The definitions of “pop music” are as varied as the music itself, so I think it’s easiest for me to think about “pop” being short for “popular” — as in, appealing to the average bear out there.
I would not say that I am a music snob, but I am particular about the music I want to listen to in certain contexts and to create certain moods. I’m one of those people who can hear a song and immediately connect it back to a year or a moment in my own life, or to a movie or commercial spot where it was used. I am also sensitive — both positively and negatively — to remakes of songs, which means that everything from the ’80s, apparently, is up for being remade now in 2012. But in terms of willingness to listen to music, I’ll listen to anything at least once. Since moving to AK, my music radio listening, however, has mostly declined because there’s not much out there currently that catches my ear. Adele is amazing, yes, but she’s getting overplayed on the radio, and Katy Perry is just… not appealing to me. So in my old age I have started to listen to NPR religiously in the morning on the drive to the box or to school and again in the afternoon on the way home. I kind of feel like I’m turning into my parents, who always got frustrated with me as a kid when I would immediately turn on the radio and blast music before we had even gotten halfway down the driveway. I realize that it’s not that they didn’t like music — both of my parents love music, actually, and my dad is still known to crank up the jams in the house — but that they really couldn’t deal with “my” music at the time.
As a kid, the first cassettes I owned (in no particular order) included: Billy Joel’s An Innocent Man, Whitney Houston, Wham! Make It Big, Bobby Brown’s Don’t Be Cruel, Janet’s Rhythm Nation 1814 and New Kids on the Block tapes. I know for a fact that there’s still a large amount of memory space in my brain allotted to remembering the lyrics to far too many of the songs on all of these albums. And it doesn’t get much more pop-py than that in terms of the late ’80s. I remember wandering into my older sibling’s rooms to admire their tape collections, too, because they had access to even more music. Now I have thousands of songs on my iPod, but rarely do I listen to an entire album the way I used to when I was young. Now I just pick out the few tracks from an artist that I like and/or wouldn’t mind having come up randomly in a playlist. I don’t know if that’s better than before, but it is certainly different. The access I now have to music is close to unlimited and yet… that just seems to make it harder to discern what is actually worth listening to anymore. I find myself hunting more often for older albums to fill in the blanks left behind by my now useless cassette collection.
When I look back on the past 30 years of existence, I can close my eyes and listen to the soundtrack of my life. I’m hoping that in another 30 years, there will be music that is just as memorable for me as there was in the first 10 years. Now that I have a stronger sense of how art imitates life imitates art, the lack of originality in a lot of what I hear today makes me a wee bit nervous. But I bet that’s what my parents said at my age and what their parents said before them. Regardless, my ears are open for the next song that will take its place on my soundtrack.