The South Asian Times

25 June 2017 01:24 AM

Why new pop music artists have become hot properties

By Anand Venkitachalam

New Delhi, June 14: In the contemporary sense, pop music is basically chart-friendly stuff. No wonder that singers like Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez remain on top of the charts, have a huge fan following and rake in the moolah like never before.

But does having a large fan base mean their music is of superior quality?

What we know as pop or popular music today started in the 1990s when certain forces began focusing on its commercialisation, although as a genre it has been around for decades -- Swedish group ABBA and Michael Jackson had their legions of followers around the globe.

The latest pop music idols -- Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Bieber and Selena -- represent a new kind of pop music which has taken in heavy influence from rap as well as rhythm and blues or R&B. The music has many repeating melodies and follows a concise, rigid structure to keep listeners fixated on those particular aspects.

The influence of rap and R&B made the pop singles charts more homogeneous than ever. Further, the advent of the television contest "American Idol" consolidated what people agreed on as pop music.

The sound of Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears in the mid-to-late 1990s was of prime importance to the genesis of pop, as were R&B superstars Aaliyah and R. Kelly, both of whom had a heavy adult contemporary angle to their material.

Pop is not intellectually structured or designed to be ground-breaking and that is precisely what makes pop music, well, so popular. The fact that you don't have to pay too much attention to what you are listening to goes in its favour.

Take any pop song you know of, in contrast to something like Beethoven or Mozart whose works contain several complex harmonies. When you are not looking for anything serious and just want something to pass the time, being presented a piece with many scales can prove to be highly strenuous.

First, the length of a song is something that matters. Take a group like Dream Theater (progressive metal) which makes songs exceeding 10 minutes in almost all their albums. In contrast, an artist like Taylor Swift or Rihanna usually do not exceed three minutes.

Lyrically too, the songs must be as simple as one can keep it so that people can sing along. Most pop artists -- there are exceptions -- follow the verse-chorus-verse structure. The content has to be as repetitive as possible so that it gets stuck in your head; while the words must rhyme, they don't have to make sense -- either context-wise or grammatically.

Finally, at the end of the day, pop music is not so much about music, it is about a simple repetitive beat that you can dance to and, as mentioned earlier, lyrics that are really easy to sing along. Just a two-to-three drum-beat progression, or simple two-chord piano or guitar progression will do.

To put it in a nutshell, pop music marks a trend towards progressive dumbness, with little creative input on the part of the composers. Often, these musicians don't write their own pieces, letting the record labels do it for them.

The lyrics are often simple -- and sometimes nonsensical -- leaving its meaning vague and open to interpretation. In the end, no one wants too many dynamic elements because that would mean exercising a lot of brainpower -- both by the singers and the audience. That's not what pop artists -- or pop lovers -- want.

Update: 14 June, 2017

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