beatles, Shakira, Alice in Chains, Creed, Celine Dion, or music from anywhere that was very popular.
b) a form of music - the music since roughly the early 80s that started with heavy use of the synthesizer after the disco era. It would range from New wave (Depeche Mode, New Order) and bubble gum (Kim Wilde, Tiffany) to the the contemporary form of music that seems to be a hybrid influence of new wave and R&B (Britney, Christina Aguilera).


Pop song format (3.50 / 2) (#71)
by thomp on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 12:03:37 PM EST

I've always thought of pop as a song style, i.e., verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-verse-chorus. Pop music can sound like jazz, funk, soul, hiphop, techno, punk, heavy metal, country, bluegrass, new wave, grunge, muzak, ... Pop music can be raw, polished, mean, light-hearted, profound, shallow, ...

I can't wait to hear the author's definition of alternative! Now would that be alternative classical, or alternative pop, or alternative punk, or ... ?

yeah (none / 0) (#101)
by VoxLobster on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 09:51:05 PM EST

pop is quite diverse, as is alternative music, but I'll do my best to keep it to the rock defenition, i.e. Alt-Rock or Progressive Rock. Punk will be covered in a seperate article.

VoxLobster
I was raised by a cup of coffee! -- Homsar
[ Parent ]

Not to Nitpick, but... (4.00 / 1) (#74)
by Ricdude on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 01:05:33 PM EST

You probably meant G-D-Em-C, which you will find in just about any rock song trying to expand its harmonic structure beyond three chords, to four chords. Key transpositions notwithstanding, of course. I think every cheesy 80's power ballad used this, for example. G-D-E-C would probably only be found in punk and its derivatives.

you're probably right (none / 0) (#100)
by VoxLobster on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 09:49:17 PM EST

thanks

VoxLobster
I was raised by a cup of coffee! -- Homsar
[ Parent ]

Aserejé (2.00 / 1) (#78)
by Swoko on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 02:40:22 PM EST

In Spain and LatinAmerica, there´s currently a song called Asereje, with a chorus like this: "Aserejé a deje tejebe tu dejebe bajabi and de bugi an de buididipi" or something like that. Obviously it doesn´t makes any sense, but the song is very popular...

indeed (none / 0) (#99)
by VoxLobster on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 09:48:03 PM EST

in Spain and LatinAmerica, I'll wager the audience understands the lyrics, but if this song get's released to a mainly English speaking audience, the lyrics will probably be translated for the verses, and then either most, or all of the chorus will be in spanish. That's the hook. You'll notice the same stuff with Ricky Martin, and that other guy....uh...something Iglesias...

VoxLobster
I was raised by a cup of coffee! -- Homsar
[ Parent ]

No (none / 0) (#133)
by Swoko on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 01:52:03 PM EST

The lyrics of this song don´t make any sense in Spanish...

[ Parent ]
Pop as pejorative (3.50 / 2) (#81)
by phliar on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 04:17:12 PM EST

I feel there's a thread running through the article that pop is somehow "ungood" -- simple, catchy, and easy for the untutored unwashed masses. Well, it certainly could be simple, catchy and easy for the untutored to listen to, and still be interesting, creative and avant garde.

ObDisclaimer: I listen mostly to jazz and classical, and I play trumpet. When I say something is good I'm alluding to the ill-defined quality known sometimes as "greatness in music" -- why we still listen to some music that is four centuries old. I may not be qualified to discuss pop -- but hell, by calling it "popular" we mean that everyone can have an opinion on it, right?

Listen to The White Stripes singing "You're Pretty Good Looking -- For A Girl". I guess the hook is right there in the title. But listen to the song or at the least read the lyrics -- there is something there that I'd say you won't find in Britney Spears's songs -- something good. Most people would call it pop. I really don't think that there's an "overall lack of innovation" here, or even that "the aim is to produce something that is guaranteed to sell." (Beyond the fact that all art is, to some degree, created so others -- although not necessarily most people -- will like it.)

Another band is Sleater-Kinney, who have now attained considerable mainstream success. Their song "You're No Rock-N-Roll Fun" is light, happy, and about the joy of music (and love) -- I'd call it pop. (You can listen to the song and watch the video -- there's a RealMedia movie [use this link if you're on a dialup line] as well as a Sorensen QuickTime version.) Again, though, I'd call it good, and I think S-K are one of the great bands of our time. (The fact that they're still with Kill Rock Stars (KRS) and haven't switched to some evil giant label is cool in itself.) They have other excellent songs about music -- Words And Guitar, and I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone -- that show their punk roots.

You end with a teaser about "Alternative" which suggests to me that you might put Sleater-Kinney and The White Stripes in that category. But you mention U2, who -- although I personally don't care for their music, I recognise as creative and interesting and good and would put alongside S-K and TWS. The Beatles are in the good category also. I'm looking forward to seeing how you plan to justify what to me is an arbitrary distinction -- "pop" vs. "alternative."


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...

thanks (none / 0) (#97)
by VoxLobster on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 09:41:01 PM EST

for the insight. One of my main points is to avoid calling anything good or bad in the context of an artist or a song, but to make more general statements about a genre of music. The article is supposed to be kind of an unbiased (hard to do, I know, and my article isn't without a little bias), and the times I'll use examples is to demonstrate a point, like using Baja Men (which seems to have generated a little blowback) as an example of a good hook. I may use the Beatles as an example, and I was thinking of using The White Stripes as well...I find they have a weird slant on rock music that makes them interesting.

VoxLobster
I was raised by a cup of coffee! -- Homsar
[ Parent ]

there's a lot more to it (4.00 / 1) (#84)
by Jeff Coleman on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 04:54:40 PM EST

than your analysis suggests. To really understand what's involved in a pop song, you have to try writing/recording one.

I'm not convinced that the common or repetitive elements are there because they are "easy to understand". They are more like conjunctions in language or the frame in visual art. They make sense of the other elements.

What may be even more interesting than the distinctions between genres is what they have in common. Pop music performs a function that isn't very much different than any other genre.

good topic-



you're right...kinda (none / 0) (#98)
by VoxLobster on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 09:45:34 PM EST

I am working on a pop music project for someone right now in fact. When you look at the main audience for pop music, as opposed to the main audience of say, folk music, you'll notice some obvious differences. Pop audiences typically are interested in the big hooks and the beat. Most people out there don't have any musical training, and thus, as stated in another thread, would find something that isn't that musically simple to sound kinda strange.

I'll agree that pop and other genres function similarly, but the interesting thing is the different ways they get the same function done. Thanks for the feedback.

VoxLobster
I was raised by a cup of coffee! -- Homsar
[ Parent ]

One common feature (none / 0) (#110)
by Jeff Coleman on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 02:14:29 PM EST

is newness, or freshness, or novelty. People love the familiar, they love repetition, but they also crave a twist. It might appear that folk music is by definition old music, but in the folk scene they are just as thrilled with fresh new sounds as people into pop music.


[ Parent ]
Great quote by Pete Waterman (4.00 / 1) (#87)
by Karellen on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 06:03:45 PM EST

I remember seeing Pete Waterman (Judge on UK Pop(Idol|Stars), one third of "Stock, Aitken & Waterman" huge 80s pop music production company) interviewed on some nostalgic look back at the 80s, and he said:

"There are only 4 songs in the whole world; 'I love you', 'I hate you', 'I'm leaving you' and 'I'm coming back'."

It may not be true for all music, or even for all pop music, but it said something to me about how much he viewed music as a `product', and how few pretentions he had about that; no claiming there was `art' involved anywhere, no matter how much his artists^Wproducts claimed otherwise.


Pop Music sux but... (3.00 / 1) (#88)
by mikelist on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 06:35:29 PM EST

Music is meant to be "understood" only by writers and performers. It's meant to be "listened to" and "enjoyed" by the rest of the world. Sounds like somebody is a little arrogant in citing lack of musical "understanding" as reason for simplicity, as though simplicity is a lesser device. I think it makes the rest of the article kind of suspect.

You're missing the point. (none / 0) (#90)
by Rock Joe on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 07:32:29 PM EST

Music is meant to be "understood" only by writers and performers. It's meant to be "listened to" and "enjoyed" by the rest of the world.

False. The difference between the understanding that a writer/performer has and the understanding that the rest of the world has is that the writer/performer can put his understanding into words and back it up with musical theory. A writer/performer will say "This song is interresting BECAUSE...", whereas the rest of the world will say "This sounds good" or "This sounds weird".

Sounds like somebody is a little arrogant in citing lack of musical "understanding" as reason for simplicity, as though simplicity is a lesser device. I think it makes the rest of the article kind of suspect.

Simple example: If a song is split up into measures of 5 beats instead of the traditional 4, someone with the musical understanding will pick it off, and probably find the song interresting because of it, whereas to most people, it'll just sound weird, and it will most DEFINITELY be impossible to dance to, musical understanding or not. Weird songs that are impossible to dance to don't sell.

Signatures are for losers!
--Rock Joe
[ Parent ]

Nobody understands music (none / 0) (#120)
by jig on Thu Sep 12, 2002 at 04:02:54 AM EST

A writer/performer will say "This song is interresting BECAUSE...", whereas the rest of the world will say "This sounds good" or "This sounds weird".
Sorry, if the writer/performer does say that he'll be deluding himself. Nobody knows why particular sounds sound good and others don't. Evolutionary biologists might be the closest ones so far to understanding why, but everybody else is swimming in the dark. Music theory can only help you organise things so that you are more adept with constructing arrangements of sounds, but it can never tell you what sounds to create to give certain effects on listeners. That can only come from experience, and music theory is not needed at all. In other words, music theory is all about the how, and not the why. Hence, a person that understands music theory is no more able to say 'This sounds good because...' than any other average joe on the street.

-----
And none of you stand so tall
Pink moon gonna get ye all

[ Parent ]
Because because because... (none / 0) (#122)
by Rock Joe on Thu Sep 12, 2002 at 11:35:04 AM EST

A writer/performer will say "This song is interresting BECAUSE...", whereas the rest of the world will say "This sounds good" or "This sounds weird".
Sorry, if the writer/performer does say that he'll be deluding himself. Nobody knows why particular sounds sound good and others don't. Evolutionary biologists might be the closest ones so far to understanding why, but everybody else is swimming in the dark.

I think you mis-understood my use of the word "because". You kinda overshot it. Of course nobody knows WHY some sounds sound "good", but we'll all agree on certain concepts. No matter the reasons behind it, most people will agree that a major chord sounds "happy" whereas a minor chord sounds "sad". In fact, the answer to the "why" question you're asking are of no personal interrest to me and, as you've pointed out yourself, have nothing to do with musical theory.

Music theory can only help you organise things so that you are more adept with constructing arrangements of sounds, but it can never tell you what sounds to create to give certain effects on listeners.

Of COURSE not! That's been labeled "inspiration". That's why not everyone who has some knowledge in musical theory is a composer, and why not all composers have knowledge in musical theory.

That can only come from experience, and music theory is not needed at all. In other words, music theory is all about the how, and not the why. Hence, a person that understands music theory is no more able to say 'This sounds good because...' than any other average joe on the street.

Not if you're trying to answer the why, no. But what you forget is that when you're listenning to a finished product, the how is part of the why. A song with a majority of minor chords will rarely be considered upbeat. Why? :o)

Of course, to be considered upbeat, that depends on a whole bunch of other factors, but I think you get the idea.

Signatures are for losers!
--Rock Joe
[ Parent ]

Pop Music (3.00 / 1) (#89)
by swooduk on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 07:28:27 PM EST

All pop music should not be tarred with same brush, as in any other genre there is good and bad. Pop is no less a musical genre than Jazz, Alternative, Classical or which ever genre you enjoy the most.


Ste
stevenwood.org

You're micing your concepts. (none / 0) (#91)
by Rock Joe on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 07:33:35 PM EST

Don't confuse "less inovative" with "less musical".

Signatures are for losers!
--Rock Joe
[ Parent ]
One article, two concepts. (none / 0) (#93)
by swooduk on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 08:16:28 PM EST

The article says that pop music has an "overall lack of innovation", and equally debases the musical side of pop music.

[ Parent ]
Show me. (none / 0) (#94)
by Rock Joe on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 08:22:37 PM EST

The article says that pop music has an "overall lack of innovation",

Pop music DOES have an overall lack of innovation. I wouldn't go as far as to say that when you've heard a pop song, you've heard them all, but lets just say that when you've heard a pop song, you've heard more than one.

and equally debases the musical side of pop music. Please show me where he does this.

Signatures are for losers!
--Rock Joe
[ Parent ]

A quick guide to making a pop song. (none / 0) (#106)
by swooduk on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 06:41:15 AM EST

As I said before "All pop music should not be tarred with same brush" there is innovation in pop music which is equal to any other genre, and it is hard to innovative in pop music because it is that saturated. Take a look at a band `The White Stripes'' (`phliar' mentioned them earlier), they a very innovative band in all aspects musically, lyrically and visually.

You're not telling me the the article does try to belittle pop music it is obvious VoxLobster is a big fan of progressive rock, and the article is written from a personal perspective.

I think the article should be titled "A quick guide to making a pop song" and be very tongue in cheek.



[ Parent ]
I said SHOW me! (none / 0) (#109)
by Rock Joe on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 11:31:37 AM EST

As I said before "All pop music should not be tarred with same brush" there is innovation in pop music which is equal to any other genre, and it is hard to innovative in pop music because it is that saturated. Take a look at a band `The White Stripes'' (`phliar' mentioned them earlier), they a very innovative band in all aspects musically, lyrically and visually.

OK I think I see your point, but I don't think your point is very strong. If you look at any SUCCESSFUL pop group/musician, it's hard to find much inovation. VERY hard indeed. And I see your point not to confuse lack of innovation with saturation, but if the inovative stuff doesn't get out there, it only serves the purpose of making the musician feel good, which isn't a bad thing per say, but if you goto a record store, and say "Do you have the lastest album of 'band X'?", and the salesman answers "Who?!?", then it might be called pop, but it isn't very POPular. Needless to say, I've never heard of the white stripes.

You're not telling me the the article does try to belittle pop music it is obvious VoxLobster is a big fan of progressive rock, and the article is written from a personal perspective.

I'm not a big fan of asking for quotes, but that's what I was asking to do, because I see no place in there where he belittles pop music. Now since I've never heard any innovative pop music, I can take a wild guess in saying that whatever innovations you may see are strictly cosmetic, and if you took the time to take the song appart, you'd find more of the same. This is only a wild guess, though...

Signatures are for losers!
--Rock Joe
[ Parent ]

Comments and Questions... (4.50 / 2) (#92)
by Rock Joe on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 08:13:20 PM EST

Nice article. Well written. What other musical styles do you plan on disecting for us? Please do me a favor and do one on progressive rock. :o) I'd be very curious to hear your take on that.

I can detect a note of defensiveness coming from people who may not have that much musical theory. To all those concerned, don't sweat it. Simplicity is just that: simple. Simplicity isn't a bad thing, and any hint you may get that it IS a bad thing is pure fabrication. It's like an architect saying that a building design is simple. Doesn't mean the building is inferior.

In my opinion, if you need years of musical theory to appreciate a song, then THAT'S the mark of an inferior song. If most people listen to it and hear what appears to them to be a bunch of random notes, then what's the point of writing the song in the first place? It's all a question of give and take, but if your goal is to sell more, you gotta make sure that everyone can appreciate the song.

Signatures are for losers!
--Rock Joe

i plan on (none / 0) (#96)
by VoxLobster on Tue Sep 10, 2002 at 09:35:37 PM EST

doing progressive rock, punk, and possibly metal. I would do stuff like R&B and rap, but I really don't know anything about those musical styles...anything I said would just be junk.

VoxLobster
I was raised by a cup of coffee! -- Homsar
[ Parent ]

The goal (2.00 / 1) (#105)
by trane on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 02:52:21 AM EST

if your goal is to sell more

I think the goal of music is to communicate. Jazz requires more investment because it is trying to communicate more than pop.

[ Parent ]

Whose goal? (none / 0) (#108)
by Rock Joe on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 11:19:34 AM EST

I think the goal of music is to communicate. Jazz requires more investment because it is trying to communicate more than pop.

The goal of musicians as a whole is to communicate. The goal of POP musicians is to sell records.

Signatures are for losers!
--Rock Joe
[ Parent ]

part of the goal of pop is to communicate (none / 0) (#111)
by trane on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 03:09:07 PM EST

that selling lots of records is a good thing, in and of itself.

[ Parent ]
part of the goal is also to sell records (none / 0) (#114)
by Rock Joe on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 04:52:01 PM EST

And that's true for almost any other kind of music too. It's all about what priorities you set. And obviously, if a pop artist didn't wanna "communicate", s/he wouldn't even be a musician. But something motivates you to make one kind of music over another. I'm sure Britney Spears would make a WONDERFUL salon singer.

Signatures are for losers!
--Rock Joe
[ Parent ]

Selling records != communicate (none / 0) (#115)
by trane on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 05:43:56 PM EST

I will now quote Branford Marsalis (a rich jazz musician): "I don't play music for anyone other than myself and the musicians on the bandstand. And if we like it, it's good enough for me."


[ Parent ]
Did I ever way they were ==? (none / 0) (#116)
by Rock Joe on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 05:59:15 PM EST

I will now quote Branford Marsalis (a rich jazz musician): "I don't play music for anyone other than myself and the musicians on the bandstand. And if we like it, it's good enough for me."

OK. Now that you've quoted this famous JAZZ musician, please tell me why those words would sound weird coming out of the mouth of J-Lo.

Signatures are for losers!
--Rock Joe
[ Parent ]

snares... (5.00 / 1) (#102)
by tuj on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 12:15:45 AM EST

...go on beats two and four.  Always.  Without exception (well I'm sure you can find one, but in pop, its harder than you think).

Kicks and tiny snares and toms are the tools for syncopation (things playing off the beat), which is the sound of jazz, r&b, rock, hip-hop, and drum and bass.  Kicks usually land on 1 and near 3.  Placing the kick and/or supplemental snare/tom in different spots totally changes a groove, while the snare hits remain on 2 and 4.

All pop nowdays is generally using either breakbeats (thanks funky drummer and Amen Bros.) or techno-pop rhythms.


Too complicated. (none / 0) (#118)
by Mr. Piccolo on Wed Sep 11, 2002 at 10:10:18 PM EST

Pop music is what everyone else is buying at a particular moment.  Done, end of story.

Now let's move on to something remotely interesting, like grindcore.

The BBC would like to apologise for the following comment.


The best education in pop music... (5.00 / 1) (#119)
by kalin on Thu Sep 12, 2002 at 02:40:18 AM EST

is music. Particularly 69 love songs by the Magnetic Fields (also click here for a good review)

. If you want a good primer on 20th century pop music and what also happens to be the seminal work of the best songwriter alive (Stephin Merrit) you owe it to yourself to listen to these albums. Everyone I have turned them on to becomes obsessed.

Here's a good quote pasted from here because I'm too tired to make anything original up:

That's because Merritt and his band - indeed, his bands, for he is prone to side projects - make music for people who live pop rather than merely liking it. They're in love with the entire melting pot of 20th century music, with the immediacy of the music-hall standard and the disco anthem, the show tune and the ballad. They don't make some sort of cynical neo-pop; they make the most hopeful music of all: pop that doesn't confuse universality with generic sentiment, pop that holds it head high as it strides past the lowest common denominator. Stephin Merritt will probably never make it onto the radio, but that's radio's loss, not his.
Seriously, if you think you hate pop music because the term is loosely applied to whatever is on the radio you owe it to yourself to listen to good intelligent pop music before you write the genre off completely. What pop music is and isn't becomes immediately clear when you find yourself singing along with a song which features a protagonist who kills Ferdinand D'Saussure for saying that we don't know anything about love. The songs are undeniably pop, undeniably derivative, and yet, most of all, undeniably innovative.

The Anatomy of Songs -- Pop Music | 137 comments (109 topical, 28 editorial, 0 hidden)
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