Pop "Music"

December 9, 2011
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Imagine a typical computer. It makes all the regular electronic noises, all the beeps and clicks and buzzes that you’d expect a computer to produce. Everyone knows that those aren’t real sounds, they’re completely synthesized. Unfortunately, when you listen to modern day pop music, those computer sounds are most of what you hear. Those beeps make up the backgrounds in Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok.” Those clicks keep the beat in Katy Perry’s “California Gurls.” Those buzzes are the catchy melody in LMFAO’s “The Party Rock Anthem.”

Most people don’t take time to recognize what is making up the “music” they are listening to. When’s the last time you were listening to your favorite song on the radio and stopped, took a moment, and tried to recognize the different instruments or the traces of auto-tune? If you did, you’d probably find the former surprisingly difficult and the latter shockingly easy. Auto-tune has been in use since 1998 when Cher first used it in her song “Believe.” It is now used universally, by almost every pop artist, and plenty of artists in other genres. It’s so common that the artists who don’t use it have started specially labeling their un-altered albums. This labeling has become so rare that it’s even been referred to by some artists as “CD freak-flagging.”

Contrary to the all-too-common misconception, auto-tune (the best-known name for pitch correction) doesn’t make a person’s voice sound “better”, it actually disguises missed notes and corrects pitch, so that singers don’t even have to sing their own songs correctly to record and publish them sounding perfect. This means that record companies can happily use artists that actually, as most people put it, “can’t sing.”

On the topic of instruments (or lack thereof), when you listen to a pop song, chances are, that “drum beat” is really a “drum machine beat” and that background melody is synthesized, not recorded. This may not sound like much of an issue if the music is still catchy, but it takes away from the celebration of real musicians who spend their lives dedicated to music as an art form. Among modern day pop listeners, artists are renowned for their music being catchy and nothing else. Since purely catchy music can be made without any use of instruments, the music that takes true instrumental talent and dedication (such as improvised jazz, classical/orchestral, etc) fades into the background.

The biggest problem with pop music, in my opinion, is its alarming takeover of the iTunes charts and the radio, and the way it has replaced other genres. Today,
December 2nd 2011, the top ten songs on iTunes, in order, are by Bruno Mars, Rihanna, LMFAO, Flo Rida, Kanye West, Maroon 5, ADELE, Katy Perry, T-pain, and David Guetta. What’s so concerning about that? Exactly one of those ten artists uses a real instrument: ADELE on piano in “Someone like you.” Listening to the radio proves even more disappointing, the vast majority of songs played on the popular music stations are the typical “pop” songs, complete with electronic sounds and auto-tuned voices.


This means that the music most young people are being exposed to, peer-pressured into listening to, and easily finding, is pop music. Purely because of its “coolness” and catchiness, it has begun replacing other genres in the world of common music. With its computer-generated instrument sounds and altered vocals, what we call “pop music” is hardly music at all, yet it’s become all we listen to.





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