The Pop Thread

Discussion in 'Music Discussion' started by The Flash, Jan 18, 2016.

  1. The Flash

    The Flash Dennis Wilcock did 9/11

    There are quite a few people on the board who listen to pop artists. The current mainstream scene isn't my forte but pop really has a vast history and a general thread probably opens up conversation for artists and works that don't receive much talk here but are otherwise interesting musical subjects. So here goes, a pop thread.

    My "real", passionate musical experience started with Maiden at the age of 13, up until that time popular artists who had their music videos on music channels on TV were my only real familiarity with the world of music, therefore pop is the only genre that creates a sense of nostalgia with me to a certain degree. I've only started exploring that sense of nostalgia last year, combined with my growing appreciation of simplicity over complexity and the songwriting involved led me to respect the genre way more than I did before. Way more. This is a post of mine from 2011, slamming someone for mentioning someone covering a pop song:

    And here I am, five years later, creating The Pop Thread on here. Funny how things change, eh?
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2016
  2. Night Prowler

    Night Prowler CriedWhenBazzaSued Staff Member

    It's more sad than funny :p

    This is a great pop song IMO.
    Saapanael and JudasMyGuide like this.
  3. JudasMyGuide

    JudasMyGuide Call me Deacon Blues

    I actually think that writing a decent pop song is very difficult and that today the mainstream's artists are getting lazier and lazier in the past few years.

    Take Gaga, for example. Never really been a fan of her (partially because of her "Screaming for VengeanceAttention" image), but you used to get songs like Bad Romance, Alejandro and Telephone on a single EP! And mind you, I actually respect and hold in high regard all three. However so far her progress seems as if she's trying less and less, with her songs being progressively less memorable. I don't remember a single tune from Artpop. Maybe it's me.

    I still remember songs from my childhood (those damned 90's). It might help that at the time the charts vere generally more rock-oriented (so you could actually see Aerosmith or Bon Jovi on MTV).
    Nowadays I have really a hard time remember what's been playing in the radio. The songs are just unbelievably unmemorable. There are exceptions, though. Respect to Iglesias, whose Bailando raped my head as an undeletable earworm all summer long (I think it was 2014).
  4. The Flash

    The Flash Dennis Wilcock did 9/11

    iryo. I'm personally glad that I've crossed the borders of "just hard rock and metal" long ago.

    It is. The songwriting aspect has really been a catalyst in helping me appreciate the music more as I got into writing music myself. It's very, very difficult to write a good song with simplicity and catchy hooks.

    This is what prompted me to create the thread. Well, not radio, because I don't listen to radio, but the current state of pop music. It really sounds unmemorable to me as well. It's just dumb club techno music mostly. The rise of EDM seriously took away most of the flavours from the genre.
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2016
    JudasMyGuide likes this.
  5. Forostar

    Forostar Ancient Mariner

    I used to be very much into pop music since the eighties and still in the first half of the nineties as well. Pop music was very good in "my time". B)

    I moved from pop, to (hard)rock, to metal (in most varieties, next to Maiden especially Priest, Sabbath and Helloween, later all kinds of sub-genres). Then got more into Bad Religion and Midnight Oil. And moved back in time to bands that inspired Maiden and other (prog)rock arts from the seventies (or sometimes sixties). E.g. I got more into Rush, Floyd, Hawkwind and Tull. Since 2009 I went into Jazz, after I saw a John Coltrane documentary on TV and was impressed by watching Elvin Jones on drums. I am mostly into East Coast (Blue Note & Impulse labels). In the last few years I listen less to Jazz. I consumed a lot and yearned for a break. I still have a few dozen of albums that I've never heard, but I am not in a rush.

    I am not interested in current pop. I rather explore older music.

    Never ever has metal gone from my veins. I never left metal because it encompasses so much. It's the richest genre. It can be rhythmic, it can be catchy, it can have deep lyrics, it can be long, epic and climactic, it can be short and good, to the point and in your face. Iron Maiden has been the bridge between old and new and between catchiness and heaviness. I feel that they helped me appreciate all kinds of music.

    I just saw a great documentary about a group who made more hits than the Beatles, Elvis Presley, the Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys combined! We could call their music soul, funk, R&B or Motown, but it can be seen as Pop music from that era as well, it certainly had the same impact.

    The Funk Brothers

    Recommended, the story of the people who (almost) never got the credits when they created it:
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2016
  6. Dityn DJ James

    Dityn DJ James A coma stole my name.

    Some pop songs I've been digging recently:

    I really like Taylor Swift. I also really like chicks with blue eyes too, however, she's actually a really good songwriter. Awesome stuff.

    Mainstream pop is something I haven't started listening to until the summer. I landed a steady job; and on my daily commute to work, some days I didn't feel like bringing my metal mixes with me. Instead of finding a classical station like any other 18 year old jackass, I started listening to the pop stations. Ellie Goulding is pretty good, I don't like her as much as Taylor Swift. I haven't sought out any of Goulding's albums, but her songs on the radio are pretty good.

    Back when this song was everywhere in July/August I listened to it a lot. It was one of my favorite songs on the radio. Good, fun stuff.
    Mosh likes this.
  7. The Flash

    The Flash Dennis Wilcock did 9/11

    I don't know to how extent Taylor was involved in the tracks but it's not a coincidence, I think, that the three tracks I like from her were all co-written by Max Martin. "Blank Space", "Shake It Off" and my favorite of all "I Knew You Were Trouble".

    Edit: @Dityn DJ James All three songs you've posted were co-written and produced by Max Martin, as it turns out. The guy is a hit machine.

    The most recent pop song that I really, really enjoyed was this:

    It's been 2,5 years since that came out. I don't extensively follow the pop scene so I might be missing out on some good stuff.
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2016
    Dityn DJ James likes this.
  8. JudasMyGuide

    JudasMyGuide Call me Deacon Blues

    I agree with both - I Knew You Were Trouble is definitely Taylor's best and a proof even a dubstep influence can be a good thing (let alone the fact she looks very pretty in that video)

    however let me stress I absolutely hate the current trend of "music video intros" - okay, when Jackson did it, it was novel, new and actually justified ... But who the f*** wants to wait several minutes for a Taylor Swift or One Direction (or any, for that matter) music video to start, for crying out loud?

    Counting Stars is absolutely amazing - catchy, energetic, fun. If every song on the radio was like that, I would proudly listen to radio.

    Also, before his "laziness" started to kick in too (which was IMHO somewhere around Intensive Care/Rudebox), I liked Robbie Williams a lot.

    Demi Lovato, who was mentioned above, is probably good, however so far I only really know and like this:

    The chorus is really nice.

    This one's a bit older, but there was a time when I used to go completely crazy about this song, believe it or not:

    I really like the overdubbing here :D
    Dityn DJ James likes this.
  9. Dityn DJ James

    Dityn DJ James A coma stole my name.

    @The Flash
    On Taylor Swift's most recent album, she had co-written all her songs (and solely one, titled 'This Love' one of the stronger tracks on the album) along with Max Martin and some fellow named Shellback. At least, those two were the primary contributors. Most the songs on there that Max Martin had a hand in are pretty awesome (I personally love Shake it Off, though it doesn't represent the sound of the 1989 all too well. I think a lot of people got the wrong idea of the album when this was the first single released.).

    I really liked how Taylor Swift was able to take a contemporary influence (like dubstep) and really make something wonderful of it. I love that song, the spoken intro to the video is pretty cringe-worthy I agree.
  10. The Flash

    The Flash Dennis Wilcock did 9/11

    Shellback is Max Martin's protégé, if you will. Max Martin was Dennis PoP's protégé, it's really a line of Swedish producers. Want a really interesting piece of trivia?

    Max Martin, when he first got into producing music, was a member of a heavy metal band, he was the guitarist. The band was called It's Alive, they put out two records in a funk metal/glam metal sound. Dennis PoP recognized an ability in him to find catchy hooks and write pop-like tunes and that's how he got going. You can see Max Martin kept essentially the same style in his early pop writing, too, his early work for Britney Spears feature funky, rock-like sounds.

    Shellback, when he first met Max Martin, kept sending him death metal and indie rock demos he recorded. In fact, Shellback used to be a member of a Swedish melodic death metal band called The Blinded. He was the vocalist in their second album, called Bedtime Prayers. The album sounds more metalcore than death metal to me, though. Not my cup of tea. Rest is the exact same story: Max Martin wanted to know how it would be like if he went on a pop route and he started producing pop tunes.
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2016
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  11. Forostar

    Forostar Ancient Mariner

    You know, my enthusiasm for pop music has limits. It's not just about success. It's about integrity as well.

    I'd have much more respect for people who leave pop music and go into more adventurous, less trodden paths. Getting more commercial, what an achievement.
  12. The Flash

    The Flash Dennis Wilcock did 9/11

    I've stressed in a earlier argument that I don't believe in integrity in music producing.

    Creating good pop music and succeeding at it as a producer is way more difficult than you probably think it is. It's way more difficult to establish yourself because you're producing for other people, you're not in the spotlight and you work with a ton of people instead of focusing on what you/your band does. People who aren't interested in the details of music producing don't even know the names of the producers. Max Martin et al. didn't go commercial with their band. They went commercial as a music producer. Way different story.

    Being able to get commercial and make money is an achievement. A massive one. If it weren't, everybody would be doing it. It's a brave enough step to take to leave your daily job/education and go after a career in music. No matter what style you're doing. I'm certainly not brave enough to do it.
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2016
    AlexS likes this.
  13. Forostar

    Forostar Ancient Mariner

    What's great about artists who don't do things more on their own? These clips, the people in them, they are faces in a market. I wonder what they have done themselves in order to contribute to the artistic result of their music. I am even doubting if they have contributed when they have a writing credit. They could have bought it, who knows how normal that is in the pop business these days. The producers make deals with these good looking people and they both share the money afterwards.

    It doesn't feel good. I prefer artists doing more themselves. It's more real.
  14. The Flash

    The Flash Dennis Wilcock did 9/11

    See, that's where you miss out on the nuances of "making it". There are thousands of good looking people. There are thousands of good looking people who can sing. Only a few of them "make it". To get to where they are, they have to prove their worth. They don't just get awarded these massive careers. If you look into the backgrounds of all pop artists who don't produce their own music, you'll always see a story where they've set themselves apart. And trust me, it's not just looks. In the small instances where it is just looks, the "artist" becomes a laughing stock and is never taken seriously.

    There's a performing aspect of music that you're vastly underrating here. And it's been going on for ages. Not just in pop music. When Bruce Dickinson sings a song that Steve Harris composed, wrote the lyrics for, and built the vocal melodies for and Martin Birch produced, he's not doing anything different. Somehow that's okay but when artists of genres you've decided to have a vendetta against do it, it's bad.
    Dityn DJ James likes this.
  15. Dityn DJ James

    Dityn DJ James A coma stole my name.

    Plus, Taylor Swift was the first ever artist on Big Machine Records. I don't think from the get-go they were shoving songs down her throat saying: "this is the music you'll perform from here on out, this is the sound you'll be adopting." If I'm not mistaken, she has writing credits on more than half of her discography. While the same is not exactly true for every pop artist, I still believe a large portion of today's pop icons have integrity.

    On the heavy metal side of the spectrum, I realized a lot of the bands signed on with Nuclear Blast now are putting out pretty samey material. Super clean production, plenty of blast beats, thrash metal inspired riffs, and raspy vocals. Is that what the heavy metal community wants and Nuclear Blast took notice? I think so, honestly.
    Mosh likes this.
  16. The Flash

    The Flash Dennis Wilcock did 9/11

    There are a lot of instances where pop artists have had fallouts with their record companies because they didn't allow them to go on the artistic paths they wanted to undertake. Record companies are to blame here, artists themselves aren't. Every artist prefers to do what they want to do. It's what they set out to do in the first place. But music is distributed by record companies and record companies are businesses that are looking to make the most amount of money possible.

    I'm sure all artists would love to have a way to distribute their music and make a living without record companies being involved in their creative process. But unless mediums like YouTube, iTunes, Soundcloud etc. completely replace record companies in the future, we always have the companies to depend on for our music listening.

    A lot of people, including some here, use the word integrity in reference to "not bending ways of artistic vision for economic interests". Which I think is a myth. Every single full time musician has to consider the money involved. There's a difference between playing, recording, producing music for a hobby and actually doing it as a job. If you do whatever you like and it doesn't sell at all, you can't quit your day job. What happens if you decide to follow a musical career and you only sell 500 copies in 5 years? You quit that dream, find a job and keep your musical interests as a hobby rather than a career. Some choose to stay at a relatively lower level and settle once the income is enough to earn them a good living. Some look to reach bigger audiences and become bigger names. And that's completely fine. There are ways to do it musically. But it's still the artist that's making that decision. The artist decides on the path he's going to go. If he sticks by what he wants to do, how exactly is that a move that lacks integrity?

    You'll find in most cases artists don't actually change their sounds, approaches etc. in order to make money, but rather to try something different or reach bigger audiences. Money just comes along with it for some of them. There are many cases where it fails miserably, a band that goes "commercial" starts to sell way less records. Goes to show you it's still a huge risk and the money is not guaranteed.

    Back to the thread, pop by all means is the genre where the integrity discussion is the least relevant, because it by nature appeals to the masses. If an up and coming artist likes pop and wants to do pop, you surely can't call him out for lacking integrity for earning a lot of money, can you?

    Sorry for rambling on too long :p
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2016
  17. Forostar

    Forostar Ancient Mariner

    Artistic or musical integrity is an issue in every genre. Every genre has an amount of samey releases and copycats.

    Still, in metal, producers co-write way less. Bands know how to create music. Labels and producers give it a certain sound. But the style of these metal bands, and the way songs are constructed, that's their own choice. If it isn't, or if it is less important than the money, then they are selling out.

    I do see that performance is important (look at all those Idol (kind of) programs, sometimes I think it's only performance that counts these days), but now I choose to focus on creativity. I am more impressed when artists create matters themselves. Bruce and Steve are in the same band. A band... there's comradery, a united goal, there's common understanding of knowing who does things best in the band. There's an interesting balance of individual input that forms this powerful unit.

    Some of the most famous people in pop music have used outside help in the writing department (Thriller was written with lots of help, but e.g. Bad wasn't), but I feel that lots of other pop artists did more themselves, in the past. Has the producer influence become more of a trend now? Does it happen more often these days?

    Read this on a forum (can't check if it's true but it makes sense and it kind of says what I feel about today's pop music):

    The presence of Max Martin on the songwriting credits should give you a clue. A lot of mainstream pop music comes from a relatively small number of writing teams (another famous one being Stargate and songs are bought and sold as pretty much finished products. The performer and their people will choose from a selection of tracks, and build the album up that way. Quite often songs will be passed up by more than one pop act of the day before going on to be hits for other performers down the line.

    The performing artist's name appearing on the writing credits often means very little, and is just there so the performer gets royalties; maybe a bit so that their wider fanbase that don't know better will assume they had a lot more of a hand in the creation of the track than they did. But the production teams that actually wrote the track realise it's part of the game and it's insanely lucrative for them anyway. Sometimes the performer will make a token change here or there to justify appearing on the credits, but not always. This practice is often nicknamed "change a word, take a third".

    edit 2:
    Found some articles related to songwriting:
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2016
  18. The Flash

    The Flash Dennis Wilcock did 9/11

    I think you're missing out on a part of producer/artist relationship here, which is fine, as I said before it's difficult to know what's going on in the production part of the pop scene without really reading on about it. It's that the artist more often than not picks the producer. They know what the producer does, the record company pays the producer to come up with something (With the artist in mind, mind you, so the artist himself/herself is the inspiration for the producer) then the artist and producer collaborate on the demo product. The artists put their own twist on the produced tracks.

    I appreciate a pop artist that writes his/her own stuff, too, don't get me wrong. I'm not discrediting the songwriting aspect, in fact I've grown immensely appreciative of it as I got into it myself. It's just that it's not fair to completely bash the artists who don't write their own stuff. Their own twist on things (Could be their delivery, the tone of their voice, the way they present themselves etc.) is the main inspiration for the producer, in most cases. And that has to be valuable, it's not easy to set yourself apart. There are instances where an already produced track is offered to several people. The Britney Spears song "Toxic" was initially offered to Kylie Minogue, for example. But the artist's twist is what makes it work.

    To be clear, I'm not arguing that people who don't write their own stuff should be appreciated as much as the ones who do. There should be a difference. But it doesn't make them strictly a "product" or "plastic", that's what I'm saying.
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2016
  19. Dityn DJ James

    Dityn DJ James A coma stole my name.

    Great discussions here guys, excellent idea for a thread Flash.

    Country pop's probably not (understandably) everyone's cup of tea, but I've highly been enjoying this song on my late night Taylor Swift binges. Man she looks young in this.

    EDIT: That southern drawl she has here is hilarious. Honestly, not all that far off hahahaha
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2016
  20. JudasMyGuide

    JudasMyGuide Call me Deacon Blues

    Also, I really like these two songs by Avicii

    enough so that I've decided to try the whole album soon. (in fact, I used to think the second one is the only listenable song by Adele, which only goes to show how out-of-element I am when it comes to current music :D :facepalm: )

    But these two tracks are the complete opposite of what I was talking before - very melodic, memorable, relatively original (methinks) and definitely a work of a genuinely talented guy, honestly.

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