16 April 2012

In Quest of a Cure to Pop Music Attraction

For a long time now, I've been torturing myself trying to figure out why people listen to and most importantly like pop music. You will now ask “Why bother?” and I will respond “Because it bothers me and the social scientist in me”! Although the selfish side of me wants to just ignore pop music and the people who choose it, it is almost impossible. I, too, have a number of friends of questionable intelligence (sorry!) that choose to listen to a genre that not only bothers me but also induces some feelings I don’t really like and that I don’t generally associate with my character (e.g. rage). Still, I have a small number of close friends who, although they would normally rank high on a questionable intelligence quotient scale and belong to an older age group, they insist on listening to pop music.

Through the years I tried to closely examine and understand the reasons behind such important music choices by the people around me. I present to you here, what I have come up with until now, with a conscious try to be as objective as I can possibly be and not bring in my Heavy Metal preference and background.

Instant gratification
It is widely accepted even by the music industry “experts” that pop music aims at making people happy. Now the term happy here does not necessarily indicate genuine happiness. Instead, it entails a momentary or instant experience of positive feelings. I would constantly ask people “why do you feel happy listening to a talentless humanoid singing about saturated subjects that other music genres present more gracefully?” No response [and no surprise there]. I soon realised, by further examining their characters, that these people are experiencing a regression to their childhood. It is a fact that most followers of popular music are youngsters, usually 16 years or younger. This, although not encouraging, is no surprise. At that age, people don’t want to have to think about the music they listen to, they just want to have fun. Hence, older listeners of pop music are just avoiding the real world and focusing on the high feelings a pointless music composition with light lyrics induces.

Lack of interest in deeper issues
Let’s face it, pop music is no rocket science! Observations of people who listen to pop music led me to believe that they like their lives to be carefree, simple, and only being able to handle the occasional heartbreak. By examining the lyrics and musical compositions of a number of songs (as many as my poor ears could handle at the time) I came to the conclusion that pop music makes things simple and straightforward for the listener. Although most music genres have a common selection of subject matters, the lyrics in pop music make it easy for even a person in a vegetate state to grasp their “meaning”. While other genres would use intelligent words or even intelligent combination of simple words the pop genre is full of overused and cliché lyrics. E.g. your stupid boyfriend cheated on you with your best –male – friend; you are therefore heartbroken; you can do the same to get revenge; but you choose to drink your sorrows away; hence, you become stronger [because what doesn't kill you make you stronger, right?]. No wonder people feel happy when listening to pop songs. While other people try to solve riddles and understand hidden messages, the pop fan can sing along without even evoking any conscious effort or brain activity for that matter.

Lack of interest in musicianship
The previous point leads to this observation. When people don’t care about the quality of the linguistic input to their ears, they wouldn’t give a rat’s ass about the sound input either. The pop fan wouldn’t normally care about the musical technique or even the talent behind the person playing an instrument. As the matter of fact they don’t even have to since most pop music is created on computers using a combination of stolen catchy tunes from previous hits. And why would they care anyway, right? Like most of us, it’s not like they have to be tested on their ability to distinguish between a C minor and a D major [I don’t know I’m just guessing here!]. Finally, who even realises that most pop and nearly all hit songs use the same four chords. These guys do and they present a pretty solid case! Unsurprisingly, some rock and reggae anthems are condemned too but in these you can notice a balance in artistic quality between lyrics and music.

Fancy exteriors
Last but not least, I could not help but notice an attraction to nice façades by my pop friends. Arguably, we all prefer nice-looking people who are kind to our eyes. But when it comes to what your ears can handle as opposed to what your eyes wish for, most people would risk some eye soreness instead of dangerous sounds that may potentially blow up their eardrums. Not the pop fans though. My observational experience showed me that people listening to pop consider looks as an important factor. Now, I would regularly argue against that by citing lady gaga as an example and how a creepy human-like....... thing (?) like that could be so loveable to millions of (obviously) blind people. But then I would immediately withdraw my argument realising that in this case one may notice the overcompensation in what they serve to the listeners as character and showmanship.

These are my initial vicarious observations about the psychosynthesis of the pop fan. I’m still not satisfied by these observations serving as explanations as to why people insist on supporting this genre and will continue my quest towards finding out the even deeper issues surrounding such questionable yet idiotic choices.
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