Pop will eat it­self? It won’t stop there,

The pop mon­ster is hun­gry, and it’s gob­bling up gen­res, the rule­book and ev­ery­thing else in its path –

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Front Page -

HAT I’VE dis­cov­ered is that in art, as in mu­sic, there’s a lot of truth – and then there’s a lie. The artist is es­sen­tially cre­at­ing his work to make this lie a truth, but he slides among all the oth­ers. The tiny lit­tle lie is the mo­ment I live for – my mo­ment. It’s the mo­ment that the au­di­ence falls in love.”

That is Lady Gaga talk­ing about her art and her mu­sic. The quote is es­pe­cially im­por­tant be­cause it doesn’t re­ally mean any­thing. And what bet­ter way to dis­cuss where pop mu­sic is right now than to dis­sect the mean­ing­less?

The idea that pop is eat­ing it­self is reg­u­larly pro­posed, that pop has some­how en­tered its Fran­cis Fukuyama phase and, with nowhere else to go, coils around it­self and gorges on the re­cent past, spew­ing out tribute acts and col­lages of in­flu­ences bor­der­ing on par­ody. But pop is not a hu­man cen­tipede. Pop is not eat­ing it­self – it’s eat­ing ev­ery­thing else.

In many ways we are liv­ing in a post-genre world. Gen­res have not so much frag­mented as shat­tered. What genre is An­i­mal Col­lec­tive? What genre is The xx? What genre is Kanye West or Aus­tra? How can we cat­e­gorise into genre when mu­si­cians be­come mag­pies, tak­ing bits of ev­ery­thing? Right now, pop mu­sic is in ev­ery­thing-andthe-kitchen-sink mode. Brit­ney has a dub­step break­down in her cur­rent sin­gle, Hold It Against Me. Chris Brown’s Yeah 3x sounds like cheesy late-1990s techno.

Pop artists used to mon­tage gen­res so they would evolve and diver­sify, chang­ing from sound to sound with each al­bum – for in­stance, Madonna’s pop phase, fol­lowed by her house phase, disco phase, coun­try phase and so on. But now it hap­pens all at once. Pop doesn’t mon­tage, it col­lages. A mod­ern pop song is like hav­ing three word docs, 20 browser tabs, Tweet­deck and iTunes open all at once. There’s so much go­ing on, en­sur­ing that there’s some­thing for ev­ery­one, and a song can en­ter three or four dif­fer­ent phases in a few min­utes, which ap­peals to jumpy and ad­dled at­ten­tion spans.

Arc­tic Mon­keys sang that “there’s only mu­sic so that there’s new ring­tones” on 2006’s A Cer­tain Ro­mance, pre­dict­ing that mu­sic would be sim­pli­fied to a point that a hit tune could be eas­ily trans­ferred to a Nokia hand­set. In fact, the op­po­site hap­pened: pop has be­come busier, with much more go­ing on than a tinny melody.

At the fore­front of this shift are Black Eyed Peas and Will.I.Am, who have cre­ated hit af­ter hit by mak­ing what’s ac­tu­ally hap­pen­ing in their songs more com­plex. When Black Eyed Peas re­leased the ridicu­lous ( and mon­strously suc­cess­ful) The Time (Dirty Bit), LCD Soundsys­tem’s James Mur­phy tweeted, “Do they hate ears?” But Will.I.Am doesn’t hate ears: he knows ears, which is why he re­cruited 43-year-old French house DJ David Guetta to work with him on one of the big­gest songs of the decade, I Got a Feel­ing. When David Guetta was told to con­form to an Amer­i­can sound while work­ing with the rap­per Akon, he re­fused. The re­sult was Sexy Bitch, a track with a four-to-the-floor beat that has be­come the tem­plate for most Amer­i­can chart mu­sic. In turn, pop, or at least Guetta’s brand of it, has com­pletely de­voured com­mer­cial Amer­i­can hip-hop. It was re­cently the case that hip-hop in­fil­trated pop mu­sic. Now the re­verse is true.

Not only does ev­ery­one want to work with Guetta, but ev­ery­thing sounds like Guetta even if he’s not part of the track. Guetta’s brand of US pop has be­come a vac­uum for other gen­res, suck­ing in ev­ery­thing around it and pro­cess­ing it un­til the manchego is trans­formed into cheese strings.

It could be said that the rea­son for this con­stant Dyson­ing of other gen­res is to do with di­lut­ing some­thing cool for the masses, but it’s more to do with pop’s end­less thirst for new­ness. In the in­die blog world, peo­ple talk about “churnover” – the con­stant lust for new acts to be blogged about (and in­deed to be the first to blog about them), cre­at­ing what The Brav­ery were la­belled with as a “fire­work ca­reer” – goes up quickly, looks pretty, dis­ap­pears. The churnover in in­die land is about in­di­vid­ual new bands, but the churnover in pop mu­sic is about new gen­res: what sound can be gorged upon next. Pop is hun­gry, and its ap­petite for new sounds seems to be never-end­ing. But Guetta is a house DJ first and fore­most. So what hap­pened to dance mu­sic?

The Kitchen night­club re­opened in the base­ment of the Clarence Ho­tel in Dublin re­cently. It should have been the big­gest event in the cap­i­tal’s nightlife in years, but very few peo­ple ac­tu­ally care about dance mu­sic in Ire­land any more. In Lon­don, the hip­ster kids and the in­flu­encers are al­ways look­ing for the most for­ward­think­ing places. For them, the idea of go­ing out to a club and lis­ten­ing to Katy Perry is face-melt­ingly alien. But in Dublin, that’s what Ir­ish teenagers and stu­dents want to hear. Dance mu­sic – once the dom­i­nant sound of nightlife – is a niche ac­tiv­ity. Pop

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