Pop is Divisive. Ask a group of friends what Pop is and may find yourself in a world of polar opposites. They may say they know what it is, but find it hard to describe. It’s popular stuff, the stuff in the charts, right? But that means any popular music is Pop and that doesn’t seem quite right. You might like Pop, but you might dislike what’s popular.
So, Pop isn’t popular? But that makes Pop sound like some edgy underground activity that is only understood by a shadowy group of musical innovators, trendsetters, and purveyors of the purest musical tastes. Yet, Pop can be mainstream. What the hell is Pop?!
There was one consistent factor that kept appearing in our discussion: typically speaking, no-one wanted to admit liking it. Yet, when pressed everyone had a favourite Pop song. Oddly, these ‘favourite’ songs were held in a strange sort of emotional limbo; adored and held aloft as an example of the greatest sort of pure Pop, a lost art, and yet mentioned only when cajoled.
Fortunately for us, we have in The Sanfernando Sound aka Jason Sieu Persad, a man happy to hold aloft the Pop torch. Unlikely to be fickle in his affections, he positively revels in every opportunity not just to display Pop but to pump it up until it becomes a shimmering quicksilver Pop Zepplin, dwarfing the horizon.
In his capable remixing hands, bass lines become cushioned cloud platforms on which to stride to the ionosphere and synth strings soar to unidentifiable heights before bursting in a supernovae of colours. He’s adapted, modified and Pop performance enhanced Kites, Eleven:Eleven, Starlings and most recently The New Division; ‘Devotion’ now a tanned Aviator wearing synthnoir polymath.
We called him up to ask if he’d help us out with our Pop conundrum. You see, he loves Pop and can explain why, which is a good thing given our ability to wander in ever decreasing mental circles. Here’s the Sanfernado Sound’s submission:
Why I Love Pop Music
There is a period in your childhood when the musical influence of older people recedes and is replaced by something else which will become yours. The Beatles and Stones, The Police and Bowie, The Smiths and New Order, all bequeathed by previous generations become supplanted by your own personal discoveries. These discoveries and, more importantly, the emotional landscape evolving in tandem with them, can lead to a uniquely personal experience that will, if you’re lucky, last a lifetime. This is what pop music means to me.
The soundtrack of my early childhood was mostly dictated by my father- ‘60s rock (Hendrix), folk (Chapin, Lightfoot) and some post-prog synth (Jarre, Oldfield). This environment had already started to come under attack from outside forces, sallying forth from Radio 1 or Top of the Pops. Upstarts in outlandish clothing brandishing synthesizers were starting to permeate the edges of my consciousness.
And then the divining moment happened. There, on the TV one rainy Thursday night, two were men miming the song that changed things for good. Neither man moved much and the bloke in the baseball cap seemed to be focusing all of his attention on the synthesizer he was standing behind, but the singer seemed to be talking right to me and the effect was captivating.
Those were strings, but bigger strings. They were drums but drums from the future. What did all this mean? These were brand new sounds! This was a brand new feeling, a personal evolution. So began a love affair with synthesizers and electronic music.
At its most unimaginative, pop music can be a crass, one-dimensional exercise in self-aggrandizement and little else. At its best it is transformative, inspiring feelings of hope, love and optimism while also being able to cast light on alienation, outsider culture and probe the darker corners of our psyche. Surely, this is an artistic achievement worth celebrating. But, hey, it’s just pop, right?
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