Ever since writing that article two posts down about rebelling, I have been thinking a lot about subversion in contemporary music, and why it is essential.
Firstly, pop/rock/R'n'B/electro are types of music that now reach billions of people across the Globe. We have all heard figures and boasts about how Lady Gaga has become the most widely watched video on Youtube with over a billion views, become the most downloaded artist ever and so on. And it is evident that in any media form, expanding as they are, pop culture is ubiquitous. Even if we don't watch X Factor and despise the concept, we still know that Frankie Cocozza recently got the boot for being too rock and roll (apparently).
I think it would be lovely if poetry or prose touched the hearts and minds of the global masses in the same way as pop, but, unfortunately, this is just not the case. As outlined in this exemplary article on music criticism, Charlie Bertsch points out that part of this is to do with the form of each discipline and its ability to be experienced many times. For example, we might read a book or a poem we especially love a couple or several times, but this is an exception. A pop song we can easily listen to dozens, if not hundreds of times. Indeed, we invariably do, as we cannot escape it in our vast media society. We memorise the words and tap our toes to the beat without even realising it.
Thus, pop has an incredible power that surpasses any other genre of art on a mass scale. All the more important then, to keep it evolving in order to keep challenging perceptions in a way that is not alienating. My love/hate relationship with pop is itself in constant flux. I suppose this depends on the parameters of 'pop music' and how you want to define them.
In essence: pop has greater importance than we want to admit. It can change attitudes towards so many things - make the weird or unpleasant normal and even desirable. It is interesting to note that trends that start off in a minority group previously deemed undesirable can, when filtered through the pop speaker (and lens), become essential to the hipster. We see this constantly in fashion, vocabulary and of course in musical trends.
But more than that, pop, when played around with in the mind of the artist and their team, can ask questions to many that otherwise might never have been asked. Such gender issues as those that concern and populate the music of Antony and the Johnsons might never have received such a wide audience willing to understand without the medium of pop.
Below are a few artists who I feel have had an important affect on culture through their music in either pop or R'n'B. It is through the questions they pose (especially when they first appear to be distasteful questions), that advances our understanding of music, and more widely of art, culture and ourselves.