Two Problems with Today’s Pop Music: Cannibalism and Swearing

Two articles in The Guardian explore the current state of pop music. The first has to do with “interpolation,” the concept of taking something from one song (a line, a piece of melody, a riff) and incorporating it into your own. This isn’t plagiarism; the phrases are fully cleared. But is this type of cut’n’paste songwriting good for music? Or is it a form of artistic cannibalism?

Over the last couple of years, there has been a terrible trend in pop music. It most commonly manifests itself in a dance-pop track that lifts a hook or refrain from a well-known song and – with the aid of mind-numbing repetition and a house beat – transforms it into something just far enough removed from its source material to be classed as an original. See 99 Souls’ The Girl Is Mine, which takes samples from Girl by Destiny’s Child and Brandy and Monica’s The Boy Is Mine to form something painfully derivative of both, or Duke Dumont’s No 1 hit I Got U from 2014, which took bits of Whitney Houston’s My Love Is Your Love, put them in a different order, and gave them to Kelli-Leigh to sing.

Read the rest of the article here.

The second article points the use of bad words in pop music. Have we reached some kind of tipping point where too much is too much?

Emeli Sandé was the last straw. When Britain’s least offensive singer returned this autumn with an “explicit” sticker slapped on comeback single Hurts, one thing was clear: profanity has finally conquered pop. If this bastion of primetime decorum has succumbed to singing a “shit”, no one’s immune. We’ve seen unlikely fallers in Ellie Goulding, Bastille and Beyoncé, who’ve all hit the nuclear F button in recent years, but Sandé is the tipping point, the harbinger of Swearageddon. As Don Henley sang in 1989, with impeccably clean language, this is the end of the innocence.

The grumpy Eagle made a timely point. His paean to lost youth was all over the airwaves just as NWA were shocking moral arbiters with their no-holds-barred take on hip-hop’s default plain-speaking. Up to then, the history of the rude word in pop was little more than a pamphlet, a dowager gathering her skirts at an F-bomb on the Who’s Who Are You. As late as 1987, the mere mention of sex on George Michael’s I Want Your, er, Sex scandalised radio. Hip-hop’s real talk was a shot in the arm that reverberated through pop’s bloodstream.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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