First off, many thanks to Ann Powers - the author of this article from NPR Music. I have semi neglected this blog as of late because I’ve A. been very busy and B. been taking pictures and focusing on that blog.
However, this article on the role of autobiographical story telling in pop music gave me an inspiration to write. Give this article a read - especially if you’re a fan of pop music like myself.
It got me thinking about how in depth my favorite pop stars go in their music, and what makes it real. There is a fine line for me in how much I want to know about the artist writing the music and singing the song. That is because that level of mystery creates the ability for me to relate to the music. I won’t always know what they were writing about, and that allows me to apply it to my life and create that movie moment.
However - how far do I want that to go? Do I want the artist to create a persona in order to write about certain things, or do I want them to strip everything away, and write from within and be as honest as possible. I’d say it’s a mix of both.
For instance, Taylor Swift, because of her media attention, we have an idea of what is going on in her day to day life, and her love and loss, and the rest of it that doesn’t matter to our own lives. Because of this, and other reasons, I have a hard time relating to her music. On the other hand, someone like Sara Bareilles, I don’t know what is going on in her life all of the time, and what movie star she is dating, and not knowing that allows that mystery to develop that when I listen to her songs, I can relate. On a different level, Adele has written one of the most honest and genuine albums of 2011, but there is still a smoke screen there in the sense that we don’t know this person the album is about, but we know how honest the lyrics are.
In the case of Beyonce, the persona has allowed her fan base to attach to her and her music, and relate. In the long run, they are a creation in order to do exactly this. There are songs when listening to her catalogue, that as much as I love them, I have a hard time believing that it is a life experience she has had. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the song and enjoy it immensely, it just means that my connections to Beyonce’s music verses say someone like Sara Bareilles or Adele are very different.
For me, this does remind me that pop music can, and does have substance. Now, I’m not saying that this is the case for all pop music, but it reminds me that pop music cannot be written off as useless non-art.