Thursday, September 13, 2012

pop tropes: Taylor Swift, Kelly Clarkson and the Winged Victory of Samothrace

Feeling obliged to tap into the mainstream, I set aside the necessary block of time to watch the Democratic Convention the other night and quickly found another option to feed the remove - the MTV Awards. I toggled back and forth between the two and I gotta say, Taylor Swift wanted it more than anyone else. Granted, it was no "Since U Been Gone" circa 2005 a la Kelly Clarkson, but Swift's performance of the new-to-me "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" gave me more of that pop sentiment flutter than Obama's speech, which history is sure to find safe and stale. Swift's songwriting is consistently not bad, but the impression made all the more sense when I found out the song was co-written by the same Max Martin that co-wrote "Since U Been Gone", which I had mistakingly thought to be written by Linda Perry of 4 Non Blondes. Although this insight sands down a mythology I once treasured, "Since U Been Gone" is still fantastic, and Linda Perry still is the bearer one of the most enviable career paths. The top 40 songwriting checks out, even if it is through the subpar Pink's Missundazstood (the crazy spelling is killing me here, at least there was already a song called "Since YOU been gone", reasons people, have 'em).

For the record, I don't give a hoot whether someone writes their own songs. Does this go without saying or do people still feign to care, citing inauthenticity? Death-of-the-mother-fuckin'-author, ya'll! Although I imagine this is still a major player in counter-culture party lines, Reality-sound-Bites (like when a peer feels the need to clarify, out loud and in public, that "she doesn't watch soap operas"....last year). The most genuine art is never the product of a lone auteur. And what about time and circumstance? They never get credit. One of the most revered sculptures of all time, Nike of Samothrace, is only punishingly exquisite because the head and arms never made it out of the ground. 
It would be more interesting to discuss why some art gains mass appeal, while other works of equal footing and merit remain relatively buried.

"You Are The Generation That Bought More Shoes And You Get What You Deserve" by Johnny Boy and produced by James Dean Bradfield of the Manic Street Preachers, apparently reached #50 on the UK singles chart but flew well under the radar in the United States, probably because it was never released in the United States. Pitchfork gave the album a 5 point-something-or-other, which, despite how vanilla the rest of the album may be, is a prime example of the damaging effect the point system has on listener immersion. The comical effect of the point system is exemplified when they give the Beatles re-issues all tens.  Really? Oh. Okay, guess I should check them out.
The Ted Leo cover of "Since U Been Gone" doesn’t add anything special, but this Wombats cover on Leona Lewis' "Bleeding Love" is kinda fun.