Sunday, 29 July 2012

Perfect Pop Songs

When I don't know what I want to listen to - usually on the train in the mornings, when my brain is still fuzzy - I turn to the shuffle songs function on my iPod, and let technology lead the way. After all, the iPod knows. Trust me. Put shuffle on after you've had a particularly hard day, or if you're wrestling with an emotional battle, and magically the songs that you need to hear will appear. 

The other morning my iPod (I know some people name their inanimate objects, but I've never been able to do that...) gifted me with a handful of my all-time favourite pop songs all in a row, lifting me out of my Monday morning blues into a happier frame of mind. The songs in themselves are all pretty different, and it got me thinking - what is it that makes a perfect pop song? Is it something tangible that we can analyse - tempo, key and chord progressions - after all, everyone loves a four chord song right? Check out this illuminating Axis of Awesome video from the Melbourne Comedy Festival in 2009 if you find pop music at all mysterious. Warning - some of the language is a trifle warm if you are at work or have small children around who like to repeat things.

In spite of those  four chords though, the fact remains that there are plenty of people with a guitar and four chords (or three chords and the truth - sorry, couldn't help myself) who never get an album deal and never make it to number one, or create that song that makes everyone hit the dance floor ten years after it's released. Yes, it has been 10 years since Rock Your Body by Justin Timberlake. I KNOW, RIGHT? ...Actually, I take back my incredulousness. I just watched the video clip again, and the whole thing is so deliciously early 2000s, right down to Justin's diamond studs and the beat box interlude. (I'm sorry, I just can't say "noughties." I've always hated that word. It's like the worst kind of Dad joke.)  Ah well, it was a decade that took a while to find it's feet, style wise. But that's another post, for another day.

The other thing is, you might read this post, and decide that I've hit my head on something quite hard, because all the songs I've chosen are absolute rubbish. Just because a pop song is considered a hit, doesn't mean that every single person will like it. So even with the magic of those four chords, there still has to be something about it that connects with people at an individual level. 

The first song that put a smile on my face that morning, as it always does, was "Dammit" by Blink182. Apart from all those high school memories that this song brings up - here's what it is that makes it a great song to me:

1. It is SO much fun to sing a long to - even when you don't really know the words, as evidenced here on a recent road trip. Again with the language - sorry.

2. If you are fan of playing air guitar, or air drums, then you can really get into it.

3. It's a song that demands a physical reaction from the listener, you don't just let it play away in the background. You participate. 

Song number two, was "Magic" by B.O.B. featuring Rivers Cuomo (the singer from Weezer). While this song doesn't have the emphatic bad language, or the potential for enthusiastic air instrument playing, it was pretty much my happy song for the entirety of 2011. It is guaranteed to improve my day, and I'm fairly sure it has inspired some pretty spazz dancing. Have a listen if you're looking for an energy boost - plus, Rivers Cuomo is pretty damn cute in his sleeveless parka vest. Just saying.

The third song for today, is probably not so happy - nor have I ever danced like a spazz to it, although upon reflection I probably could - but it is again a song that demands a reaction from the listener. To me, Paramore are all about energy - and if you have a look through YouTube at any of their live videos, you will see that front woman Hayley Williams is an absolute powerhouse. Misery Business is one of their first hits, and it's got everything that I've mentioned previously as well as something that can either make or break a pop song - the bridge. Done well, bridges are great at bringing a song back emotionally, or pushing it in a different direction and creating focus. The bridge in Misery Business is the high point of the song, and finishes with a pretty awesome guitar solo that brings the song back around to the catchy as hell and easy to sing along to chorus. 

I'm going to leave you with Swedish pop/dance singer Robyn. She is awesome. She just is.


  1. I love a good bridge! Particularly an 80s pop ballad bridge. :)

  2. I love all these songs, so many good memories! (And JUSTIN dammit. Release another album!)

    This is the social networking/fashion site I was talking about. Kids and their fashion!

    And this is Kitty Pryde. Um, I don't get it. #generationgap

  3. Georgia - the good thing about an 80s pop ballad bridge is that they usually involve a rocking sax solo...

    Al - I am mesmerised by both of those links. I don't get Kitty Pryde either, but I'm intrigued. I just read an interview with her, and I'm surprised Lana Del Ray didn't cop a I the only one who sees/hears it?