Trying To Get To You

Thursday, August 09, 2007

A Lighter Shade Of Pop

Yesterday I read Rob Sheffield’s very moving book, “Love Is A Mix Tape,” chronicling his relationship with his first wife Renee, who died suddenly of a pulmonary embolism at the age of 31 after they had been married for only five years. It’s an excellent book that is part ode to the role music plays in our lives (at least those of us who are total music fanatics) and how we process grief and loss. It struck me as a combination of High Fidelity and Joan Didion’s The Year Of Magical Thinking.

Of the many things that affected me about the book was the love Rob and Renee had for pop. I’ve never been a big fan of pop – listening to top 40 stations has never been my thing, and I’ve always been pretty snarky and dismissive about it. If there are songs on top 40 that I like, they’re usually ones that started somewhere else (rock, r&b, rap or soul) and then crossed over to pop, but my immediate reaction is usually to dismiss anything purely pop as light and insignificant. What I’ve missed with that attitude is that being light and insignificant is absolutely wonderful sometimes, and would be an ideal balance to my very serious and significant self (even when I’m having lots of fun, I’m pretty serious about it). As a listener, that means I don’t get a lot of great pop until after the fact, the way I didn’t get Justin Timberlake’s first album until about a year after it came out. (Hell, I even like “Sexyback” now.)

I’ve always looked for meaning, depth and substance in music – and I always will. But I am declaring that I am now ready to some more frivolity in my listening picks. I’m open to suggestions.


The Fabulous Galdstoner said...

I would highly suggest some R. Kelly, specifically his newest hit the Flirt Remix. Even when his subject matter is mundane or schlockworthy, which it often is, the man is a genius at writing pop/r&b melodies. Add to that his extremely compelling voice especially compared to today's lackluster performers and you have an awesome hit making machine.

Ben Lazar said...

Thanks - I'll check it. I have Double Up but I haven't spent much time with it yet.

Private Beach said...

There's always a place in the world for well-crafted pop. Though I'm never going to be a Barry Manilow fan, I do enjoy some classic pop: Abba, The Carpenters, Bread, Olivia Newton-John, and a lot of early Motown for example. Life should not be serious all the time!

Anonymous said...

Scissor Sisters. Great disco/dance music ala Elton & the Bee Gees.

Anonymous said...

You're right. It doesn't have to be serious all the time. Woody Allen even wrote about Bergman in this past Sunday Times that he would watch simple movies, like James Bond, when he was going to bed or just wanted entertainment that required little thought. That said, I still don't have much modern, pure pop to recommend. As a genre, it strangely seems to get better with age.

I don't know if it counts, but the song 'Lost One' off Jay-Z's most recent album is very good.

Unknown said...

I love this entry. I can relate especially with the line about even when I'm having fun I'm serious about it. And the J Timberlake bit- crack me up.

I miss you Ben!