26 May 2006

d.i.y. go pop

(or, "go pop is the new keep it real")

from bedbug dave's latest sweeping historical account of teen-pop's development:

...So Europop Britney/boyband falling out of style by 2001…gave way to confessional rock [as the new style of choice for teen-pop]...part Lilith Fair, part nu-metal, part pop-punk, part Sheryl Crow, part Alanis Morrisette becoming the idol of so many performers at the same time post-Alanis producers of female pop/rock acts were finding a foothold in teenpop production (enter John Shanks). Also Tracy Bonham (covered by the V[eronica]s), Letters to Cleo (Kay Hanley in another short-lived paradigm shift to power pop 2003-4…), Liz Phair, Courtney Love. Who else?

who else? well, first of all, though i've mentioned this before...: jewel? s.t. erlewine gushes over 0304 the most (though seems like other people liked it too) - and i see there was one fleeting mention of it on the all-important (?) rolling teenpop thread, but i feel a need for more serious investigation. (ok, it's on order from half.) (incidentally, i'm curious to know more about mr. erlewine's deal. also why am i letting him convince me that i need to listen to sheryl crow albums?)

meanwhile, here's what i've got so far:

female 90's alt-rock performers least likely to undergo (teen)/pop makeovers:

• PJ Harvey
yeah, i just can't see this going well for anyone involved... um, i feel awkward just bringing it up.

• Tori Amos
although she'd do okay image-wise, and she's done more flirting with pop than many of her contemporaries (she's certainly no stranger to big-name dance remixes), she's just always taken herself way too seriously. even given something like "mr. zebra," she doesn't have a fraction of the sense of humor of phair or bonham for instance (or pj, even.) also her career trajectory was pretty much away from confessional and towards arty obscurantism, or something like that. for whatever that's worth.

• Björk
she's just way too entrenched in anti-pop artiness at this point. which is a shame, really. i guess her being married to matt barney isn't as annoying as e.c. being married to diana krall, but - okay it's not really annoying, i just feel like they've both been keeping such a low profile. i wish they would unleash the combined force of their twisted creativeness on the unsuspecting public a lot more than they do (i haven't really heard anything about drawing restraint 9, have you?) anyway, i just don't see björk embracing her roots and making a pop move any time soon, even though it wouldn't have to involve that much shoehorning...

female 90's alt-rock performers overdue for (teen)/pop makeovers:

• Aimee Mann
she was at her best at her rockiest and most actively emotive (as opposed to passive-agressively so), on i'm with stupid (which, hell, also includes her best sensitive ballads.) bachelor no. 2 is pretty but not so engaging; lost in space flirts worrisomely with boringness; the forgotten arm is more promising but still too samey to keep me hooked... how brilliant would it be for aimee to recapture the excitement of, after all, her most commercially viable moment; breaking out of the tepid so-called rootsy so-called 'beatle-based pop-rock' rut; letting loose with her anger (er, about her happy marriage to like-minded songwriter michael penn?...nevermind); teaching the lyrically lackluster among angstmonger teens a thing or two about caustic cleverness(!). of course, she's certainly too comfy with her npr/xpn bobo audience and 'unjustly marginalized artiste' niche to contemplate anything of the sort. oh well.

• Garbage
well i've already covered this a little bit too, but i want to bring it up because 1) it actually seems pretty conceivable and 2) it would be so awesome to have a return to the mode of their first three albums, which seem to have lost any of the critical interest and significance they once enjoyed. this could work as a shirley manson solo gig, a la gwen - which could be interesting, depending on who she wanted to work with - but it would be cool to keep butch vig on board, and he's certainly overqualified as far as unabashedly mainstream pop/rock production goes.

of course, garbage have always been pop, not to mention fundamentally adolescent, so i guess what i'm really talking about is a more "modern" dance or specifically teen-niche reimagining. come to think of it, though, wasn't bleed like me effectively megaproduced pop-punk, ashlee-style? oh right, it was. hold on. okay, i'm listening to it now... actually, maybe this does sound better than i thought a year ago. it gets more interesting as it goes on, which i may not have given it much chance to do before. either way, it's a total retread of mid-90s post-grunge. but that is what we're talking about after all. i was going to say i wish they had kept up with the electronic elements, but actually they're still there, just more as textural sheen than noise-candy gizmo effects (ooh, i'm digging the bridge on track 4.) well maybe this requires some more consideration... the extreme clash of opinions here (well, the user comments especially) may suggest some worthwhile fodder for discussion. (also, as far as the confessional mode goes - this has it in spades, which i guess is sort of a new thing for them.)

• Björk
come on, how much would you kill for her to return to pop? like basically everyone else i'm considering here, she was after all a popster originally. well, i'm not sure about the sugarcubes exactly (though, yeah, why not), let alone the weirdo band she was in at like 12 with rosy cheek facepaint in the documentary i saw in reykjavik... but, whatever, when i played debut for my mom, she thought it sounded like michael jackson. ("big time sensuality" at least.) but bjöpop c. 2006 could be even totally weirder, and all the better for it. i'm thinking something on the level of daphne and celeste's perverse and willful absurdity, but with a bjöian slant which would of course be very different; equally playful, but much less snarky, more if not necessarily more abstract.

i'm sorry - although i will admit that vespertine is absolutely gorgeous, i've felt a kind of emptiness in everything she's done post-homogenic; she's certainly gotten more attention in the last five years or so as a celebrity oddball than as a musician. (although apparently medulla was her highest-charting album, so maybe i'm wrong.) but don't you sense the potential for boundary-smashing that could accompany a populist effort from her now that she's such a recognizable public figure? if she wanted to, she could totally turn herself into a bizarro madonna.

(also - homogenic in particular has some stunning examples of confessional lyrics.)

well, i don't really know what i'm talking about any more.

other contenders include lisa loeb and ani difranco (weirdly plausible - well, what else is she doing that's worthwhile? being "jazzy"?)

who else?

1 comment:

Dave said...

Jewel's a good one, I'd like to unpack some of the assumptions that went into critical discussion of Courtney Love/Liz Phair/Jewel's respective image transformations, unfortunately I just haven't heard enough of it! Just got America's Sweetheart and have the second post-Matrix Liz Phair but lost the first in a hard drive crash. Jewel I keep hearing in coffee shops and on Pandora and thinking, gee, this sounds an awful lot like stuff I'm listening to lately...

To address the others (most of yer analysis I agree with, just chiming in)...

Tori's on the teenpop thread already so she counts! Whether or not Tori shows up explicitly as an aesthetic reference point in other teenpop artists (maybe she already has, esp. via other artists?), she seems to be a touchstone influence for young female angst-rockers even though I have exactly zero proof except second-hand testimony from friends who remind me of young female angst-rockers. Or maybe, to go off the "other artists" thing, the link is through Alanis Morissette or through Fiona Apple. Fiona could conceivably make the jump (and so could Aimee Mann, but I also think the teenpop bar is going to shift toward her simultaneously, making it a smaller leap).

Hm, Bjorkisms in vocals def. aren't unheard of, even if it's just vaguely Scandinavian phrasing of English. Marit Larsen shy/smirky v. Bjork coy is a sort of comparable (but not really). And y'know, the vocal strain in Ashlee's stuff has to be as indebted to Bjork (whether Ashlee knows it or not) as it is to Courtney Love (see last parentheses), more of a stretched thin (but not poorly sung) rasp than an all-out snarling crack, although there are those, too. As for the music, I couldn't pin Bjork down to a unified style at any point in her career (though I'm unfamiliar w Sugarcubes), and isn't it really the voice/vocal phrasing that usually marks a song as Bjorky or Bjorkless? So Bjork couldn't really go "teenpop" by default because she couldn't really go ANYTHING by default, others can only affect her voice if they want to be lazily compared to her in prominent music publications.

Garbage could definitely be claimed retroactively for the reincarnated SUPERLEGITIMIZED teenpop timeline version 2006 when Teenpop (more) formally became a Superword that really mattered to a handful of people who can now bicker amongst themselves and the people who stump for a perceived BSB/Britney Golden Age, but they don't seem to have blogs. The other fans don't know what they're missing, why read teenybopper mags when you can read weird ass blogs? That's why I make sure people get the pretty pictures either way.

Actually, "teenpop" is exactly how I heard Garbage back during their first singles, it was Garbage and Ace of Base on the same playing field in my, what, 11-year-old head? And Offspring and the Cranberries and Green Day and Weird Al, they were the same to me, just throw em all on a cheap cassette with the dirtiest Adam Sandler song and a Metallica album and enjoy. Hm, maybe fodder for a post, but if we can call the general start date of teenpop-as-we-know-it c. 1996, then my formative musics prior to that date (i.e. 3rd to 6th grade, maybe) might demographically be considered teenpop, right? If Radio Disney were around before '96 I'd have listened to it, anyway, because it'd be a primary source of MORE WEIRD AL.