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Old 01-19-2011, 07:56 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default The Unbearable Idiocy of Pop Music Elitism

Forgive any spelling mistakes, for English is not my first (or barely my second) language.

I recently stumbled upon a somewhat provoking album review on Revolver by The Beatles , and, frankly, could not construct any meaningful or effective rebuttal to it. It's, quite easily, the best review on that particular website, not for what it contains but for what it represents: a unashamed and highly elitist manifesto on the crushingly superiority of Art Music over Pop Music. Of course, nothing new under the Sun, we have all heard or proved with our own ears such statement, but the following response (the comments of said review) is elucidative of something.

If we still ascribe artistic credibility to Pop Music, as I certainly do, one is not shocked at the attempt to defend it, specially it's most powerful representative (in the form of The Beatles). It is undoubtedly more immediate, easier to get into and not fully devoid of deep emotional or even intellectual value. Yet, I cannot help to cringe at stuff like this:

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This review is an attention-seeking pile of wank. If you think the music of the Beatles was dumbed down for Western society, you're completely retarded. Seriously.
Anyone who cannot even appreciate the Beatles does not appreciate music. We will be talking about Lennon and McCartney in the future the same way we talk of classical composers. Just you wait and see.
Lennon and McCartney are not even close to Beethoven and Mozart. Or Bach and Chopin. Or Mahler and Verdi. That does not mean they are not valuable, just that when you raise the bar they do no make the cut. A very exceptional cut in their defense.

Another comment states:
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Review's written well, aside from grammar, but the ideas are totally wrong. Not only that, it's totally snobby.
Ah, bravo.

Which brings me to my central thesis. Snob-ism, elite-ism, etc... I would bank my house and personal belongings that every single one of the comments that bash the original review for being a Classic (also and almost facetiously described on Wikipedia as serious music) snob are themselves giant Pop Music Snobs (by Pop music I understand recorded music, everything from Metal to Pere Ubu, for argument sake). How can one bash in earnest something like Lady Gaga for being plastic and "just-for-making-music-executives-richer" and praise The Beatles WHILE being appalled that someone would dare cross them in favour of some old dead white guy composer? Aesthetically, what really separates Lady Gaga from The Beatles (not arguing innovation and first something-something through a Leslie speaker) when you bring Verklärte Nacht into the equation? How can one build an hierarchy of quality form Lady Gaga, to Kayne West, to Madonna, to U2, to Arcade Fire, to Kraftwerk, to Radiohead, to Brian Eno, to Pink Floyd... all the way up to The Beatles and then say it stops here and anything else is elitism/or incomparable? One can do that sure, by why accept elitism (or as I call it standards) on a closed system and revile it in an open one? To many interrogations, but I digress.

Is Pop irredeemably separated form the standards of Art Music? But then putting Lennon in the same club to Mozart creates a paradox. One admits that the standards are different, and as such requires two different forms of elitism. Yet, they are comparable, are found in the same category. If not, might as well class Lennon with Lionel Messi, and claim they both excel in their respective fields, and inspire people and etc, etc, etc...

In short, devoting lines and lines of music criticism to rank Pop Artists, and such is clearly the goal of that Sputnik Music website, seems rather meaningless and idiotic when the deities of the genre can be easily surpassed by invoking any Romantic prodigy of the courts of Europe. One cannot look down on the Lady Gaga's of this planet and cry foul when someone does it on The Beatles. It's hypocritical at worse, cognitive-dissonant at best.

But I ramble without cessation...

PS: No special affection or disaffection to either Lady Gaga or The Beatles. Examples are merely examples.

PPS: I admit with no trouble that some Pop Music can be ranked above some Art Music even using Art Music standards. But statically such does not occur often.
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Old 01-19-2011, 08:24 PM   #2 (permalink)
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The review is by a classical music fan listening to Revolver and expecting to hear something with the musical complexity of Chopin and the lyrical content of a Tolstoy novel. Pop music can't be judged by the same standards as classical music, they have different objectives. For example, I think that Tomorrow Never Knows is a work of art, but the whole song is only one chord. Its artistic value doesn't come from the complexity of the actual notes of the music. However, Tommorrow Never Knows creates a sound, ambience, and state of mind in the listener that classical music could never achieve, because of its instrumentation.

Would be interesting to see what Mozart would have done if he had tried some LSD. Frank Zappa maybe?

Also i'm not sure why he picked Revolver as the exact moment that signalled the decline of Western civilization or whatever he was on about. It's not like Elvis was writing concertos or anything. Plus pop art is art, just axe Andy Warhol
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Old 01-19-2011, 08:29 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Anyone who cannot even appreciate the Beatles does not appreciate music.
Statements like this are why I hate the Beatles instead of merely disliking them.
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Old 01-19-2011, 08:33 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I don't think the beatles can do much about that.
I love them by the way. But I already loved music before I got any sort of interest in the Beatles. So the statement is bull**** anyhow.
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Old 01-19-2011, 08:36 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Statements like this are why I hate the Beatles instead of merely disliking them.
Exactly. Witch is why the "don't expect to hear Bach" argument does not follow. Either they are excellent pop musicians, and let's leave it at that, or they are geniuses. And if the latter then they must be compared to other geniuses. And they are certainly canonized as geniuses by the critical collective.

A serious discussion on the validity of the Beatles position on the "musical hierarchy" would be most interesting.

Digressing some more...
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Old 01-19-2011, 08:59 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Here is the difference between Beatles and Gaga in a nutshell:

A) Beatles were accepting a new, and popular form of music. Psychedelic might have been the trend but at the time when it was popular, and Beatles did their own version it was the new thing. Sure, they were just cashing in, but they were cashing in a NEW trend that didn't exist two decades before.

Not only that the Beatles INVENTED new studio technique. Backmasking, usage of feedback(well, this is a tad questionable), and subtle things like that. Beatles were an entirely new studio landscape, one of which was nothing like anything before. Structurally, they are far inferior to classical composers. I mean, I as a massive fan of Bela Bartok say that none of The Beatles even remotely touch him as songwriters. However, they were extremely inventive in the studio. I mean, I've heard things like some of the earliest, if not earliest, self recording digital pianos were custom built for John Lennon.

The Beatles were at least exploring cutting edge technique, and trying in their own way to expand it.

B) Lady Gaga is a professionally trained musician who has worked many years in the studio. From what I hear, she was already a seasoned veteran musician around the time when she, and her producer, 'invented' the Gaga character. With her education, etc. she has a massive access to popular formula.

With that she can write songs off of what she knows is popular. It is very VERY obvious that Lady Gaga has some sort of twisted obsession with the 80s (which makes absolutely no sense to me since she is the same age as me, and I don't ****ing remember the 80s). In fact, if you look closely at anything and EVERYTHING she does it seems almost like a homage, a collection of 80s relics in which the modern teenie bopper audience just doesn't know the existence of.

Unlike the Beatles, Lady Gaga is not taking big risks in order to move 'pop' music forward. She is simply taking these long forgotten formulas, and mashing them together. She is basically taking low intellect Madonna music, and then slapping an aesthetic sheen of 80s art rock randomly onto it.

If that's not deluding the concept enough(Art rock standards? Seriously... Art Rock having standards kind of ruins the point). Gaga isn't creating new art she's simply bastardizing, and oversimplying extremely outdated art. What makes it worst is the further bastardization with the little GWAR publicity stunts she does.

With that said, they're both massively overrated. Unlike the Beatles, however, Gaga is doing nothing but moving us into the past. Beatles at least were trying - in their own way - to actually change things for the future. Gaga is just basically a disgruntled studio musician who gets her giddy thrills off of the fact she's the slightly more intelligent alternative to Katy Perry, and Justin Biebar(and wow... what an accomplishment).

----

Now, as for the argument of pop and classical being a different thing. Of course it is - HOWEVER - that's another reason why I've heavily criticized both acts. There are forms of music which are integrating the best elements of both what the Beatles helped pioneer, and what made more structurally sound classical musicians were helping build. They just go relatively unknown because of their lacking exposure.

Another reason to dislike Gaga who capitalizes of silly shock value, and the aggressive soulless exploitation of gays in place of more creative, ambitious, and interesting music.
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Old 01-19-2011, 09:02 PM   #7 (permalink)
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^Anyone who gets that worked up over lady gaga clearly is listening to music for the wrong reasons
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Old 01-19-2011, 09:10 PM   #8 (permalink)
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^Anyone who gets that worked up over lady gaga clearly is listening to music for the wrong reasons
Gaga has an amazing power of influence. It's foolish not to scrutinize her. Besides, it's in response of trying to explain why acts like The Beatles are often protected more than modern pop acts.
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Old 01-19-2011, 09:25 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Gaga has an amazing power of influence. It's foolish not to scrutinize her. Besides, it's in response of trying to explain why acts like The Beatles are often protected more than modern pop acts.
Lady Gaga has been putting out albums for about two years. When the Beatles were at that point in their career they were still releasing regular old insipid pop music that even their biggest defenders are unlikely to describe as pushing any kind of envelope. I really don't see a distinction between them and Lady Gaga.
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Old 01-19-2011, 09:30 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Not only that the Beatles INVENTED new studio technique. Backmasking, usage of feedback(well, this is a tad questionable), and subtle things like that. Beatles were an entirely new studio landscape, one of which was nothing like anything before. Structurally, they are far inferior to classical composers. I mean, I as a massive fan of Bela Bartok say that none of The Beatles even remotely touch him as songwriters. However, they were extremely inventive in the studio. I mean, I've heard things like some of the earliest, if not earliest, self recording digital pianos were custom built for John Lennon.

The Beatles were at least exploring cutting edge technique, and trying in their own way to expand it.
Plenty of modern classical/avant-garde/early psych rock artists/bands from the 50s and 60s (and even earlier for the modern classical artists) did all of these things before them, in a much more interesting, shocking and paradigm-shifting way. Yes, The Beatles did some good work with it, but they did not invent this style of studio work. Just because nobody was paying attention to innovation when it happened, does not mean that The Beatles started it, nor does it mean they deserve credit for bringing it to the masses.
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