Posts Tagged ‘pop music’

Why I’m Sick Of Lady Gaga

It’s hard to believe that only two years ago very few people in America knew who Lady Gaga was, because now nobody can shut the fuck up about her. Her first single, “Just Dance,” was released in April 2008, but it took a long time—nine months—to reach #1. The real Lady Gaga phenomenon didn’t start in earnest until 2009, when she seemingly had a new single on the radio every week (and that’s only a slight exaggeration: In 2009, “Just Dance,” “Poker Face,” “LoveGame,” “Paparazzi,” and “Bad Romance” all spent time in the Billboard Top 10).

But sheer quantity of radio play doesn’t qualify anyone for “phenomenon” status these days—after all, who still listens to the radio? But Lady Gaga has become culturally significant in a way most pop stars only dream about. People care about her and have an opinion about her in a way they don’t about, say, Beyoncé. Even people who don’t really like pop music find themselves compelled by Lady Gaga. I, for one, feel like I’ve had more conversations about Lady Gaga in the past year than I’ve had about all other musical acts put together. I would even go so far to say that she’s “polarizing,” except that I don’t really feel like there is a sizable anti-Gaga pole. Nevertheless, her fans often have the passion and fervor of zealots needing to defend their messiah from some threatening albeit nonexistent opposition. Continue reading

Aught Lang Syne: The Decade in Music

I’ve never been a big fan of Kanye West. I generally think he’s overrated,* and I find his antics off-putting. None of his big singles—“Jesus Walks,” “Through the Wire,” “Gold Digger”—ever really resonated with me; I didn’t really think they were bad, but I never went out of my way to listen to them (not that I ever had to). But when I first heard “Stronger,” I remember thinking that West had trapped some kind of “cultural sound” in a bottle (I didn’t think it in those words, exactly; it was probably something more like This song is awesome!). “Stronger” was the kind of “cutting edge” song that sounded both ahead of its time and of the moment.

*Truthfully, this impression is mainly of College Dropout, which I really didn’t like. Most of his work since that is more or less accurately rated.

Rock music stopped being the most interesting genre of pop music at least ten years ago. This isn’t to say that there are no more good rock and roll bands, or that rock music has nowhere left to develop—both of these statements are flatly false—but simply that the dominant sounds of popular culture were not rock and roll this decade. Part of this is rock’s own fault: Watch a movie from that late 1990s and you’ll hear what a lot of “rock” sounded like then—a lot of Third Eye Blind, Sixpence None the Richer, Vertical Horizon, and, of course, Barenaked Ladies. Not exactly riveting stuff.

But even more of it had to do with the flourishing of other genres, most notably rap and hip hop. Almost every artist to get that elusive combination of commercial and critical success this decade was working within those genres: Jay-Z, Kanye, Eminem, 50 Cent, Lil Wayne, Usher, etc. The only rock bands to approach the success of those acts in the 2000s were Coldplay and Green Day…and those bands fucking suck. Continue reading

Miley Cyrus vs. Taylor Swift

As far as I know, Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift do not hate each other. In fact, they appear to be on rather friendly terms in this YouTube video. At one point, Miley even referred to Taylor as her “best friend.”*

*Although, to be fair, she’s also applied that term to her dad, Nick Jonas, her YouTube talk-show co-host Mandy Jiroux, Liam Henson, the “Leslie” of “See You Again,” and, of course, God. Miley may have more “best friends” than any pop star in history.  

So there is no obvious enmity between the two of them, but I feel like there should be. It seems to me that there should be a Highlanderesque, there-can-only-be-one vibe to their relationship. There can be no peaceful coexistence between these two stars.

From where I sit, these two are completely interchangeable. They’re both young singers who sing bad country-infused pop songs about what kind of shoes they wear. They both sing primarily for a vast audience of girls between the ages of 11 and 19. They both dated a Jonas Brother. They’re both from small towns. They’re both (ostensibly) wholesome. They both play the “gosh-I’m-just-so-overwhelmed-by-all-this-attention-since-I’m-from-a-modest-small-town” card, even though they’ve each spent over 25% of their conscious lives as superfamous sensations.

This seems like it should create a natural rivalry. And yet, even with a music media that loves pitting artists against each other unnecessarily (Britney vs. Christina, *NSYNC vs. Backstreet Boys, The Beatles vs. The Rolling Stones, Kanye West vs. 50 Cent), not very much has been made of these two as potential rivals. In fact, most people don’t seem to consider them very similar at all. Continue reading