Monday, July 31, 2006

Brief Thoughts on Popular Music

Ah, yes, it's time for another rant on the state of music. What fun...

I would have thought that the Red Hot Chili Peppers were confined to the traditional classic-rock mentality of my high school, where many of the students’ musical tastes are based on people old enough that their parents or grandparents could have been fans back in the day they were popular. But of course, that’s not the case. Having gone to Attleboro, Massachusetts (I won’t bother with reasons to make this entry far quicker), I was subjected while there to a mix CD containing the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ greatest hits, all the way from Blood Sugar Sex Magic to By the Way. What torture to listen to…

I have come up with two reasons based exclusively on the Peppers’ music and songwriting, that I think explain well their popularity.

Number 1: Their music is very catchy. Of course, you can get an earworm listening to Guided by Voices, but the Peppers provide you with one of the most severe earworms you can get. Six days after hearing the greatest hits compilation, the hooks of “Around the World” – both the rapped verses and the sung chori (that would be the proper plural for chorus, right?) – are still floating around my head, bouncing around, with no signs of leaving.

Number 2: Their songs all sound similar. Even after more than 15 years in the business, they are a one-idea band, sort of like the White Stripes (although the Stripes are beginning to outgrow their one-ideaness). There essentially is not much difference between “Give it Away Now,” “Around the World,” and “Dani California”. “Around the World” and “Dani California” are practically the same song – both loaded with geographical references, both with rapped verses and sung chori, and both at the same tempo.

Some people like to see bands in a constant shape of evolution, but I’d imagine the number who do is few, seeing how pop vocalists have been singing the same song, albeit with musical treatments that echo the time which the song was made in, since at least the days of boy bands. Probably the only difference I can think of between the ballads of Marc Anthony and Kelly Clarkson is the person who sings the ballads.

What I guess I’m trying to so-eloquently say is that people don’t really want new and innovative music; they just want familiar music based on a formula that makes them feel comfortable. And they want their hooks, and they want them fast. Pop music is a situation where computer software now exists that can determine whether a song will be a hit.

And the Chili Peppers, however you might perceive them, fit all those criteria.

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