Pop bands with real musical genius

So everyone says that John Lennon and Paul McCartney were not mere pop musicians, but were actually brilliant composers. What other pop bands would be judged, by people very knowledgeable about music, to be composing music that is genuinely brilliant?

Please don’t let this generate into a “Band X is teh roxx0r!!!11!1 I love their musics!” thread. I want to know from people who know about music composition: what bands compose(d) music that is truly great (or even really really good)?

The artist list from acclaimedmusic.net. Is that what you mean?

Stephin Merritt, the songwriter behind the Magnetic Fields, Future Bible Heroes, Sixths, Gothic Archies, etc. is second only to Cole Porter as most brilliant, truly genius pop songwriter of the twentieth century.

VCO3 - I know he’s not that famous but are his songs covered much? So many of his songs that I’ve heard had “hit potential” written all over them.

I dunno. I mean, in principle it seems like a good idea–let the critics rank the artists and songs. But when I clicked on the top songs for 2006, “Maneater” and “Promiscuous” by Nelly Furtado were both in the top 15. I popped over to Amazon to give them a listen, and my reaction was :dubious: . But I’ll poke around that site some more and see what I can find.

How do you want to define pop? The way you answer that question changes a lot of my possible answers. Does the band actually have to be popular to be pop? What if they are popular now but not back then?

Magnetic Feilds (to take an already posted example) has amazing music and I would without question catagoize Stephin Merritt as a genius lyricist (and occasionally a profound composer). But even though the songs are poppy, the bands he writes for aren’t exactly well known.

What do you mean by pop?

Because the Magnetic Fields were on an “indie rock” label for most of their existence (before moving to Nonesuch in '03 or so), he’s still not that well-known outside of music/musician circles. Peter Gabriel recorded a cover of “The Book of Love” for the soundtrack of Shall we dance?, and his songs are starting to turn up all over the place, like Debeer’s commercials and even a recent Purina commercial. Since he’s more of a “songwriter’s songwriter” than a star or personality in his own right, it’s going to take time for his music to filter down to the public/pop cultural consciousness.

I am not certain who the genius of the act is but I suspect it is Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian. That band has a way of catching a tune and taking it no further than it needs to go.

I guess in mean in the style of pop, instead of actually popular. So if there were a kick-ass band that sounded like ABBA but only 2 people had ever heard of, that would count for me.

Verse/chorus/verse songs with melodic hooks.

As far as I can see there are two definitions of pop music (at the very least). Music that is popular, be it boyband/girlband balladry or faster songs, r’n’b, hip-hop, in days gone by disco, soul etc. what might be considered shortsightedly as disposable music. The other definition of “pop” is a more hipstery one where it is bands or artists that make “accessible” music, probably on the template of major key '60s pop/rock rather than noisy or disjointed music but aren’t necessarily popular.

Then I would say that Belle and Sebastian, Mangetic Fields, Neutral Milk Hotel, and The New Pornogrophers are all relativly new pop bands that have fantastic composers. If you want to count Radiohead, they do amazing things compositionally, though they are signifigantly less poppy. Same with Modest Mouse.

Going back in time:
The Talking Heads (again if you count them as pop) & Oingo Boingo both wrote fantasic lyrically and sonically complex music. Danny Elfman and David Byrne are still making interesting music, although both of them are farther away from pop now then they were then. The Smiths also did interesting things musically and lyically.

All of the above have, to my ears, a pop aesthetic, but none of them (with the possible exception of Oingo Boingo) are really dance music. If you want fantastic dance music I am out of my depth.

I was specifically asking him though, so he could get an answer to his question. I know how I define pop, but what if he has a broader or narrower deffinition than I do? Or you do. There are people out there who would ask this question and mean only music like Justin Timberlake. There are people who would include Pink Floyd. (In fact your definition of pop includes Pink Floyd, who I think many would not call pop, though I might.)

By way of explaining why I asked.

Brian Wilson has justifiably been called a musical genius.

Good call. Crosby, Still, Nash, & Young as well.

Any band with Frank Zappa in it.
For a very broad definition of “pop.” :smiley:

At the risk of again being a dinosaur, I’d have to vote for Steely Dan. They were composers first and foremost, and their stuff was clearly pop, but with strong jazz (and other) influences.

All these things are subjective, but using the all-time ‘top’ 100 albums as listed there, I’d say the following are examples of true musical and compositional creativity and innovation (not an exhausitive list even from that 100):
The Velvet Underground & Nico

Dylon & Hendrix, no need to pick one single album

The Clash - London Calling

Public Enemy - It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back

Joy Division (I consider them to be a better representation of the punk aesthetic having a permanent effect on the reception of music than the Sex Pistols have had)

Kraftwerk - Trans-Europa Express

Yes, I’ve missed out the Beatles. I don’t think they belong in the list.

Yeah, I’d consider Zappa an excellent musician, and he did some complex compositions, but your definition of pop would have to be so broad as to be meaningless to include him here, I think.

My choice would be XTC (Andy Partridge and, to a lesser extent, Colin Moulding being the songwriters).

ETA: Oh, and I completely agree with Stephin Merritt on the short list.

Without The Beatles, basically no one on your list would have made the music necessary for them to be included (unless you’re only counting Dylan’s folkie/Woody-Guthrie-ripoff-stage, in which case I don’t think he would have belonged, either). Lou Reed, despite what he said in some interviews, was a huge Beatles fan during the VU’s existence.