I don’t know anybody who loves pop radio.

I know people who listen to it ironically, as though they’re not comfortable admitting they don’t entirely hate Lady Gaga.  And I know people who admit to liking just Lady Gaga, or just Usher, but still insist they “hate the radio.”

But why do we (claim to) hate pop music / pop media?

Why are we so eager to distance ourselves from “the norm?”

Let’s All Be Different Together (Because Being the Same Together Sucks)

We self-identify with people who dislike the same things (and in the same ways) as we do.

That means deriding the musical merit of Ke$ha is as much a prerequisite to being “taken seriously” by our peers as actually liking Spoon or My Morning Jacket; maybe even moreso, since individual opinions are more easily accepted by the fringe than popular appreciations are.  (In other words, you can spend the entire $1 draft night railing against MGMT as sellouts, but you’re only allowed to play “Tik Tok” on the jukebox if you agree to sing and dance like a self-aware parody of someone who’s actually happy.)

Happiness also plays a huge part in this shell game.

As I’ve mentioned before, the ’80s were the last time pop culture was allowed to be happy without angering the intellectuals.  In the ’90s, grunge made joy obsolete.  In the ’00s, the left’s perception of the Bush administration was akin to a country being held hostage by its leaders; to enjoy life would be to give up and blindly accept all the shit Bush was shoveling.

Misery is serious business; only intellectual plebians with no understanding of the long term impact of their actions could possibly find anything to be happy about, right?

Especially “popular” music.

So we all hate it.  Together.

You Suck Just Like I Do! Let’s Be BFFs!

It doesn’t help that Ke$ha, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and most other modern multi-platinum musical phenomena benefit from:

  • criminally simplistic lyrics
  • monotonously propulsive rhythms, and
  • a studied amateurishness that teases the public into believing that we, too, are just one Auto-Tune squiggle away from becoming international superstars.

In the ’80s, Madonna and Janet Jackson were personae that women aspired to be like; in the ’10s, Ke$ha and Gaga are women you probably already are like — or, if you’re a guy, they’re women you think you actually stand a chance of sleeping with.  No one had those illusions about Madonna, but reality culture means our stars seem touchable, so supporting them is a lot like supporting our friends.

We don’t think of Gaga and Ke$ha as being part of the system; they make us feel like they rely on us to help them reinvent the system.

Gaga earned her audience on YouTube.  Ke$ha made her name on MySpace.  They didn’t need labels to convince us they were worth paying attention to; now their fans are patting themselves on the back because they told the labels who they wanted to support and the labels listened.  (Never mind that this just makes us complicit in the system, only from the inside-out.)

The Last Overnight Sensation I Felt Required a Tissue

50 years ago, pop music took weeks or months to sweep the nation, much less the globe.

50 years ago, a popular film might stay in first-run theaters for more than a year.

Today, all media is hyper-compressed into a mash-up driven culture where identifying, judging, assimilating and reinventing a piece of media happens in the blink of an eye.  Today, Lady Gaga has to perpetually shock us, because the impact of each shock wears off much more quickly than the last one did.

Perhaps those of us who maintain a love-hate relationship with pop culture feel this way because we doubt the long-term survivability of memes and media that sweep the globe overnight.  History will be history when we get there; for now, we’re just waiting for the next Black Eyed Peas album.

But something has to be pretty damn good — or at least pretty damn effective — to become popular… doesn’t it?

Maybe not.

Bludgeon Me Until I Care

On a recent weekday, I was subjected to just over 2 hours of pop radio in Baltimore.  (Disclosure: this was in a cafe where I was working remotely, so I had no control over their radio choices.)  In that timeframe, I heard:

4 x Lady Gaga songs (though never the same one twice)
3 x Ke$ha songs (one repeated)
2 x Usher “OMG”
2 x La Roux “Bulletproof”
2 x Jay-Z “Young Forever”
2 x Justin Timberlake “Carry Out”

… and so on.

Are these songs worth hearing once an hour?  Are they the best songs the record labels can provide us with right now?

Probably not.  But they are the ones the record labels have decided to promote.  And if they’re promoted enough, they become popular by sheer force of marketing will.

So perhaps what people hate isn’t the pop media, but the subconscious realization that the media conglomerates can afford to bludgeon us repeatedly with the same songs, movies and messages until we recognize them, which breeds, if not appreciation, then at least familiarity.  Safety.  Comfort.  Approval by association.

We don’t hate pop culture.  We hate being programmed.  And we hate ourselves for submitting to it, or for not having the knowledge or the means to avoid it.

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36 Comments

rachelhills · June 21, 2010 at 5:37 am

I don't listen to popular radio mostly because I'm too lazy to turn it on, but I do like pop music – and many of my friends do too. We know it's not “cool”, but to hell with being cool! I think that in addition to an “ironic” appreciation of pop music, there's also a reasonable proportion of people out there who like it at least partly in defiance of the idea that they're not “supposed” to.

Justin Kownacki · June 21, 2010 at 5:40 am

I've been thinking about that aspect, too. I doubt we ever foresaw a
time when liking “popular” music would actually be an act of defiance.
Of course, we also live in the age of post-ironic mockery, so perhaps
the act of simply enjoying something for its own merit *is*
revolutionary.

CHorner · June 21, 2010 at 7:23 am

“We hate being programmed. And we hate ourselves for submitting to it, or for not having the knowledge or the means to avoid it.”

YES. This is basically the sum of it. When Lady Gaga's “Bad Romance” came out, it drove me insane. I changed the station every time it came on because something about it–the lyrics, the tune, the “rah rahhh” growl at the beginning–crawled under my skin like Digger, that nasty nail dermatophyte from Lamasil commercials. I hate the song and cringed whenever it was played until one day, unbeknownst to me, I found myself tapping my toe along with it. “Well, this isn't so bad,” I sighed, and from then on out, I kept the song on until I found myself downloading it from iTunes and enjoying it. I'd been turned, grudgingly so, into a Gaga fan, and I haven't turned back since.

This seems to be how music producers are creating stars these days. It doesn't matter if they're talented or not–they like them, and as god is their witness, they'll make sure we like them too. I don't think people became fans of the Beatles that way, and I don't even think young girls became fans of the Spice Girls that way. It seems to be a pure creation of the 21st century.

I was driving in my car when Ke$ha's “Tik Tok” came on. Around the 86th time I heard it, I could feel that nagging “maybe this isn't so bad” feeling, but I caught myself. “No, no,” I thought, “I'm not falling for THAT trick again.”

I don't hate mainstream. I just hate being coerced into liking stuff that's really not worth my time.

Justin Kownacki · June 21, 2010 at 7:39 am

Bingo. This is my favorite comment in quite awhile — and not solely
due to the use of dermatophyte. Thanks for that.

I had a similar anecdote which I cut out from this post involving
Nirvana's “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” More than just hating it when it
came out, what frustrated me even more was realizing that MTV was
going to hammer us with that video until we all embraced grunge — and
that I'd eventually be too numb to argue.

And now, 20 years later, I'm actually happy when “Smells Like Teen
Spirit” comes on the radio — because, compared to all the crap that's
come after, that song doesn't sound nearly so bad, does it?

CHorner · June 21, 2010 at 7:51 am

There does seem to be something amiss in the marketing of most pop culture messages. Take reality TV: you may not like The Real Housewives of (Insert Name of Metropolis) or America's Next Top (Insert Name of Profession), but Bravo and TLC will bend over backwards until they give you the reality combination you DO love. Just wait: “The Real Housewives of Ooltewah, TN” and “America's Next Top Midlevel Factory Inspector with a Bad 401K and a Dodge Stratus” will be next. TV, like music, has been cheapened because it can be cheap while also effective. Execs no longer need to pump millions of dollars into a product to make it sell. Just throw in a cupcake bra and know it'll go viral in time to pay off your initial investment.

“Compared to all the crap that's come after, that song doesn't sound nearly so bad, does it?”

This makes me shiver when I think of what music will sound like in 20 years. When I was a kid, we'd take long car trips, and eventually my parents would sigh nostalgically, turn up Led Zeppelin, and say, “This takes me back to the college dorm.” During my old college experience, I found myself standing in a party as Akon's “I Wanna Love You” and Katy Perry's “I Kissed A Girl” played on the speakers. I'm now thinking about the car trips I'll someday take with my own kids, and I'm already flexing my fingers to prepare to change the station.

I realize this comment makes me sound like an old fogey, even though I'm only 23, but manipulation is not cool. “Big Hollywood” is as well-oiled a machine as Big Oil and Big Tobacco, but they're going to have to clock some long hours before they can convince me that Miley Cyrus can actually sing (let alone act!).

mikeschaffer · June 21, 2010 at 8:01 am

In a former life, I worked in the radio industry.

Most every station (especially the ones with corporate control), divide all songs into different categories.

For example, my old station had the following classifications:
A – HOT music NOW – TODAY'S biggest hits – This had about 7-10 songs in it and we played an average of 3 per hour. A song stayed here for about 2-3 weeks
B – Music on the way up to A or on the way down. – About 15-20 songs, with 3-4 played per hour. A song could live there for 6 weeks or more.
C – New Music – We added 4-7 new songs a week (well above average) and played 1-2 an hour. This category had about 10 songs in there, never for more than 2 weeks at a time.
R – (I forgot what it stood for!) – Really, really good songs that didn't fall into any of the other categories. We probably played 5-9 of these an hour. This is where most songs lived permanently, after their C-B-A-B progression.
X – Crazy stuff that we played just a few times per day. Classics, stuff that was fun and our audience loved, but didn't quite fit the format.

I know this doesn't really address the ENTIRE issue, but gives some insight into the radio world!

Chris · June 21, 2010 at 8:07 am

The idea of hating something just because it's popular reminds me of being 14. Most people that love music don't hate pop music just because it's popular, they hate it because it's bad. Just look at all the really well-made rock records that have come out in the last few years. Why would I want to waste my time listening to pop radio when I can listen to The National or Beach House's latest records?

If anything, I pay much less attention to the radio or popular music now than I did 15 years ago. Because I can find new music online, I don't need the radio to tell me what's cool. But let's not even get into the strange subculture that exists online and on music blogs where people only like the most obscure bands that no one has ever heard of and hate a band as soon as they sell 10,000 records.

Justin Kownacki · June 21, 2010 at 8:21 am

Mike: Was that a pop radio format? It actually sounds amazingly
liberal compared to the current playlists we're subjected to.

I was a college DJ and we had our own “clock” that indicated when
songs from specific classifications should be played. Problem was, no
one followed it. Bigger problem was, the station manager reported our
top 30 to CMJ (College Music Journal) somewhat arbitrarily; she'd look
at what the other colleges had reported last week, and then report
about 20 of their albums and 10 of ours, regardless of whether or not
we actually played (or even had copies of) those 20 albums.

Why?

Because if she didn't report the same “top performers” as everyone
else, those labels wouldn't keep sending us the albums we actually
*did* want. Pay to play, yo.

Ah, the secret lives of influencers…

Justin Kownacki · June 21, 2010 at 8:23 am

Beach House is apparently local to Baltimore, though I'm new here, so
that's news to me. Nonetheless, I heard Beach House on The World
Cafe. Which, as you know, makes them sellouts.

Any good hipster's favorite band is one that's yet to be formed.

danperez · June 21, 2010 at 10:38 am

Have you taken a listen to rap music lately? Its totally deteriorated even worse than pop rock has. It appears that record labels & radio stations want to feed today's music listeners dumb & dumber lyrics and, guess what, they're buying. Why? I wish I knew but as long as we keep buying it they'll keep pumping it out.

The pop music scene has never been as banal as it is today. The disco classics of the 70's, at one time the object of scorn & mockery, seem like slivers of genius compared to today's music. At the end of the day, if you like what's playing on the radio and feel you've being programmed somehow, so what? No need to hate yourself. We've been programmed one way or another since childhood anyway and some of us still are: If you don't go to college, you won't be successful. If you have pimples, you won't get laid. Cool people drink Coke. Chicks will overlook you if you have thin or balding hair. etc.

Want something different? Spend some time online and read any of the many excellent music blogs out there (@earfarm @gorillavsbear @altsounds @stereogum) and check out the many great bands being ignored by mainstream radio that are producing excellent music.

But if you like Lady Gaga & Lil Wayne, it's OK. You can still live a productive and rewarding life. Just don't beat up on your kids, drive drunk, cheat on your spouse or cheer for the NY Yankees. Then you'll really have a reason to be ashamed of yourself.

Nuff said.

MarcLuber · June 21, 2010 at 11:53 am

Great post. Interesting perspective. Did you hate “Smells Like Teen Spirit” because it was being shoved down your throat by media like MTV or b/c you didn't like the song? I'd argue that MTV hammered us with it (and I was very thankful) because it was finally something that rocked that could shove all the horrible crap they had been hammering us with off the airwaves! Think about what MTV was pushing in the years between “Sweet Child O' Mine” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit”…..I'd argue that the grunge era, despite the joke that it became once mainstream media jumped on to it (flannel fashion shows and fashion magazine covers), was the last time that quality music and the mainstream intersected.

The theme of “being programmed” is a great one to keep exploring and writing about. It's what drives so much of our society from not just the media people choose to digest but the products people buy and the chain stores and chain restaurants where people spend their money, the politicians they elect and the list goes on and on….

Justin Kownacki · June 21, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Personally, at 15, I hated “Smells Like teen Spirit.” Not that I was
a hair metal fan, either. But Nirvana just struck me as noise and
purposeful laziness.

“Come as You Are” and “In Bloom” were, in my opinion, better. And,
later, “Heart-Shaped Box” and “All Apologies.” I realize in
retrospect that none of them would have been possible had MTV not
first embraced “Teen Spirit” and “Lithium,” but I still hated them at
the time.

Related: I almost vomited the other day when I caught myself singing
along with a Puddle of Mudd song. Evidently, my righteous indignation
toward crap has a shelf life of about a decade, after which time I'll
even accept the knock-off of a knock-off of something I used to
detest.

But still probably never Creed.

Probably.

John McLachlan · June 21, 2010 at 5:25 pm

Who is Lady Gaga?

Andy Theo · June 22, 2010 at 10:41 am

Justin,

First, as to my personal music, I'm actually anti-Radiohead and anti-Wilco for the same reasons, in the critical clique, as you say most people are anti-pop. I actually think that the pop music of '09-'10 is an improvement from the complete cesspool that it has been since grunge died off and was replaced by the nonstop parade of bland r&b garbage.

As to why persons say they hate being programmed but programmers seem to be moving things further away from what these individuals would prefer, I think the marketers/programmers realize that it's a lack of ROI to try to satisfy that audience. There IS an audience that will listen to Ke$ha three times in an hour and are probably more willing to purchase Coors Light and the newest Madden for Xbox or whatever else is being hawked by those media outlets. As for the audience that prefers My Morning Jacket, their preferences are likely for purchases that either don't have a vast marketing budget or simply don't need one.

Justin Kownacki · June 22, 2010 at 12:53 pm

Hmm… That's actually kind of fascinating, and quite probably true.

But in what way would the purchase patterns of MMJ fans not benefit
(or require) a vast marketing budget? Does that mean their pool of
likely purchases is smaller by nature, and that they already know how
and where to find what they're looking for on their own? Or does the
mainstream benefit from its unending advertising because, by buying a
Ke$ha album, you're defining yourself by embracing something
*everyone* understands? Unity through commonality, etc.

This excerpt from a new book by Ta-Nehisi Coates, which mentions the
way gold chains and rap defined the urban youth of the '80s, seems to
dovetail perfectly into this discussion:
http://www.theatlantic.com/personal/archive/201

Teresa Basich · June 22, 2010 at 2:15 pm

This comment string totally triggered thoughts of Stockholm syndrome, where a hostage falls in like/love with his or her captor. The way we learn to cope with forced situations is really intriguing, and I'd agree that there's a heavy push to love pop music to a degree that actually gets us tapping our toes, but grudgingly. Pop culture is holding us hostage, and we're learning to grin and bear it? Maybe?

Russ · June 23, 2010 at 8:39 am

This fits perfectly with an article I read regarding Interscope Records and how music sales are the lowest they have been since the early 70s. Artists and labels still blame digital piracy, and to some degree they are right, but how much longer should we as consumers have to endure a CD or iTunes album download which is 6 tracks of 2 minute forgettable songs, one “intro” track and two (gag) “outtro” tracks by an artist that can barely spell?

Judy Helfand · June 25, 2010 at 8:04 am

Hi Justin,
Remember me? We met on #blogchat last Sunday. I don't listen to much Pop Music, but that shouldn't surprise you. I am 60! Your statement: “But they are the ones the record labels have decided to promote. And if they’re promoted enough, they become popular by sheer force of marketing will.” reminds me of the old days of Payola. Big scandal, not unlike what went on with Quiz Shows in the 50s. The bottom line was/is that these companies were controlling our minds, dictating our likes and dislikes.

Music becomes very personal, sometimes a song is playing in the background when you are experiencing a dramatic life event. The music becomes imprinted on our brain. My oldest son is getting married in October. (Picture PhishPhan) He recently asked guests to submit 10 songs that they would like the DJ to play at the wedding. I took this assignment very seriously, even told him what each song meant to me.
I have a feeling I will be lucky to hear “Moon River”…good memories of my parents and falling in love, etc. Days long ago when a great movie had a great song…and you learned every word.

Thanks for your provocative post.

Justin Kownacki · June 25, 2010 at 9:07 am

If music becomes embedded in our lives after being experienced during
a dramatic event, it's no wonder the labels want to make ABSOLUTELY
SURE their song is playing during as many dramatic life moments as
possible…

Hollywood legend has it that after a screening of Breakfast at
Tiffany's, one of the execs stood up and said, “I don't know about
that movie, but that f***ing song is OUT.”

Ah, history…

Judy Helfand · June 25, 2010 at 9:18 am

You are correct about the Breakfast at Tiffany's…also there was supposedly a huge battle over who should sing the song. They did not want Audrey Hepburn to sing the song, they wanted another singer to do it and she would lip-sync. She was the one that insisted she wanted to sing it.
But no one sang it like Andy Williams. I have his autograph from when he appeared at the San Diego Fair in the mid 60s…whew!

Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer had so many great hits.

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Megan Stacey · August 9, 2010 at 3:29 pm

I definitely appreciate where you're coming from on this one. When I was in middle school, I was hopelessly out of the pop loop. The “cool” thing in a small town is to rebel. I didn't listen to the radio at all.

Fast forward a few years, my family moved provinces, and I found myself in a new school, desperate to make friends. It didn't take long to realize that the “cool” thing was American Eagle and pop radio, and so I found myself immersing myself in that lifestyle. I've remained a pop music fan, and I don't regret that decision at all, but it led to something unfortunate: I became at Jonas Brothers fan at the age of 17. Pop radio was still “cool” at that age, but the average age of a JoBros fan was 14. I had completely missed the boat. So, after a few years of hiding my secret shame, I began to embrace the “ironic” side of teenybopper pop.

Yes, I know that Disney's marketing team is sucking out my soul. Yes, I'm aware that Miley Cyrus isn't THAT talented. I get that deliberately and obviously NOT selling sex (through the use of three highly publicized purity rings) is just as lucrative as selling sex. I know. I'm in college, studying integrated marketing communications.

But that won't stop me from “ironically” putting the new Hannah Montana album on my iPod.

Justin Kownacki · August 10, 2010 at 8:00 am

Your anecdote reminds me of the hyper-compressed view we have of time
during our youth. (And I say this from the ripe old vantage point of
33.)

I can remember elements of my gradeschool, high school and college
life incredibly clearly, but most of the past decade is a blur. I can
also remember how vast the chasm between 14 and 17 seemed, whereas 30
seems quite similar to 45.

Pop culture is such a clear definition of who we are during the
specific times and stages of our emerging lives, and who we are
changes so rapidly during our teen & young adult years that individual
songs and films become emotional signposts. Then, one day, you wake
up and you have no idea how anyone could possibly enjoy whatever
they're playing on the radio, and suddenly it hits you:

You're no longer a target demographic.

Gwen Schmidt · August 13, 2010 at 7:46 am

There's one glaring problem with the premises here, though. Pop Radio is specifically targeted towards Teens, and neither you nor your friends are anywhere near that age bracket at this time.

I will point out that the 80s' popularity with Pop Radio actually had very little to do with the socio-political culture — Reagan was in the White House, and while he was a nice guy, he really wasn't any better than GWB. No, the 80s saw a great surge in Pop Radio because of .. the novelty of MTV. Pop Music was who got the funding to make those videos that brought us into this weird new world of visual music…. “Video Killed the Radio Star” was very true.

Since then, the radio execs who really do control what is popular music have been trying to figure out how to recapture that golden age of force feeding the public the current trends in music. The easiest target market for this are teens, of course, so pop music radio stations are really geared towards that demographic. Once we grow out of our teenage years, we grow out of pop music as well by either realizing that we don't actually like pop music, or we cling to what we did like when it was popular (which keeps it off current radio). Those few who do like to keep up with the current trends don't necessarily like to do so via the radio, which also comes with commercials, banter, and other items which will be fundamentally targeted towards teens.

Justin Kownacki · August 13, 2010 at 7:50 am

I don't think I ever articulated this to myself in this way, but
you're right: The popular music we like ceases to be “popular” as we
age because “popular” is being co-opted as an age-specific signal.
The music we like(d) didn't change, and our tastes didn't change, but
time passed and we ceased to be allowed to live in “the now.”

How insidious.

Gwen Schmidt · August 13, 2010 at 2:46 pm

There’s one glaring problem with the premises here, though. Pop Radio is specifically targeted towards Teens, and neither you nor your friends are anywhere near that age bracket at this time.nnI will point out that the 80s’ popularity with Pop Radio actually had very little to do with the socio-political culture — Reagan was in the White House, and while he was a nice guy, he really wasn’t any better than GWB. No, the 80s saw a great surge in Pop Radio because of .. the novelty of MTV. Pop Music was who got the funding to make those videos that brought us into this weird new world of visual music…. “Video Killed the Radio Star” was very true. nnSince then, the radio execs who really do control what is popular music have been trying to figure out how to recapture that golden age of force feeding the public the current trends in music. The easiest target market for this are teens, of course, so pop music radio stations are really geared towards that demographic. Once we grow out of our teenage years, we grow out of pop music as well by either realizing that we don’t actually like pop music, or we cling to what we did like when it was popular (which keeps it off current radio). Those few who do like to keep up with the current trends don’t necessarily like to do so via the radio, which also comes with commercials, banter, and other items which will be fundamentally targeted towards teens.

Justin Kownacki · August 13, 2010 at 2:50 pm

I don’t think I ever articulated this to myself in this way, butrnyou’re right: The popular music we like ceases to be “popular” as wernage because “popular” is being co-opted as an age-specific signal.rnThe music we like(d) didn’t change, and our tastes didn’t change, butrntime passed and we ceased to be allowed to live in “the now.”rnrnHow insidious.

philosoraptor · April 9, 2011 at 9:01 pm

Hi Justin,nnI think you are correct in your final analysis. I have never been able to resolve the paradox of my despising present pop culture while harbouring a nostalgic enjoyment of past pop culture. I also cannot stand the “indie darlings” which Pitchfork programs the indie kids to blindly adopt as “relevant and artistic.” I realized this when I worked at a hipster bar and they played indie radio all day. I hate hearing Sleigh Bells and Sufjan Stevens all day just as much as Gaga, despite the fact that I loved these artists when I first heard their albums. nnWhat is offensive is not necessarily the musical content itself, but rather the form of its presentation; the normative aspect which requires that you like THESE “artists” and THESE singles. This is why I can throw on a Third Eye Blind or Jimmy Eat World cd in my car and not want to gouge out my eardrums: when heard in a context of free choice, pop music, indie, etc. takes on a more aesthetic – and hence, enjoyable – aspect rather than one of normativity, social pressure, and manipulation – all of which are antithetical to a genuine aesthetic experience. nnThat said, to partially contradict this analysis, I do -to a certain degree- think that contemporary pop music is objectively shit. I agree in a sense with Gwen who identifies the important point of “manufactured desire.” Benjamin Barber points this out in his fantastic book, “Consumed.” The idea here is that cultural industry in contemporary capitalism is primarily driven by “tweens” who, counterintuitively enough, have the largest proportion of expendable income for “cultural commodities.” Thus, you have an entire cultural industry targetting – and being determined by – 9-14 year olds looking desperately for an identity to cling to . nnThis is precisely why pop music sucks so much: it is specifically created to encapsulate what Herbert Marcuse identified as “repressive desublimation.” That is to say, budding adolescents engage with these “artists” insofar as the identity of that commodity represents a type of desublimation. Thus, you get insecure boys buying into the whole “gangster” image of hyper-masculinity; girls buying into “ideal-desired-objects” of Katy Perry, etc. Now, don’t forget that all these “artists” are marketed primarily as “total packages,” with clothing lines, fragrances, hair products, etc. This is where the “repressive” aspect comes in. You capitalize on youth’s existential and sexual longings for identity, confidence, etc. and then allow them to “desublimate” these needs through a framework which presents the only options available as ones which are profitable. To an extent, this also describes genres of “punk” “goth” and “indie” etc., where, paradoxically, the desire to be transgressive s encapsulated in a “lifestyle” commodity which you can purchase. Want to “fight the man?” buy these clothes and this cd, and so on.nnThus, while certain elements of “pop” are undeniably catchy, they are “catchy” in the same way as the theme song for “mini-wheats” commercials is: They are meant to stick in your head, they are silly, fun, and perhaps, good to get drunk and grind on the dance floor to. However, would you ever really throw any of these tunes on a record player and just sit there – sober- and listen to for hours the way you might with Radiohead, Pink Floyd, or Brahms for that matter? Of course not; they are manufactured to have maximum immediate gratification and “stickiness” but not depth or genuine musical value. How much money did companies make when I bought OK Computer and listened to mainly only that album for an entire year vs. Buying a new shitty pop album each week on I-Tunes as well as the poster, the perfume, the lip-gloss, the clothes, etc?

Justin Kownacki · April 12, 2011 at 2:29 am

How did the tweens become the most coveted economic demographic? Theyrncan’t possibly work enough hours of unskilled labor to generate realrnbuying power. Although, I suppose it IS all entirely disposablernincome…rnrnSo, here’s a weird question: why would an industry purposely exposerntweens to “bad” music when there’s so much good music available? Isrnit because “bad” music is easier, more broadly appealing and cheaperrnto create / control / brand / monetize?rnrnTo be fair, I actually don’t hate a lot of pop music. Being exposedrnto it endlessly, I actually end up finding something to appreciaternabout it over time — certainly more than I would if I’d just listenedrnonce and clicked away. But “better” music can usually succeed withoutrnneeding to bludgeon its audience into submission.

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Ray banOakley Frogskin Sunglasses  Outlet and Harley, ZIPPO lighter with American cultural symbol. Ray ban English called Ray-Ban Ray Ban, glare, or barrier, block blinding light is the essence of sunglasses. In the first half of the twentieth Century, Oakley Frogskin Sunglasses  Saleis performing arts sector known acts, Gary Grant, Audrey Hepburn are its loyal. Now, this brand in the fashion RayBan of people’s daily with the frequent exposure law. Wayfarer type white box, Cheap Oakley Frogskin Sunglasses , hawksbill turtle … … Ray ban sunglasses frame is different in Hollywood star’s face, with formal clothes, appearing on various occasions

Glennbub_007 · December 18, 2012 at 10:41 pm

Because its sad. The music and tv industry designs and mocks it for the lowest common denominators of society which happens to be most of the people in the USA. Easy sell. Our socity has become dumber and dumber.

Tweets that mention Justin Kownacki - The Popularity Paradox: Why Do We Hate Pop Culture? -- Topsy.com · June 21, 2010 at 9:46 am

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Popular Music is stupid! So what? « Danperezfilms's Blog · June 23, 2010 at 1:51 pm

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