I’ve had a Pop fetish that dates from the time I heard the first “woo!” (at :08) in the Jackson 5′s “The Love You Save” on the bus in first grade. It likely started earlier, but that is the first historical evidence I have. I may have been a solitary, frightened, stripe-trousered, snaggle-toothed kid, but I knew a good hook when I heard one. I’ve been chasing that first potent bolus of Pop energy ever since. Admitting this ain’t easy.
You see, Pop has a philosophical problem, especially with the music intelligensia (self-appointed and otherwise), and that problem is right there in the name. The equation goes like this: Pop = popular = the unschooled hordes = immediately suspect. It’s the old Bread & Circuses conundrum. Complicating matters is 50 years of wretched pop music, and of songs lazily called Pop that actually aren’t. For instance, Michael Jackson will never be the King Of Pop, because he didn’t make pop music as Michael Jackson…but he sure as hell did with the Jackson 5.
So what’s the difference? I suspect–though have never verified–that it could be proven scientifically that certain chord progressions and melodies hit that sweet spot in the Western brain. For want of a better word, let’s call them “hooks,” since everyone else does. I am a hook junkie and the best Pop artists manipulate them to their advantage. ABBA, for instance, leads with the hook in “Dancing Queen” (an undebatably brilliant Pop song…just ask Jeff Tweedy). In “Go All The Way,” the Raspberries get to the hook in short order and drive it home no less than 6 times in 3 minutes and 25 seconds. Hooks don’t have to slap you upside the head like these, but there they must be! Listen to Pernice Brothers, Big Star, Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, and Lambchop for just how sophisticated and infectious these can be.
Out of sheer laziness, I will say that Pop is ultimately undefinable or, at least, is best served through examples. I will have at least 30 of these at your disposal this Sunday from 1 to 3 on Left Of The Dial, only on Grow Radio!