Feature: Pop song shelf-life

A few weeks ago, I posted a ‘Great Pop Song of the Week’ or something similarly stupidly titled, which I never did again because there is such a dearth of good pop songs at the moment. The post in question contained the song Rolling in the Deep by Adele. And you know what? Already sick of it. At the time, it hadn’t really made it big yet. It was top of the charts in the UK, but Glee hadn’t stuck it in the song-processor and sat out a more autotuned version yet; the album hadn’t bitch-slapped its way to the top of the Billboard charts; and it hadn’t been played every 5 minutes on every radio station and TV music channel.

But now it has, and I am fucking sick of it.

Once it reaches the top of the charts, like a reality star immediately after releasing a sex tape, a pop song quickly becomes a tired, irritating cultural footnote, like a reality star shortly after releasing a sex tape. This is not surprising. If a song is number one, two or three, radio stations will assume that everybody ever wants to hear the song a lot of the time. This is not always true when you think that Black Eyed Peas and Nickelback songs have reached number one. And really, it even happens just when they reach the top ten even, but there’s not the same level of repetition or sense of “prestige”. I don’t really know who would attribute prestige to a top three single anymore since most sensible people don’t pay for this shit, but oh well.

In any case, Rolling in the Deep is a damn good song. Strong, soulful vocals; a driving beat; themes of lost love; everything the average person can connect to. The fact that she clearly put more than a modicum of effort into the lyrics speaks volumes (HAH GET IT LIKE THE VOLUME OF SOUND LIKE THE SOUND MUSIC MAKES DO YOU FUCKING GET IT?!?!?!?!). The thing with pop songs is, you’re not always hearing it because you want to. When you have songs you like, you listen to them at your leisure. You think, “I feel like listening to Limp Bizkit’s cover of Behind Blue Eyes today.” and then I appear out of nowhere to stab you in the face for having terrible taste.

When it comes on the radio, or on TV, you don’t get a choice. You think, “Yeah, I like this, I’ll listen to it.” But there is always a point where you think, “Ugh, do you EVER stop playing this? Surely some coked-up skank somewhere has a new single you can peddle?!” Why is it that the music industry will foist a song on us until we’re goddamn fucking tired of it?

Well, money, sadly; that’s a no-brainer really. I don’t need to tell you that. But it’s also the symbolism of the “number one” or “two” or “three”. If it’s top three, they assume everyone likes it. If it’s top three, they assume everyone wants to hear it. It basically becomes the Holy Grail of music for a week or two (or a few, depending on the staying power of the song). Ads appear for the album spruiking it as the “number one single!” or “the number one album!”. Do people pay ANY attention to television advertising for music anymore? Like, really? “Here’s a visual advertisement for an audio experiece, DUH DOY.”

(Can I, at this point, point out that Michael Bublé’s album Crazy Love has been in the Australian top 50 albums for 61 weeks? That’s more than a year! Even that guy can be charming solely to middle-aged women for that stretch of time, COME ON. Also, Florence and the Machine’s Between Two Lungs has been in for 73 weeks, which I can kinda appreciate because he’s not irredeemably bad).

So why do they feel the need to destroy what they’ve essentially created? Maybe it’s just me that gets sick of them. But Adele is reaching that point of cultural saturation that becomes too much. ADELE ADELE ADELE ADELE FUCK OFF YOUR NAME’S PRONUNCIATION MAKES NO SENSE PHONETICALLY okay woops that was too far sorry everyone. But surely everyone gets a bit of cringe after so much exposure to something. I know I can only watch so much of a brilliant TV show before I want it to stop existing, and I love TV almost more than anything at all.

In the end, I’d say a song with such exposure has about a month before it collapses in on itself and becomes heinously irritating. In the end, the industry peddling and over-exposure just seems like some kind of self-sabotage, like they’re saying they more in need of something than ever, but in reality, wishing it would go away, so the next big thing can assume its position.


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