Tuesday, June 03, 2008

We mean it, man

Authenticity. It's a concept that has been the elephant in the room of popular music ever since Elvis/Ike Turner/Bill Haley handed this rock stuff over. Think of the bluesmen having to "pay their dues" or PWL registering as an independent label just to get back at the majors who overlooked Pete Waterman for years. But of course this is a thing of the past. We're all popists now, entirely comfortable with taking all forms of music for what they are no matter what the promotion budget, a world where only Girls Aloud receive unanimous praise and even Disney songs are scoured for something that college kids can latch onto despite them being the only form of popular music that doesn't so much as wink at their sensibilities. This never happened with Cartoons.

But of course we aren't. Nobody agrees on anything in this blog age, so it's not like years of inbred genre parochialsm will be washed aside overnight because Kelly Clarkson once made a record featuring a riff that sounded a bit like watered down Strokes. And this isn't the public face of rockism, Gordon Smart and Noel Gallagher droning on about Jay-Z as if Glastonbury should only ever be for lumpen guitar bands - why exactly are Kings Of Leon seen as Glastonbury headliners? Nobody's actually answered that yet, especially as they'd barely headline an amphitheatre in America. No, we're thinking about how, say, all discourse about the Ting Tings now factors in somewhere someone trying to keep their cynical side up with the dual details that their live show only features live guitar and drums and includes pre-recorded elements triggered by pedals - yes, so does No Age's - and that Katie White was in a girl group in the late 90s, a fact so obviously secretive and potentially damaging that it's mentioned in the band's album press release. See also Alphabeat, a goodtime pop band straight from the early 80s mindset that saw no difference between populist and artistic merit but reactions to whom are so wildly split that you dare not mention that you don't mind them for fear of being assailed from both sides.

Thing is, we in the blogosphere - well, we say 'we', but obviously we're above all this - think we have an influence that just doesn't exist further afield. Sam Sparro's Black And Gold is already second in Radio 1's last.fm profile (see posts passim) yet you'll find plenty of clued up people who have no idea who or what this is. And this is nothing to do with, say, Steven Wells firing off yet another reverse-snobbery-with-swearing piece about how all pop is excellent and all that music you listen to is shit like the idea had never occurred to anyone else. (In fairness, Swells was seriously ill a couple of years ago and it's entirely possible that, given the writings of Oliver Sacks on post-traumatic obsessiveness, he genuinely can't remember how to write any other way.) It's the assumption that different people can now all learn to think the same way and anyone who doesn't is on the obvious wind-up. It's nobody's fault - we read Popjustice as much as anyone (which admittedly crowbarred like that in the middle of this paragraph sounds a bit like "I've got plenty of gay friends!") - it's called individual taste, and why people seem to genuinely think that because we're all on the broadband express line to pop culture we must now all subscribe to a new slanted orthodoxy is a curiosity that affects too much blogging.


mu said...

I love pop. Give me the Sugababes any day of the week. Put them on a platter with french fried potatoes and Emmy the Great and I'm a happy bunny. Actually Emmy the Great isn't necessary. I just wanted to prove I could name drop like the best.

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