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Friday, November 14, 2003
Pitchfork replies to my letter, which also gets published in the mailbag today. I'll eviscerate it in a bit. Ooh, I love it when they just totally ignore points from my original message...


Thanks for writing, man - let's get right to the point... The flaw in the central argument here, when you say it isn't easy to write a traditionally catchy pop song, is that you imply that it IS somehow easy to succeed by making other kinds of music, which is patently false. Succeeding in music AT ALL is incredibly tough! I never said that any dufus with a guitar could churn out something along the lines of Fountains of Wayne. Far from it - but the fact remains that the vast majority of rock bands that enjoy popular success utilize very traditional verse-chorus-verse formulas, and it stands to reason that it's easier to write pop (and by "pop" I mean music specifically designed to appeal to the largest possible audience by being accessible, non-alienating in it's technique, etc) songs along very rigidly structured lines. It MUST be easier to to write pop songs that way - otherwise, the Unicorns would be par for the course, and I'd be touting the not-so-subtlties of Fountains of Freakin' Wayne.

This also highlights the second flaw in your argument; without going on some deflating tirade over the relationship between critics and the audience at large, you somehow take it for granted that critical acclaim is the only success a band can achieve by talking about how difficult it is to write a critically accepted pop song. That much is true - critics are often rough on pop music, but that doesn't keep a whole lot of crap from flying off the racks half the time. Critically, pop gets kicked around a little, but in the market, it's another story... The valuation of those two kinds of success is better left for another day.

To say nothing of how many non-pop bands also find their CD's fighting for dumpster space right alongside pop-rockers... I don't believe that experimental acts should be given points for "trying really, really hard" any more than a pop band should get credit for being merely "catchy", even when every other aspect of the band's sound and practice has been done to death; but when an experimental act manages to push the boundaries of technique AND make something compulsively listenable at the same time, THAT beats a song that rides one killer hook any day of the week.

All I'm trying to say is that given the overwhelming dominance of traditional "PT"'s, as you're calling them, a band that can succeed at creating unfathomably infectious songs without regard to classic structure as the Unicorns have is a stunning feat. There's nothing "wrong" with A-B-A, really, but damn, it could use a rest. As for why the Fountains of Wayne ended up being the example of my (limited) wrath, re-read my argument for the Unicorns, and then go ask Stacey's mom. Only she knows for sure. Thanks again, and feel free to write back any time!