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Popular Music And Built In Obsolescence


Max Martin: 18 # 1’s and counting

Perhaps the real difference between music in 2015 and music in 1975 is that the shelf life of an album has evolved from a couple of months to a couple of days. It is not that the music is less good, it is that, not unlike my refrigerator, or summer movies, there is built in obsolescence.

Nobody has ever really doubted that pop music is disposable, it is bubblegum, tastes great at first then after awhile not so much, right? When all your beats are hooks you might be excused for not bothering with the elements of style in song writing. Max Martin, Dr. Luke, Shellack -these are great craftsmen but they are not genius songwriters, what they do is craft sounds that sell and they do it very very well. Taylor Swift’s greatness on 1989 was to meld it on to her own songs and come out with something with the stickiness of pop and the self consciousness of singer-songwriter.

But she is the  exception. If you listen to the new Tyrese album, # 1 in the nation but I actively dislike it, what you might note is how bad the songs are. The beats are slow and steady, the samples steamy, Tyrese doesn’t have a great voice but he is no worse than, say, Jamie Foxx, it’s  the songs that don’t stand up to the slightest scrutiny.

I wonder, if like cars and fridges and laugh as a whole, today’s music isn’t built to disappear, if the most important thing about this volatile pop moment is that it can and will be left behind in an instant, it should be commended on not asking us for more.



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