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Old 03-11-2012, 04:04 AM   #1
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The 'classic pop songwriting' ethos is the death of music

I loathe it. The music scene right now seems to be drowning in this constricted 'let's try and do a classic three minute pop song that never goes anywhere interesting or unpredictable'. Just tight, on the beat, no surprises and no liberation, no climax, no fucking nothing.

This is not good enough.
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Old 03-11-2012, 04:11 AM   #2
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I don't think you'll find a single person here who agrees this is the case.
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Old 03-11-2012, 04:35 AM   #3
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It fuckin died a long time ago, punk. Tears are only wasted water
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Old 03-11-2012, 04:39 AM   #4
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Perfect pop songs are still the best.
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Old 03-11-2012, 05:49 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by cobl04 View Post
I don't think you'll find a single person here who agrees this is the case.
Which part?

That's it's an accurate description?

Or - were it hypothetically accurate - that it's a good thing?

If it's the former, I'm glad to be proven wrong. Thrilled, in fact.
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Old 03-11-2012, 06:30 AM   #6
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The former. Please provide some examples. A lot of the music I'm hearing doesn't "try and do a classic three minute pop song that never goes anywhere interesting or unpredictable".
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Old 03-11-2012, 06:46 AM   #7
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Cub Scouts
Ballpark Music
Little Red
bluejuice
san cisco
josh pike
new navy
...ah, but stay with me here...

jack white
the black keys
real estate
lykee li
grouplove
florence & the machine
the kooks
the wombats
foster the people


Don't worry, I'm taking the piss to some extent; I realise there is a lot out there that doesn't fit this description. I also realise my back of the envelope list happens to skew heavily to a certain country that I spend my days working at home in while huddled next to a radio with a malfunctioning volume knob.

But at the same time, I see a lot that does, in the same way that the Strokes spawned a monster about twelve years ago, of soundalike garage-y stuff. I just can't ascertain who kicked off this contemporary bandwagon, though.
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Old 03-11-2012, 06:57 AM   #8
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Well you know I agree with you when it comes to Ball Park Music, San Cisco, Little Red, The Wombats, The Kooks, etc. They're all very ordinary bands who produce music which isn't necessarily bad, but is inexplicably popular given its lack of substance, which was your initial point. I'd throw FTP in there too but Call It What You Want is pretty damn great.

Luckily, I don't subject myself to triple j (you seem to? and not by choice?) much at all, due to there being at least a 40% chance a terrible song will be playing. Destroyer released my favourite album last year, and I'd doubt it was mentioned on jjj all year.

So I guess my point is, yes, a lot of mainstream, popular music sucks, whether that be of the chart variety (Taio Cruz's Hangover) or of the "indie is so cool now" variety (Matt Corby's Brother). But I disagree in that there's a lot of great music to be found, you've just got to dig a bit deeper.
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Old 03-11-2012, 07:33 AM   #9
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Still, it's some kind of trend, wouldn't you say? Which is all my post was really driving at. It's a trend in the same way that nu-metal got weirdly huge in about 1999/2000. I just can't quite pin down the roots of this one. The drift toward nostalgia is a bit of a worry, and I suspect it has taproots in the wider culture. Triplej or no triplej (whatever, it's a radio station and I have to have something on while I work; because I don't want to fuck around deciding what album to listen to, and because my computer playlist is big but it's not that big), I'm not completely out of touch.

As for why subject myself to this stuff... there's a part of me that wonders if there isn't some slight research value in keeping a bead on mainstream Australian culture, like it or loathe it. These people vote. And I am dubious of the internet-mediated tendency (of which I am as guilty as anyone) to only imbibe media one approves of. Anyhow I'm so busy most days I hardly register what I'm hearing except when it becomes exceptionally repulsive.
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Old 03-11-2012, 07:36 AM   #10
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Most songs that are worth a damn have something inherent in them that sticks with you in some way. You could call that a hook (not always comprised of notes; it can be the beat also, see White Stripes' "My Doorbell"), or a pretty melody, whatever. These are elements of "classic pop songwriting," albeit perhaps not a clear picture of said. If you're not striving to include these somewhere, you're probably not writing decent music.

You'll also find that some acts are a whole lot more responsible with that "perfect pop song" ambition than others, and it fits them naturally. U2 is not one of those bands. On the other hand, I can't remember the last time Dan Auerbach wrote a song I actively disliked, and that's because his songs are reliably comprised of strong hooks/melodies. Every time. And the Black Keys actually seem to be implementing them more prominently these days, which seems to please most people. Their music, at its worst, involves competent blues rock cycling through predictable blues progressions. Yawn. At its best, kinetic, aggressive performances support a damn fine tune. That's the way to go.

If nothing else, I at least believe that the act of sitting down and writing something worth remembering should always precede the recording process. 9 times out of 10, you'll find an emphasis on songwriting will improve your songs, not weaken them.

This is all, of course, in the context of popular music. Not top 40, necessarily, but certainly excluding genres that would never, ever rely on "classic pop songwriting" to begin with.
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Old 03-11-2012, 07:59 AM   #11
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I agree about U2. I'd suggest that the urge to somehow capture the 'perfect pop song' has destroyed them as artists in the last twelve years or so. It's not all about money; I think they really believe it.
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Old 03-11-2012, 08:09 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Kieran McConville View Post
Still, it's some kind of trend, wouldn't you say? Which is all my post was really driving at. It's a trend in the same way that nu-metal got weirdly huge in about 1999/2000. I just can't quite pin down the roots of this one. The drift toward nostalgia is a bit of a worry, and I suspect it has taproots in the wider culture. Triplej or no triplej (whatever, it's a radio station and I have to have something on while I work; because I don't want to fuck around deciding what album to listen to, and because my computer playlist is big but it's not that big), I'm not completely out of touch.

As for why subject myself to this stuff... there's a part of me that wonders if there isn't some slight research value in keeping a bead on mainstream Australian culture, like it or loathe it. These people vote. And I am dubious of the internet-mediated tendency (of which I am as guilty as anyone) to only imbibe media one approves of. Anyhow I'm so busy most days I hardly register what I'm hearing except when it becomes exceptionally repulsive.
Yeah I'd say there's a bit of a trend to it. But it doesn't bother me as much because I always listen to my ipod as opposed to the radio. Always.

My blood also boils whenever I hear dubstep, aussie shit hop or anything featuring those horrendously boring Australian indie folk women (Bowditch, Seltman, Blasko, et al) so I can't have it on.

I heard this for the first time in ages the other day... I loved this song. She had a few catchy tunes. I wonder what happened to her.

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Old 03-11-2012, 08:22 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Kieran McConville View Post
I agree about U2. I'd suggest that the urge to somehow capture the 'perfect pop song' has destroyed them as artists in the last twelve years or so. It's not all about money; I think they really believe it.
Their songwriting process has never resembled that of others producing "perfect" pop songs, such as Paul McCartney, so I have no idea why they force themselves into that template. So many shitty rock bands do what U2 does in the recording studio; that is, get into a room together and jam, looking for something memorable to write a song around. The reason those bands suck is that they lack the chemistry or nuance U2 has as a quartet. They grab onto one riff without seeing how everything else fits in, which is where music gets really crappy for me.

One element that we haven't really touched on is the arrangement, which I guess is where hooks and surprise meet. I really respect artists who find ways to make verse/chorus into something intriguing. In the Oasis/Blur debate, both acts wrote functional pop music, but the former was a hell of a lot more surprising in their arrangements and overall presentation, whereas Oasis songs were these big slabs of music that didn't have a lot of grace. Their arrangements also became progressively more bloated and uninteresting as the albums piled up.

In that sense, I guess I completely agree with what you're saying; artists who write a decent hook and stuff it into an uninteresting verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge format with no surprise are very lazy and not worth caring about. On the other hand, most of these acts were Beatles inspired, and I don't see the harm in that. If anything, the Beatles were among the most surprising bands of all time. I would say that laziness and a lack of guts/creativity/inspiration are killing music, not an emphasis on strong songwriting.
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Old 03-11-2012, 08:31 AM   #14
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Of course there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes... I'd wager there are as many if not more songwriting smarts going on in Zooropa as in HTDAAB, but as they famously said, it's better if you don't watch the sausages being made.
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Old 03-11-2012, 08:33 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cobl04 View Post
Yeah I'd say there's a bit of a trend to it. But it doesn't bother me as much because I always listen to my ipod as opposed to the radio. Always.

My blood also boils whenever I hear dubstep, aussie shit hop or anything featuring those horrendously boring Australian indie folk women (Bowditch, Seltman, Blasko, et al) so I can't have it on.

I heard this for the first time in ages the other day... I loved this song. She had a few catchy tunes. I wonder what happened to her.

you won't be happy when I say that I'd lump Missy Higgins firmly in the list above. As for what she's doing, I think she popped up last year saying she was involved in something in the Northern Territory, some community project thing or something.

Sia is ok, I don't much care for her but she is ok.
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