(I'm back. Did you miss me?)
I am well known amongst my friends for being pretentious. Alright, let's be honest: anyone who talks to me for more than five minutes knows I'm a horribly pretentious snob that hates fun. Passionately. So it probably shouldn't surprise you that I don't have fond feelings for Fox's new foremost show, Glee. For those of you unfamiliar with it, the show consists of the poorly scripted antics of a Glee club, interspersed with autotuned musical numbers that make Rent look exciting. It's not exactly high art, even for television.
So why do I care? After all, I barely watch television as it is, so why can't I leave well enough alone? That link I embedded should make things clear. To summarize, the cast of Glee (who, may I remind you, can't sing a note without the aid of computers) are now the foremost musical group in history, in regards to the Billboard charts. Yes, they are now, at least on one level, more successful than the Beatles.
I'm mad. I'm so mad that I can't even swear properly. Half an hour's gone by without me taking the name in vain; I'm sure my coworkers must believe I've gone catatonic. This is the final sign of how awful pop music has become, the surest signal I've seen yet that the music industry has drowned itself in an ocean they weren't even aware of. Pop is dead.
Which makes it very ironic that the modern era is what has brought us the insulting 'poptimist' movement. They assert that one should not judge empty, vapid pop music harshly, because even it displays a particular brilliance of songwriting. Fuck you, no it doesn't. Let's ignore the Tin Pan Alley written-by-committee aspect of most pop for a moment and address simple content: do you honestly intend to compare "Umbrella" with "Suzanne"? Danceability and hooks-per-minute are not competent measures of musical quality; emotion, lyrical depth, and lyrical/melodic complexity are.
I'm not arguing in favor of complexity for complexity's sake. I hate math rock and progressive metal as much as most other people. What I'm arguing for is a sense of human connection. You know I love blues music? It's not because it was recorded on impossibly shitty equipment (which has no bearing on anything other than when the artists were alive and how poor most of them were), it's because, despite the poor fidelity, you still feel something when you listen to those songs. I do, at least.
The more committee driven music becomes, the more we allow computers to perfect every pitch, and the less people care about where the music is coming from, the less authentic and emotional it becomes. It's not difficult to make people feel cheerful and upbeat, but it is difficult to make them think of something. Good music, really good music, elicits a response either by reminding you of something in your past or making you believe in what the singer says. This isn't easy, which is why artists are a rare breed. Everyone can make dance music (remember disco?). An Avon lady could make a competent pop song, given enough time and a crack team of producers to back her up. But no one remembers her for more than a few minutes.