Monday, June 28, 2010

Why Pop Culture Sucks?

Pre-coffee thought for the day:

One of the reasons pop culture -- even something as asinine as Gilligan's Island -- is important is, in the 20th century, it was a unifying point for our society. Even if we didn't agree on much else, we could discuss and find common ground about what we saw on TV last night. It was a basis for shared experience and discussion.

Nowadays, like everything else, most pop culture is niche marketed. Music, TV, and to a lesser extent films, all have smaller and more select audiences. Pop culture isn't something we can all discuss anymore.

I'm not blaming anyone for this, but it's interesting that most people, even the people that are supposedly being targeted, find the current state of the media, all media, unsatisfactory. And I'm asking myself if it's because it no longer a unifying force in our culture? There's no question that a lot of the decline in the quality of the media has to do with (a) needing to appeal to the widest slice of a declining audience and (b) failing that, making a product that's as inexpensive as possible.

There are times I try, for the sake of being in touch with what's around me, to engage more fully in new music...but so much of pop radio now is either recycled ideas from the past (taking an old song and laying a beat or a rap over it), or recycling itself (using one beat and one chord sequence and just varying the dynamics or the melody). And you can call me old school, and that's fine, but without saying "it sucks" in a knee-jerk way, if there is an audience for that, it has to say something about how much people engage in what they're listening to anymore.

I'm not trying to grind my own axe here, because I was thinking more about TV than music when this thought hit me. I'm just thinking out loud.


  1. One of the reasons pop culture sucks so much now is that's it's packaged and planned to death. One of the joys of a great movie or song or band used to be the sheer surprise of it. Now, people like Gaga study the culture, know what will appeal to Crowd X, and proceed to do whatever it takes to get on that radar. It's so planned and obvious.

    I don't think we're ever going back to a unifying cultural base, though. Too many channels, too many music genres, and lots of cultural diversity. Even though we may have had cultural diversity for a long time, it didn't get included in the media much until media people realized there was MONEY in it!

    I pick on Gaga, because I'm not a fan. I don't find anything new about her at all, as Bowie, Elton John, Madonna, Cher, and others have all done her schtick before. She's just the latest thing, and if we're lucky, she'll slowly disappear. If she wants to last, she'll have to find a way to strike a chord with more people.

    Sadly, there's almost nothing left to prove in pop, so recycling seems to be the order of the day. I think that's true for film, too.

  2. I wonder, though. I think the media is struggling to make money now because the audience is so fragmented. This is absolutely true in music.

    Oh by the way, guess who posted this response in another forum:

    "So - what would be your preference? That we all like the same things? "

  3. hahaha. Depends on the media, I guess. Big name concerts are still drawing crowds, but other artists seem to be booking smaller venues. I know when I go to see someone like Josh Ritter in a small hall, it's intimate, and the audience is made up of real fans, and I prefer that. I know you do the club scene, but that's not my thing, so I don't go often. Last time I went was to see Beth Orton in 2006 at a small club in Boston, and I hated standing in pools of beer while I tried to hear Beth sing over drunken loudmouths.
    Traditional tv networks are struggling, so they're trying to be more cutting edge with swearing and nudity. It takes more than just that to get people to watch, since most of us appreciate a STORY in there, too, or some good comedy.

  4. It sucks in one other way - its hard to mine the good stuff yourself