Volume 96, Issue 85
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

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Pop goes the world

Whoa, Maggie
Maggie Wrobel
A&E Editor

Pop music has a bad rap.

With that single statement, I've probably just dropped about 10 spots in the coolness rankings of the cutthroat world of rock 'n' roll journalism. No matter, I stand by my opinion: the word "pop" has suddenly and undeservedly become a synonym for anything insincere and manufactured.

However, this wasn't always the case. The Beatles (arguably) created and perfected the ideal pop song in the early 1960s. Songs like "I Want To Hold Your Hand" featured simple sentiments, repetitive lyrics and three-chord choruses – characteristics that bear striking similarities to the music of modern pop artists such as 'N Sync.

Of course, you can argue The Beatles eventually matured lyrically and, therefore, earned their place atop the totem pole of musical history. You could just as reasonably say that in their early days, The Beatles bore a striking resemblance to 'N Sync – a few guys writing songs about girls they wanted to kiss.

Since those glory days, pop music has taken a back seat, while the artists who play what has become known as "garage rock" ride shotgun in the media love mobile. The garage rock bands have suddenly become touted as the saviours of "good" music, and garage rock is said to be free of insincere gimmicks.

However, despite all these claims of the sincerity of garage rock artists, The White Stripes still ride the wave of popularity atop a gimmick. Are they brother and sister? Are they divorced? If garage rock is so free of bullshit, shouldn't it be about the music?

Meanwhile, pop artists are being ridiculed for their "manufactured images" because pop backlash has suddenly become a trend for music journalists. Going back to The White Stripes example, take an artist like Justin Timberlake for comparison's sake. Timberlake, unlike the Stripes, has never pretended to be anything except who he is: a blond-haired, blue-eyed, privileged white boy.

Despite this sincerity, he's still mocked for his danceable beats by critics who claim he's trying to be Michael Jackson.

At the end of the day, does a band's image really matter? There's no shame in enjoying J-Lo's ballads if they make you think of the person you love. Music is one of the things in the world that has the power to make us laugh or cry. If a simple song can do that for you, I don't think it makes a difference whether it's pop, hard rock or hip-hop.


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