Why Pop Music Sucks Now
A few weeks ago I discovered a little gem on You Tube in the form of 3 videos comprising a documentary about British girl group Bananarama. It charted their origins as a group, their growth to fame and fortune in England, their U.S. breakthroughs with "Cruel Summer" and Venus", the subsequent resignation of founding member Siobhan Fahey, the brief addition of a new third member in the form of Jacquie O'Sullivan and how they finally carried on as a duo after she left.
Now for those of you who may be confused how I can go ga-ga over the hard rocking ladies of Sleater-Kinney in one entry and then be frighteningly well versed in all things Banaramian, let me tell you a few things about me: neither myself nor anyone is born Punk Rock and when I was 12 I became absoulately obsessed with the 'Nanas. That love has lasted through today and I can love the hell out of a song like "Shy Boy" or "Love In The FIrst Degree" as much as I can for "Dig Me Out" or "One Beat". And if any of you have ever seen the video for "You're No Rock-n-Roll Fun" and don't see just a slight Banaramish moment when they get to the whole 3-way split screen with the Corin, Carrie and Janet bopping around then I can't help you. I personally saw that as their little girl group tribute moment.
But back to the ladies Banana. So I watched this documentary and, aside from loving all the little tidbit interviews with the women currently (including how completely bizarre and awesome Sibobhan is and how Jacquie O'Sullivan has the best hairstyle in the universe), it was really interesting to hear about how unintentional the group was in it's early years. Everyone, including the 3 original members of Bananarama, talked about how they didn't have a clue how to be a Famous Pop Group going into it and were mainly pissing around and having a laugh. It just so happened that it caught on and they kept making records to keep up with the demand. When you see their early videos you see them laughing, goofing around, forgetting to lip sync and having a full-on blast. It's like the fountain splashing moment in the Go-Go's video for "Our Lips Are Sealed" or everyone dancing around all crazy in Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Want To Have Fun". No one was trying to be a vampy sex kitten or a posied and polished performer. They were having a blast doing something they loved and enjoying the ride.
And that's when it occured to me: this is why pop music is so utterly suckass today. And I am not talking about "pop" in terms of catchy or hook-y music. I am talking about "pop" as an abbreviation for "popular". And I can't tell you the last time I saw someone who makes pop music today having any fun. When I see music videos for Britney, Christina, Beyonce, whoever, etc. and so on, I don't see fun. I don't see frivolity. And I certainly don't see anything that is accidental, non-caclulated or silly. I see people working so hard to create an image, to ooze sexuality out of every airbrushed orifice and to turn into a blank slate for us to project all of our fantasies and product placements onto. I even see this when I look at the current incarnation of Bananarama with their pseudo lesbian chic poses and their Kyliewannabe songs. Which is rich considering how they existed long before Ms. Minogue ever sang over a synthesized track. It makes me sad. It makes me wish they didn't have to become that in order to continue on.
And this isn't some tirade against sexy women or anything like that. Although I could write volumes about how depressing it is to see so many young female (and male for that matter) performers being taught how to make their sexuality a consumable good as opposed to really living it and expressing in a way that was good and healthy and exciting for them. What it's about is missing a time when music felt like something created by people. Sure there are tons of indie bands and underground stuff, but even some of that is following a pattern and being created in board meetings and marketing sessions. When I was growing up it seemed like even mainstream pop music had a playfulness to it at times; an elemnt of it that wasn't so fashioned and polished and sleek. But who knows, maybe that was just the pose of the day.