It’s Abi here! I’ll be blogging every Wednesday, and, as I’m the only woman in TYA, they shall now be known as Woman Wednesdays, and will cater to a slightly girlier sensibility. [Update: This was a horrible description of what I intend for this column. Look to the comment section for further explanation.]
First stop, pop music. I am a shameless fan of pop music. You may judge me, but the most-played artists on my iPod right now are these Fab 4:
I used to be embarrassed about how much I enjoyed these rather commercial artists. Indeed there was once a time when you’d find me trying to hide my love for this kind of bubblegum pop. Like, “Oh I know it’s not ‘good’ music, but it’s so catchy!” or, “It’s my guilty pleasure!” or, “Well, I downloaded the songs so it’s not like I’m paying for the stuff.”
Those dark days are over.
I love pop, and I’m not afraid to show it! In fact, I’ll admit that I own the most recent albums of ALL 4 of these artists. Yep that’s right, I bought Justin Bieber’s My World 2.0, and the other 3 albums as well. And my world is now filled with 100x more rainbows, cotton candy, and sunshine. (N.B. You really should buy music legally; it’s just the right thing to do.)
There’s just something about pop that I find appealing, something deeper than a danceable beat or catchy hook. I think that its charm lies in its simplicity—both that of subject matter and expression. They are almost invariably about love, that most universal of topics. In particular though, love songs by young pop artists combine the all-consuming emotional drama so particular to teenager-dom with youthful naïveté, creating an uncynical attitude towards romance that is both compelling and endearing. Form and content work together to create perfectly buoyant pop music as the simplicity of the lyrics serves to emphasize the songs’ uncensored sentimentality.
1. Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” embodies this combination. On the one hand it’s unbelievably, unbearably in love, “You brought me to life”. On the other, it’s adorably fresh-faced and optimistic, “You think I’m pretty without any makeup on…Let’s run away and never look back”, perfectly encapsulating the freewheeling, endless quality of adolescent romance.
2. Justin Bieber’s “Baby” also juxtaposes childish lyrics with deep sentiment. “And we will never ever ever be apart” may sound like a 5-year old wrote it, but it’s about as emotionally extreme as you can get, and anyone can relate to the song’s tale of first heartbreak.
3. Taylor Swift follows in the same vein, fusing adolescent drama with youthful innocence. In “Speak Now” she fantasizes about interrupting a wedding and running away with the groom, but the adult scenario is described in tellingly childish terms as she calls herself a girl and the groom a boy, and mocks the bride’s “snotty little family”. It’s hardly grown-up language or behaviour, but it’s a deeply satisfying fantasy nonetheless.
4. Reigning teen Selena Gomez’s song “Bang Bang Bang” is a sassy, impetuous shot at an ex, to whom she shows off her hot new boyfriend. Deliciously catty, she sings “I thought your love was all that, until I let him in…Baby don’t hold your breath, I’ve moved on to the next one.” It’s the kind of drama queen line you can only find in pop music, never in real life–an adolescent daydream sung out loud.
I guess what I’m saying is that pop music deserves some more credit than the critics usually give it. It wouldn’t be the same without its 100% earnestness and simple (but not simplistic!) lyrics. More complex and innovative music exists, and there are undoubtedly more talented songwriters and vocalists out there, I don’t deny it. Yet there’s something to be said for those who craft exceptional pop songs and the superstar personalities who perform them. I for one will never be ashamed of my musical pleasures again.
I’ll cap it off with a more mellow song from the flawless Miss Gomez that perfectly combines the intoxicating nature of young love with an innocent optimism and sense of timelessness. “We Own the Night”, featuring cute Brit Pixie Lott, needs no further introduction. Please just enjoy, shame-free.