Watched part of the MTV awards. Kelly Clarkson sang her guts, and voice, out at the end. Then droids in “hip” suits did the “after the show” schtick:
*Droid1: Well, I don’t know how it was at home, but here in the theater it was really exciting.
Droid2: Yeah, Bob, really exciting.
D1: Stay with us for the after the event excitement.
D2: Yeah, Bob, excitement.
I’m not sure what a skit on an awards show has to do with it, but popular music has definitely been getting progressively weirder for a few years now. There’s a current hit single where the hook is the rapper yelling his (real) phone number out in time to the beat, and Gwen Stefani’s recent Hollaback Girl reads like Finnegan’s Wake compared to the last 30 years or so of popular music.
I’ve been saying for a few years now that “pop” is tending a little away from its rock roots and towards more hip-hop based stuff… but I don’t know how that’s necessarily weird as opposed to an indication of the growing position of hip-hop and rap in musical culture.
Other than that, meh. I’m with betenoir - very little that isn’t tedious and predictable. Some of it’s not really that bad, and some of it could be called “stupid” at times (I can spell bananas, thanks), but “weird” is probably too much of a compliment for straight pop these days.
Just at the moment - Mike Jones yells out his real cell phone number in any song he appears on, inviting you to call him. He’s offered it up in about 10 different cadences so far, and it’s become his gimmick. Two of the songs on his record have choruses built around samples from other songs on his record. The chorus to his big single, “Back Then,” is built around a sample from a line a throwaway verse in another track on the album. How deliciously meta- and postmodern!
R. Kelly just did one of the most ridiculous things in popular music in decades - releasing the first single from his new album as a 5-part serialized story, complete with videos for each song. What a ridiculously proggy and conceptual move from a guy associated with peeing on underage girls and doing lowest-common-denominator R&B!
Have you heard any of Timbaland’s production work? The man put Whitney Houston on a song built around a thumb piano loop, Aaliyah on a song where a baby’s cry was morphed into a melodic lead line, and he’s only gotten weirder with his recent production jobs for Missy Elliot’s new album and Bubba Sparxx’s new single. The guy’s the John Cage of pop music.
Those are just a few examples! It’s definitely werider than it’s been in a while!
Pop music has become incredibly creative of late. In the past 5 years, successful songs have included:
Timbaland has made a slew of songs based on diwali rhythms and south asian melodies eg. Missy Elliot’s “Get Ur Freak On”, Bubba Sparxxx’s “Ugly”
R.Kelly constructed a multi-part mini-opera, complete with characters, twists, cliffhanging conclusions and more ironic cheese than you can poke a stick at - “Trapped In The Closet”
The Neptunes production for Snoop Dogg’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” consisting solely of a rhythm track formed mostly from tongue clicks, the rapper’s name stretched to sound like a slide whistle and a descending keyboard line that appears intermittently.
Mike Jones’ “Still Tippin’”, which features a hook consisting of a slowed down (screwed) sample of a guest rapper. It’s thick, eerie and sludgey. Jones’ follow up single, “Back Then” used a slowed-down vocal sample from his previous hit as the hook.
Daddy Yankee had a major hit with “Gasolina,” an entirely Spanish rap in the Puerto Rican form of reggaeton
The invasion of Jamaican Dancehall music, in its pure form, and in other forms such as hip hop and R&B - see Sean Paul, Nina Sky, Lumidee’s “Uh Oh” for popular examples.
Crunk - an entire genre of rap music based on shouted chants, steely, electronic keyboards and bass-heavy drum machine beats that owes as much to techno as it does to hip hop.
Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl” - a cheerleading chant that manages to turn the aesthetic into a pop song rather than just tacking it on to a conventional pop song as Toni basel’s “Mickey” did. See not only the chanted vocals, but the stomps-as-rhythm and school band horns.
“Mundian Te Bach Ke” - A banghra track made by an Indian-Englishman with vocals added by American rapper Jay-Z
Kelis’ “Milkshake” - playground chants, a chime, a grinding synthesizer - unearthly pop bliss.
Kelis’ “Caught Out There” - it’s 5 years old and it still sounds crazy. Kelis screams rather than sings the hooks and the melody is a weird descending keyboard line that pitch shifts itself all over the place.
Clipse’s "Grindin - not sure if this was ahit, actually, but it should have been, and it still sounds crazy weird.
Outkast’s “B.O.B.” collision of breakneck hip hop, drum’n’bass, rock, soul and pop.
Destiny’s Child’s “Jumpin Jumpin” - when this came out there was nothing like it. Jerky, stop start rhythm, twiddly keyboard.
Britney Spears’ “Slave 4 U” - Back when I used to lurk here when this came out, there was a thread debating whether this even qualified as music. it’s certainly weird - it’s little more than a thin, rhythmic keyboard loop and a whole lot of panting.
Shall we take a moment and list out all the pop songs in the past five years that didn’t do anything unusual?
There’s never been any shortage of musical experimentalism and advancement, but I don’t know of any reason to believe the last five years have seen more than their fair share. It may well be that it’s becoming more popular, although it’s not clear to me that citing a bunch of examples really makes a case for that.
ultrafilter - many reasons. Competition amonst producers is often credited - the large number of high profile producers around now, each focused on innovation has created a fertile ground for creative pop music. Also, the dominance of hip hop/r&b at an extent that wasn’t present even 5 years ago also helps - hip hop is a diverse, constantly evolving genre that’s still at some level remained part of the community that founded it. This allows innovation that takes place at a local level to quickly find its way into the realm of commercial pop. This rapid dissemination allows local oddities to quickly become a national phenomena - for instance, the Texas scene or crunk or reggaeton. And because hip hop is so popular at the moment, it allows these oddities to filter into other sorts of music in a way that wasn’t possible in previous times - although G-funk was huge, it didn’t really have the capacity to move outside it’s hip hop realm, whereas now you can “Get Crunk with Britney!” Could you imagine Madonna doing a G Funk record in the early 90s? From what I remember, she was doing ballads like “This Used To Be My Playground.”
Of course, there are contemporary pop songs that play it completely by the numbers, but the range of influence and innovation present in pop music right now is certainly higher than average. Musical innovation has always been present, but this thread is specifically discussing popular music, and so while one may be able to point out all the exciting stuff that was happening at an underground level at other times in musical history, what’s notable about the contemporary music landscape is that the mainstream is being as innovative, if not more innovative than the underground.
Weird songs do seem to be getting surpisingly popular with a lot of radio play. As mentioned above, Drop It Like It’s Hot is pretty bizarre. J.Lo’s latest, Get Right has that really weird sax sample repeating through the whole song.
And how about Akon’s Lonely? Taking a Bobby Vinton song’s chorus and speeding it up and singing around it is pretty weird.
Sure there’s always been weird songs around. But most of the ones that goitazi mentions are top 5 singles.
Most of the ones goitazi mentions, at least those I recognize, are just the latest to realize that if you combine techo/synthesized music with ___ it sounds interesting. The Faint and The Information have been doing that with rock - guitar and or drums plus synthesized instruments - for a while too (and The Go Find and Clinic and The Golden Republic…); just not going as far Techo as the likes of Fisherspooner or Daft Punk. It’s not terribly innovative to come up with the idea in hip hop too. I’m surprised he didn’t mention NERD/The Neptunes since they fit the them too, along with whoever has done most of Missy Elliot’s songs. Caught Out There is a great song, though
When I think of “weird” I think of The Flesh (goth punk) or Skindred(?!), or tracks like Sage Francis’ “The Sealion” or Patrick Wolf’s “The Libertine”. Or maybe Iron & Wine’s catchy yet surprisingly popular style…
I dunno. To me, it seems like there’s a lot more interesting pop music out there than their ever was. I can actually listen to Top 40 stations these days and not turn off the station in disgust. When you have production teams like Timbaland, The Neptunes, N.E.R.D., etc… turning out fantastic sounding hit single after single, really exploring groove and sound textures and, man, that bass, it’s hard not to get excited. I mean, check out something like Kelis’s Milkshake. Yeah, overplayed to hell and all that, but it’s fantastic tune. Just the sounds in that song alone give me shivers. It’s nothing short of an incredible pop tune, and it’s got an originality and execution I really haven’t heard in, well, ever.
I mean, I’m not terribly wild about most Top 40 music in general, but I concur with the OP that there seems to be much more quality and innovation these days than there ever was.