Monday, May 08, 2006

Semi-Open Thread: In which the Meridian seeks the attributes of The Perfect Pop Song

Finals Week begins today; and, seeing as I have yet to figure out when else to schedule final exams and due dates for final projects, I'll be pretty much only a visitor to the blogosphere for the next week.

In the meantime . . .

Some of my favorite blogs have a feature called Open Thread, in which commenters can post on whatever topic they choose. Being the anal-retentive control-freak academic that I am, though, we can't just talk about anything; we have to have Purposes and Goals and Learning Outcomes. Really. So, this thread is not so Open.

I have found myself thinking about this now off and on for the past month: What are the attributes of The Perfect Pop Song? I have some ideas about that, which I'll get to as I talk about my nominees below. Pre-emptive strike: The list below glaringly omits certain groups/"sounds" that could just as easily be here. The ones listed are just the ones that first came to mind. The idea is not to identify THE perfect pop song but to identify the qualities that a contender for the title should have. In other words: a Perfect Pop Song taxonomy.

Please note as well that, while I like very much the songs I've listed, they aren't necessarily my favorite songs. Neither do the ones you list have to be. So: no flaming of my/others' choices--except as regards the taxonomy itself. We'll be adults and agree to disagree as regards tastes. I hope you'll also supply links to evidence to bolster your claim--at least lyrics, if not video.

Enough with the caveats; on with the search!

The Beach Boys, "I Get Around." Those harmonies in the chorus actually seem to drive the song; the lyrics are about cruisin' the town looking for hip kids . . . whether or not "my buddies and me" themselves are actually hip. How much more "pop" can you get?

The Cars, "Let's Go." Structurally aerodynamic and air-tight. Nothing is extraneous in it; even the two brief instrumental breaks are the same "solo." And the chorus is irresistible.

Fountains of Wayne, "Stacy's Mom" (scroll down a bit for a link to the video). Maybe the ultimate in confession-songs: every male during his adolescence, I suspect, had a crush on at least one of his friends' mothers--but who would admit that sort of thing out loud? It oh so delicately straddles the line between serious and goofy, just like all crushes do. And, as with the Cars, there's nothing musically extraneous in this song: all works toward what Poe would have called a singular effect.

Have fun. I'll see you back "here" at the end of the week.


emawkc said...

Interesting question. I'm not sure I know what your definition of "pop song" is. Generally, I interpret it to be a song that record company marketers choose to play on the radio and be the next big Top-40 hit to get played into a mushy pulp.

By that definition, you have posed a bit of a trick question. It's like asking what the perfect train wreck would include, or what's the best way to zip a pubic hair into your fly.

Top-40 radio should be avoided by anyone over the age of 18. Of course, that's just my humble opinion. ^,^

Good luck with finals.

poco said...

The songs you listed are definitely pop songs: I could sing the chorus of every one in my head. These become ear worms, partly because they've been overplayed, and partly because they are "catchy."

fearful_syzygy said...

Candidate #1: Simon & Garfunkel's 'Mrs. Robinson'. Instantly recognisable and hummable, and yet its structure and lyrics are interesting and diverse enough the maintain interest on repeat listens.

More to follow as I think of them.


Raminagrobis said...

'Frou frou foxes in midsummer fires' by Cocteau Twins. You can't quite sing along to the chorus, but you can pretend to.

Oh, and 'Reach for the stars' by the mighty S Club 7 (did they ever make it over there?). Now that's a good pop song.

fearful_syzygy said...

Really? I always thought the pinnacle of their creative output was 'Don't Stop Moving'. Quite irresistable, in my opinion.

Joel said...

"Love Shack" is the perfect pop song. There's nothing more to discuss.


poco said...

Oh, that is a good 'bout "Rock Lobster" too?