This Article Originally Published February 2000
by Michael Laskow
In June of 1997, I penned an article titled "Pop Go The Weasels" for the TAXI Meter. In a nutshell, the article was about how the music industry always retreats to Pop after a fad. My prediction in '97 was that grunge was at death's door, and Pop would soon reign supreme.
It was one of the few times in my life that I was right. But trust me when I tell you that I'm no rocket scientist, and I certainly don't have a crystal ball. I just used common sense, and noticed that like most things in life, trends in music tend to be cyclical.
An observation: The alternative/grunge "movement" was clearly spawned by college kids (or maybe college dropouts). Record labels were dying to break acts on college radio, then cross them over to the major market, trend-setting stations like KROQ (LA's "hip" station). Generation X ruled the airwaves. No more. Today, it's clearly the kids in highschool who are the market-makers.
It's tough to break an act that's over fifteen years old these days. While it's true that the Korn and Limp Bizkits of the world satiate the 18-22 year-olds' need for rebellious expression, it's the Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears and Christina Aguileras that are selling truck-loads of records. Why? Let's face it, people want to tap their feet and sing the chorus over and over again.
It may be ear candy, but it sells records. And that's not to say that some of the ear candy isn't really good. Some of it's great.
So, what does it all mean? Can I predict the future again? I'll take a shot. I feel safe in telling you that the current reign of Pop won't last forever, but it's probably here for a while longer, due mostly to demographics. We have a lot of baby-boomers' kids in highschool right now.
I also feel safe in predicting that the adult market will continue to grow as more and more consumers purchase their music online. Even sluggish old Billboard magazine acknowledges that sales are in up in the adult demographic.
But what about when the day comes when you don't have to "purchase" music anymore? What happens when listeners can build personalized playlists of their favorite music that follows them from home, to car, to Walkman via satellite? How much will the general market grow then, and what will the demographics look like? My guess is that the adult market will go through the roof.
There are two roadblocks currently holding the adult market back from the growth it deserves, and they are 1) Not enough great material out there, and 2) That pimply-faced little bastard behind the counter that treats me like I'm an idiot for buying that Celine Dion CD.
The pimply-faced little bastard and all his pimply-faced cohorts are the reason I buy most of my CDs at Costco or online. I don't need to buy anything from a condescending, self-important "dude"—screw 'em. The sad part is that in a couple of years, Zit Boy will probably be a V.P. of A&R at a major label and I'll have to kiss his pimply little ass! Makes me want to go wash my face just thinking about it.
But I digress. Back to predicting the future. Hmmm, let me see... oh yeah, it's only a matter of time until the record industry figures out how many people of Asian descent live in the U.S., and makes a concerted effort to capture that market much as it has tried to capitalize on the Hispanic market.
The first star in that genre is likely to be Don Ho's daughter, Hoku. She's a Ho, her mother's a Ho... the whole family's nothin' but a bunch of Hos, and little Hoku is cute as a bug's ear, and has a hit single in the can. Others will follow.
By the way, Hoku's yet to be released single is called, Another Dumb Blonde. Isn't Britney Spears enough? Why do we need another? Actually, Britney's quite talented. She can lip-sync her songs while counting out her dance steps at the same time. A-two, and three, and four-uh, turn, smile, stick boobs out.
I also think it's time for the listening audience to rediscover Steely Dan type bands—not that there are many people who can do what they do. My reasoning is that people will always enjoy well-written, well-crafted, well-produced, and well-played music that has a pop sensibility to it, while remaining sophisticated at the same time. Even the people who are listening to Britney and the Backstreet Boys will eventually grow up, and their tastes will mature with age.
So what can you do to prepare for the next few years if you're not Hispanic, not Asian, not a dumb blonde, and you don't have a new set of boobs? Write great songs, and write them utilizing Pop song structures. I've said it over and over for the last eight years, and I'm going to keep repeating myself long in to the new Millennium. Pop song structure is the root of all success in this business. Great Pop songs can be dressed up in any number of ways (just ask Nirvana), but when you get right down to it, people will always want to tap their feet and hum along.