My long, slow conversion to pop

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As a po-faced teenager I’d dress all in black and listen to Joy Division. Sometimes, I still feel like dressing all in black and listening to Joy Division. But not always. That’s progress.

I suppose the first colour in my wardrobe came when someone sent me a demo tape of some early Interpol recordings back in 2001, and I was just blown away that there might be more to life than two albums and a tragically short career.

Okay, so listening to Interpol wasn’t exactly opening my door to all the colours of the rainbow, but it was at least the adoption of some muted shades of contrast, a chiaroscuro landscape out of which I could finally begin to imagine life beyond the travails of a lonely teenager. Then of course it happened. I got into electronic music via way of Radiohead’s Kid A (2001) when someone said “yeah, they’re good, but they’re just copying Aphex Twin.”

I felt like a musical philistine. From that moment I set forth with one goal in mind — to become a musical elitist. I think I studied the music of Autechre harder than I studied for either of my two degrees. I still didn’t get it. There was a reason for that, as I would find out years later, doing an interview with them via email — they were just pretentious posers. Like me. Or like what I wanted to be.

I would sneer. Believe me, I would sneer. If you didn’t understand the cultural implications of the breakcore movement and hold it akin to revolutionary Marxism, based on a semiotic analysis comparing and contrasting it to the proto-punk movement, you were in trouble. Of course, you were sitting there rolling your eyes and wishing I would put some Pink Floyd on. Or some Eminem. Or whatever. Anything that wasn’t going to induce an aneurysm.

I’m not sure when exactly my fall from grace happened. I could tell you, for example, that Rachel Stevens 2005 hit ‘Some Girls’ was sampled from the Timelords (who were, of course, the KLF) 1988 ‘Doctorin the Tardis’ and that that track was itself based on a sample from Gary Glitter’s ‘Rock n Roll part II’ — but you wouldn’t catch me tapping my toe to it. Musically, I was still dressed in black, only now it was the skinny jeans and tight t-shirts of the self proclaimed artiste (naturally I dabbled in Logic Pro) rather than the gothic trenchcoats of my youth.

Don’t get me wrong. I still go mad for an experimental album. Scott Walker’s 2006 masterpiece, ‘The Drift,’ still rates, I think, as one of the finest albums of the last decade, perhaps forever. But it’s so avant-garde it’s practically art, not music at all, and certainly not pop. Something in me changed. Maybe it was reading Gary Mulholland’s This is Uncool in late 2005. It’s a beautiful book — acting as advocate for the 500 greatest pop songs you should’ve heard and never should. I think I downloaded them all. Naturally, thinking it would make me more cool.

And suddenly, there was colour. I could enjoy Slowdive, but now suddenly I could tap my feet to Hall and Oates’ ‘I can’t go for that,’ too. I suppose that opened up the door to a lot of other stuff. Have you heard Chromeo covering that song with Daryl Hall in his studio? Just beautiful. And come to think of it, have you heard any of Chromeo’s recent stuff? Pure pop perfection.

Skream seems to think so, too. That’s why he’s remixed Chromeo’s Night By Night. It’s his best track since his remix of La Roux’s ‘In for the kill’ earlier this year. And that’s about as pop as it gets. I almost found a way to stay po-faced about music forever. There’s always an insular music scene you can latch on to. I’m sure drum n bass is still going, and getting darker day by day. But I’m glad that dubstep seems to have found its sense of humour. Let’s just forget the remix of I kissed a girl ever happened… Sure, a lot of dubstep has gone pop. But there’s plenty of great serious artists out there at the moment. For the purists, there’s always Datsik,  I still don’t think Joker can put a foot wrong, and Borgore still brings a smile to my face.

The point is, I have been cured of my addiction to po-faced music. Sometimes I like it dark and dramatic. Other times, I want to blast out some heavy beats. But sometimes, just sometimes, you’ll catch me singing along to Robyn’s cover of Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Since you been gone’ while covering as much ground as I can in my car.

I suppose my musical journey has been very much like that of television. We thought black and white was awesome at first, but now I’ve discovered life’s so much better in colour.


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