EXTRA! EXTRA! POP IS DEAD (T. Ewing brain of Freaky Trigger).
Yes, it is. That's the way I've felt for the past year as I read with confusion on NYPLM the constant chatter about Brittany, as though she was somehow special. I never got it. I still don't get it, but when did pop die? I would like to postulate the day of death was the day of osmosis of musical irony into musical cool. For me, pop, good pop is always ironic, where as rock, good or bad is portrayed as cool. What I think has happened over the past fifty years of modern music is a shift, from shores. In the fifties America was the home of cool, the start of rock. Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, all very talented, all very laden with attitude, all very cool, all very out in the American media. At the same time the seeds of what would become UK irony were there in the US. That would be Buddy Holly and the Everley Brothers. These acts were not really that cool, more kind of nerdy or boy(s) next door. The simple outward presentation of these artists, a safe package, singing happy but pained songs, irony. These pioneers of irony seemed reachable to young musicians in the UK, who although attracted to cool, because of the endemic, fortunate English "reserved" attitude, adopted the ironic over cool. The result was the British invasion, and the beginning of a clear geographical delineation of cool and irony. Style wise a safe British version of cool meant greasy hair, and leathers, until a German artist and her friend discovered that a simple swim in a pool can convert cool into instant irony, (In fact so ironic that the resultant hairstyle ironically redefined cool). So American youth began consuming British pop, began listening to lyric, began a cultural divide in their family. A generation of ears was born, a generation of thinkers.
The very breavity of pop and all it's irony was a liberation from the older siblings/parent's slicked back simple pleasures of cool. The drive-in meant less, the soda pop crowd seemed flat, these were the glory days of pop. Then 1967 happened, starting in my beloved hometown (San Francisco) and spread everywhere, the deconstrucion of pop sensibility...drugs. Drugs softened, numbed, redefined cool as being high. The criteria for a great song began to deterioate. No longer was it about thought or poetic opinion, it was becoming more about effect. What can jar your attention enough that you would actually remember the show you went to on acid and smoked three joints at? It's got to be loud, it's got to be flashy, it's got to show off, it's got to be cool. American music-appreciation had reached a reversal point, we learned the irony, made it our own, reveled in the folk singers, but it wasn't enough, we wanted more. The chase for trancendence spread overseas. In the UK bands that once gave America the seed of irony were losing that capability, examples: The Who, probably one of the finest pop bands ever, until Tommy, the Beatles releasing probably the greatest pop song of all time "Tell me Why?", however losing it all on Revolver. I would say that the only British invaders able to retain irony would be the Kinks (why, well *I* can't picture Ray Davies with a joint hanging out of his mouth). So now the whole world had gone cool...thankfully we still had Dylan to ironize (although by the seventies he had already degenerated into romantic material and relgious overtones) and the student protests of the sixties to remind us that everything wasn't cool, but the damage to pop structure was done. FF tens years complete UK bastardization...the band Yes, FF ten more years, George Michael, FF ten more years the nothing nineties (read Oasis), until here we are, completely mislabeled as pop Ms. Spears is nothing more than a weak attempt at cool, at best.