clap clap blog: we have moved

Monday, September 19, 2005
Of course, there is a point to all this: to justify listening to the music we've (I've) been listening to in the way we (I) have been listening to it. Listening to pop, that is, as if it were not-pop; not something on the radio, not something public, but something private.[1] Validating the solitary experience of music that is not generally regarded as being a solitary experience. I think this is something pop partisans have been dancing around but have been reluctant to commit to because where they know it must lead--into auteurism, into conscious artsiness, into self-absorption and pretentiousness and all the things we like pop for not being. But I think it's time; that reading doesn't preclude others, and the transitional period is always real fun.

What I'm suggesting already exists, of course, and all that's necessary is for us to recognize it, to call it by its name enough times until it comes to resemble the word we're using. Precisely because of the very technological changes that Nick Southall decries (-ish) in his essay, you can make a complete pop masterpiece in your bedroom now, as the Scissor Sisters, among others, more or less did. In contrast to the old model of pop, where it was an expensive public undertaking with lots of cooks seasoning the broth, you can now make a top 40 album in exactly the same way you would make a bedroom singer-songwriter album. For people who care about these sorts of things, this is very important, because there is now a one-to-one transmission going on, straight from the artist's brain to yours.

Of course, we don't care about these things, do we? We care about fun. But fun is an invaluable part of this critical model too: if there can be solitary music designed to reassure the sad person by also being sad, why can't there also be solitary music that can actually help the sad person by making them happy? Why expect the depressive to venture into polite society in order to feel succor when they can just as easily retire to a quiet place with a loud stereo and listen to music? Why can't pop actually function as the balm we recognize it for being?

In many ways, we Americans have British pop to thank for this, for being given pop music that's impossible to hear in any way besides the way we'd hear underground noise bands, and thus allowing us to see that both can function in exactly the same way--except, you know, with pop doing it much better. Now we can see that hit singles are also headphones music, that club bangers are backpacker anthems too. You can't play a quiet, slow song at a club, because it won't work, but when you're alone, you can play anything you want, and it will all be intimate.

We need pop music that's unshackled from the four walls of the club, bedroom music that's not limited to sensitivity and smallness but expands to fill your entire body. We need pop music that doesn't worry so much about appealing to demographics but in sounding good regardless. We already have it, but we need to recognize it so it continues to exist, so more is produced, so it becomes something we can choose to listen to rather than happening on by chance. We need minimaximalist pop, and oh baby, we need it now.

[1] This might be something MP3s have given us that we haven't recognized yet--the ability to experience pop music like we experienced it when we first came to it, divorced from its status as a mass-market product, beamed directly into your ears.