Posted in Of Musicals

Of What Pop Music is For

Mick Jagger
Mick Jagger

There are two kinds of beauty – one that draws you in, and one that tries to keep you out. The first is what we call attractive, something or someone that we are drawn to, that gives us a sense of pleasure and at the same time, makes us feel at home. The other is what we call, and here is the rare, correct use of the word, awesome. Human beings have a tendency of looking for things bigger than them. It may be an inexplicable function of our DNA, to always be looking for things that challenge us, make us feel relatively small and insignificant, so that we can go after that thing or that person, primarily to eliminate the feeling of being awed that we sought after in the first place. It is this feeling of disappointment that we like to call human progress.

Music around the world roughly divides itself into two categories – folk and classical. You may understand these two terms differently from culture to culture, but the ideas they evoke are similar. The control aspect of this categorization is the same globally – music is beauty. But, there is the music that draws you in and makes you feel at home, while there is the other type of music that mystifies you, and challenges you to understand it.

In the twentieth century, to refer to Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, the relationship between music and the world went “topsy-turvy”. Three things happened – modern politics, advertising and the invention of pop music. All existed in some form or the other before, but here’s what they did: politics decided to represent the disenfranchised and claimed its soul through its music – what is generally called folk. Advertising, on the other hand, celebrated the modern culture of consumerism by claiming the classical representation of taste, affluence and aspiration – classical music. Pop music was created to not only bring both strands together to where they belonged – to the people as objects to be appreciated for their own sake – but also, to redefine and add to what they are meant to do in the first place. It would be grossly underestimating the capacity of pop music to call it democratic. There was nothing, that ever existed in any form, that could surpass its enchantment and its beckoning.

Though musicologists may try and try, there is no rule or spatial/temporal geography for pop music. I’ve spoken about music and community vs. music and individual relationship before, but what makes pop music different from any other musical experience is that even when shared communally, it is always an individual relationship. Always. No matter how much critics try to trash or praise the new popstar, what you feel about the music you listen to is your own. Some of you might disagree, saying that someone or something spoiled an artist for you, or turned you on to them, but remember, with pop music, you can never afford to trick yourself.

I do not have any particular genre in mind when I use the term pop music. That is the best part about it – it can be any music you want it to be. It may be Queen to you, Demi Lovato to someone else, but it’s yours. That’s what counts. It may even be Mozart or Beethoven, because the way you arrive at music is different to the way people arrived at it when the term classical music came to exist (in early to mid 19th c.) in the first place. Classical music had its place, folk also had its place, but the pop attitude makes it possible for music to occupy any place at any time.

Some call it the global language. Some call it the language of love. My own attitude to it, and to art and culture in general, is cosmopolitan. It is my own free art gallery that I can step into anytime, to invoke ideas and emotions in me. I call it the Mick Jagger effect. I’ve already said what makes me feel like Mick Jagger, but here’s what I believe – everyone can, must and does feel like Mick Jagger some of the time. I thoroughly believe music is not for “cool” people. That it is not for people to escape from their dreary lives. It is a freedom, a state of intimacy, connectedness, synergy between your human urges, and your expression of it. Even if Mick Jagger hated being Mick Jagger every night, I bet he couldn’t help how happy it involuntarily makes him, how he must think he has the best job in the world.

Neil Tennant, of Pet Shop Boys, has said that the dancefloor called ‘by yourself in your bedroom‘ is very underestimated, even if that is where the most music gets consumed. I couldn’t agree more. I could put up with anything at a party or some other event, but my music for myself is sacred. No matter how much I talk about it with friends and strangers, it is my own world that no one can ever have access to. Or understand. It is to build that private world we all have, that we need to cope with the outside one, that pop music is for. There cannot be anything more welcoming and awesome than it.


Writer, Blogger, Kate Bush Fanatic

8 thoughts on “Of What Pop Music is For

  1. Excellent post. I don’t have time for a lengthy comment right now, but I want to re-read this and break it down as you make a lot of great points. Well done as always!

    1. Thank you, Robert! I’ve meaning to write on this for a long time, but couldn’t gather my thoughts in a presentable fashion. The commentary I received on last week’s post, including some very perceptive ones from you, largely helped in finally writing this down. So, thank you for that!

  2. I really like your concept of music is sacred and individual. I have a hard time explaining to friends (and even my wife) how important music is to me. I want to hear every nuance, every instrument, every voice. The idea of music as ‘background noise’ at a party to ‘have something on but keep it low because no one will really listen to it is’ abhorrent to me! For once I’d like to have a party where the only thing people are doing is listening to the music. That gives me an idea I think actually lol. I take your point about something intrinsic to pop music which allows it to be a singular experience as well. I was going to actually disagree with you when I read it yesterday but in re-reading it now, I think you are spot on with the observation.

    Excellent post once again! It is without exaggeration for me to say you are one of my favorite bloggers out there.

    1. Thank you, Robert! I am so grateful that you enjoy, and more importantly, engage with my posts. I feel the post is “complete” somehow when that happens.
      I like this idea of music as “background noise”. Might write a post on it. I do put on my favourites when I am doing my chores (Blondie’s Plastic Letters is especially suitable for me when I am doing dishes!) but that is just to ease the pain and the boredom. And usually, unless the music is absolutely abhorrent to me, I can put up with anything. However, unlike a lot of people, I cannot concentrate better with music on. There are a lot of writers here on WordPress who frequently talk about what they listen to while writing, but I just can’t do it! If music is playing, I will listen to it, even if I don’t like it. Like you, I will make it a point to listen to every component. I suppose both of us are just too snobbish about/in love with the experience of listening to music! Not that I regret an iota of it!

      1. First it really is a pleasure reading your work, and am happy my comments feel like they are engaging. Don’t get me wrong, I do put music on when doing household chores or what have you. In those times I suppose it really is background noise as you try to finish those mundane tasks. I can put up with most things as well. I don’t always listen to music when I write, mostly because I write about music and have quite often played the song or album I writing about extensively to better understand it. Once I sit down and write the song is in my head (or the notes I have scribbled) and I find it a distraction. Other times I find it really helps as a free thought kind of exercise. I wrote one blog about the Temptations song Ain’t Too Proud To Beg this way. I kept hitting repeat on my Ipod to stay in the moment and just write what I felt. I may try this again. actually. Looking forward to your next blog! Like them all but your thoughts on music mean the most to me!

  3. Thank you, I read this one before when I first came across your blog Amrita. I think I keyed in initially on all your Of Musical blogs first before I read some of the others. Which is fairly typical for me lol! Another great post. By the way, if you ever want/wish to expand on these comments without filling up your feed here, by all means find me on my various social media (links are in my blogs).

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