TAXI members are always asking me what I think the Next Big
Trend in music will be. If I knew that, I'd be the wealthiest
guy in the biz. If anybody knew that, they'd be wealthy beyond
their wildest dreams.
Fact is, it's a strange and wonderful confluence of timing,
public tastes and artistic genius that determine trends. We're
living through a period that exemplifies that right now. "Grunge,"
a subset, and the founding father of "alternative"
is no longer cool. It has finally fallen from grace. And thank
goodness for that. Personally, I was getting tired of A&R
weasels (as they are affectionately called in the biz) looking
for angst-ridden bands.
But I digress As I was saying, we are in a period right
now, today, this very minute, that is a great example of what
happens when a trend or fad runs its course. The industry
tastemakers are scrambling to find a new trend. Just like
they scrambled to find a "new city" after Seattle
ran out of bands wearing flannels and Doc Martens.
The industry is looking so hard for a trend, that it's already
found one, but it just hasn't realized it yet. So, what is
this trend everybody's oblivious to? Pop. That's right. It
may be verboten in the industry to actually say the word,
but POP is back with a capital "P."
If you want to look like a genius, all you have to do is
wait for the next trend to establish itself. Wait about two
years. As you feel the trend beginning to hit its peak, stand
on top of the Capitol Records tower in Hollywood and scream,
"This won't last more than another year or two, and then
it's all heading back to Popyou'll see!"
Well, okay, maybe you'll only look like a genius to your
mother. But, trust me. You'll be on the cutting edge. How
can I be sure of of this? History repeats itself. After every
trend, it always goes back to Pop. What happened after Punk?
Pop. What happened after Disco? Pop. What happened after alternative?
Hmmm... maybe we should take this a step further and look
at the essence of the fads. Could it be? Why yes, I do believe
that many of the punk tunes that surfaced as "hits"
had their roots in Pop. Well, maybe not Pop lyrics, but many
had Pop structures, and several, if not most, had chord changes
based in Pop.
Go through you record collection and look at your Bee Gees
and Donna Summer records. Yep, once again the answer is Pop.
Loggins and Messina? Pop. The Eagles? Pop. Kiss? Pop. Journey?
Pop. Luther Vandross? Pop. Whitney Houston? Pop. Tears For
Fears? Pop. The Cars? Pop. Elvis Costello? Pop. R.E.M.? Pop.
Garth Brooks? Pop. Pop-Pop-Pop-Pop-POP!!!
And how about Nirvana's smash hit, "Smells Like Teen
Spirit?" Smells like Pop to me. As a matter of fact,
I think it reeks of Pop! And that my dear TAXI members is
my point. Pop comes in many shapes and sizes, but it's still
all Pop at its root. And that is your key to writing better
You would be wise to study the Pop classics. Why? As in any
other of life's pursuits, it's always best to identify people
who are successful and then mimic their efforts so that you
can be successful too.
Some of you are saying, "Hey, Michael, what about the
whole Electronica crazegroups like Prodigy and Orbital?"
Well, I admit that they are a little further away from Pop
than most trends, but look at their success. The jury is still
out, but from my vantage point, artists such as these have
always had their core audience and will continue to do so,
but it's doubtful that you'll be hearing any seven minute
instrumental cuts on commercial radio anytime soon.
If you ask me, the Electronica craze is really not a craze
at all. While there's little doubt that it's reaching a larger
audience than ever, I think the so-called "craze"
was largely fabricated by people in the industry who didn't
know what to do with their Doc Martens. They needed some kind
of trend to hang their hat on, and they just can't force themselves
to say the "P" word.
How silly! Who had the number one single last summer? Donna
Lewis. What kind of song was it? You guessed it. How about
Merrill Bainbridge and her song, "Mouth?" Pop. The
group No Doubt? Pop. The Cardigans? Pop. Jewel? Very Pop!
Check out the playlists on America's top ranking "alternative"
stations. They're full of acts that I you and I would classify
as Pop, yet they're on "alternative" radio.
What does this tell us? That the best thing you can do as
a writer is learn how to craft a good Pop song. Learn how
to construct a song in Pop form. Learn what makes a Pop melody
work. Learn what makes a Pop lyric flow. Learn how to write
a simple, but catchy hook.
If you add these tools to your arsenal, you'll always have
a strong base to work from no matter what moniker the industry
tastemakers have given a current trend. Pop go the weasels.
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