In which an Old Fogey (me) gives today’s pop music an honest go

I’ve long prided myself on being open to new styles of music over the years. My music education went something like this: Kiss>Elton John>Elvis Costello>Lou Reed>Eminem>The White Stripes.

I know next to nothing, though, about today’s dance-pop music. I couldn’t tell a Gaga from an Izzy. So I thought I’d make an honest effort to see if there is anything to this stuff that the kids are listening to. Surely there must be something in there that I might, if not love, at least find some value in.

So I went to the local library recently and checked out a bunch of recent “Now That’s What I Call Music” CDs and diligently loaded them all into my music library. I’m talking Bieber, One Direction, Katy P, Miley, Bruno, and a whole lot that I’ve never heard of before. I’ve been listening to this100+ song playlist for a week now.

I can’t stand it. The synthesized drums, the insipid lyrics, and worst of all, the manufactured auto-tuned vocals that sound more robotic than human. Where is the soul? Where is the emotion? Where is the art?

I haven’t listened to all of it yet, and I’m not yet calling it quits, but I am not optimistic. Go ahead, call me a geezer.

But I stand by my assessment. The electro-dance-pop music of today sucks donkey ears.

I’m wondering why you expected anything different.

Oh, wow. You’re a braver man than me.

Thanks for taking that one for the team.

truth isn’t always popular.

When I was growing up, we had pop music crap like Bee Gee’s, Donna Summer, Captain and Tennille, Kenny Rodgers, and other horrible, horrible music. You can always find complete crap music that sells well and creates superstars who live in the public eye for awhile.

I think the same is true now. But there is still some good pop music being made. I like Lourde, Muse, Daft Punk, and many others who have hits on the pop charts. And while I despise Miley, Bieber, and a majority of pop music made today, I really don’t think it’s much different from when we were younger. You have to look for the music you like.

Since the audience for much of this music seems to be the pre- and early teen set, it’s not surprising that it sounds insipid. The six-year old girl who used to live next door was constantly in a swoon over Bieber. Music used to target post-pubescent teens and young adults, but the demographic seems to have shifted somewhat.

Seconded. I spent much of the weekend in the car, listening to (fun and nostalgic) garbage from Nillson, the Carpenters, Chicago, and whatever else came on from the '70’s. This was interspersed with George Ezra, Florence & the Machine, and Hozier, among other new acts I really enjoy. I could never leave the new pop channel on nonstop, but I know enough not to pre-judge new music. There’s enough good stuff out there, it’s just exhausting sometimes to try to find it.

I listen to lots of modern music but I don’t listen to much of the more trendy pop music. There are still many genres of music with new and exciting music. Some crosses over and some doesn’t. Pop music goes in cycles- My tastes were formulated in the late 80s/early 90s- I still listen to a lot of the type of music I listened to then. At various points in time, it’s more mainstream or not. Dance-Pop was big 25-30 years ago, too. Alternative rock radio now plays music that would have been pop in the early 90s and a lot of disco stuff for some inexplicable reason. A few years back, folk-rock was big. Some people who are really out of touch say that hip-hop has taken over, but that was 20 years ago- most hip-hop now like rock and anything else is more underground and highly fractured. You don’t have to like Justin Beiber to like modern music any more than you had to like Vanilla Ice to listen to top 40 in 1991.

There’s more music out there than you could possibly listen to in a lifetime, why waste it listening to crap?

That said, there are plenty of popular artists who don’t need autotune. Lady Gaga uses it stylistically, but she doesn’t need it. Look for her acoustic/unplugged performances on Youtube.

The Saturday Night Fever soundtrack was amazing. I hated it at the time, but over the years it really grew on me. However, I’ll agree, most pop music is crap. Every once in a while I’ll try something new on the radio, and occasionally, I’ll like something. But it does tend to be overproduced. I blame those Beetles and that murderer Phil Spector. (Did you know he’s the new Bond villain?)

I second you taking one for the team. I may listen to stations playing genres I don’t like daily, including languages I don’t understand yet, but I reserve the right to change the station as soon as the song has become one I’m not interested in. Your willingness to be subjected to the preferences of others is to be commended.

So, considering that 90% of anything is crap, what rises to the least painful %10 of your experience?

I wouldn’t be able to do it. Congratulations (I guess :D).

Indeed, I can’t stand 99% of what I hear on the radio but from time to time, there can still be a solid song that gets some serious airplay. Off the top of my head, here are a few that I really like, all from the 2010s:

Ellie Goulding - Lights.
Tom Odell - Another Love .
Sia - Chandelier.
Gotye - Somebody That I Used To Know.
Muse - Uprising (Hmmm ok, 2009 actually).

And if you don’t mind songs in languages other than English:

Indila - Dernière Danse (a really impressive mix of classic French chanson and North African influences).
ZAZ - Gamine (please pay no attention to the silly kazoo introduction).

All of them on youtube. All of them excellent songs in my book.

I didn’t.

Thing is, I know plenty of (younger) adults who like it.

Thanks for the suggestions, I’ll check them out.

And I should admit that I actually like what I’ve heard of Lorde and Adele.

I second the thanks for the link. Chandelier is an excellent song, with an arresting video.

One other highly poppy modern song that I recommend: Bailando, by Enrique Iglesias. It’s a good song, and another one with a great video (I’m a sucker for a video with amazing dancing).

And we’re debating if Beyonce is a megastar in another thread. Too funny.

I hear ya, but I get a bit of exposure to this stuff through my kids. You have to pick and choose, but there is listenable stuff. Bruno Mars is a great performer and musician, whose songs still sound played, not manufactured. Ed Sheeran is a great guitar player and songwriter in the old-school way, who uses modern arrangements too. I still like Lorde’s Royals, overplayed tho it is, and some of Haim’s stuff. St. Vincent sounds like David Bowie meets David Byrne, is a brilliant guitar player and stunningly gorgeous. Listen to Digital Witness off her latest…

The stuff that is based on EDM - Electronic Dance Music - is the most likely to sound like the Cheese Whiz of music. At it’s worst, it’s like programming a workout session more than music. So: don’t listen to that stuff.

The other thing is that when you listed the music of yore, the music you grew up on, I notice a distinct lack of Debbie Gibson and New Kids on the Block. These are the artists you should be listening to if you want to do a fair comparison to Katy Perry and Justin Bieber.

Of the folks you listed that you didn’t like, Bruno Mars is someone I find kind of delightful–“Uptown Funk” is a fun bit of pop. Katy Perry is–well, I tried to like her stuff, I really did, but I find her songs about three and a half minutes of cringing. “All About That Bass” [edit: totally different artist] is super-pop in the poppiest pop tradition, but for some reason I find it a lot more palatable than Katy Perry.

Im currently enjoying George Ezra’s album & Sam Smiths’. Like music of all ages some is awful and some is good. These labels are interchangeable based on who is listening to what

Seconded. I can’t come up with a title but I liked the 2-3 that I’ve heard.

You are listening to the wrong stuff. I’m an old fogey as well (53) and I was forced into listening to the new stuff while riding in the car with my kids. Try Imagine Dragons, Fun, Train, Maroon 5, and even the boy band One Direction has a few good songs (I lived and Night Changes are actually good).

And, if you are going to the library and checking out CD’s you are definitely an Old Fogey. Google the YouTube video and if you like it download it or just stream it.

Generally true, it’s the successor to Disco and has the pounding four beats on the kick drum and long repetitive structure. Dance music is like that.

But… Try Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories”, or (about half) of their “Discovery”. Very musical, I like it a lot. There are vocorder vocals, you’ll have to accept that.

Also, Vampire Weekends “Modern Vampires of the City”

Also, Anything by Royksopp. Start with their 2001 album “Melody A.M.”