Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Whither the pop that really goes POP?

Sky Ferreira has probably written the best of the latest pop albums.
Photo via her Facebook page
Katy Perry's album is abysmal. Lady GaGa's is better but lacks any sense of daring or adventure, causing it to sound already out of date. Miley Cyrus' album is slightly better than that (?!) but is still pretty awful. 

So who is doing well and creating pop music that still pushes boundaries? Lorde is all the rage and set to become this year's Adele. Sky Ferreira has produced an album that far exceeded even my high expectations. And Ellie Goulding is set to become an electro-pop princess. All three of these artists are riding an "us against the Majors" campaign but all three are products of the Major Label system, and none are groundbreaking. They're just writing solid songs, albeit with a little help from their friends.

Lorde and Ferreia have been in the system through most of their teen years and have cannily hooked up with excellent producers. This isn't to say their individual visions aren't impressive, but they're not out-of-nowhere success stories. And Goulding is an old hand at this sort of thing in modern pop years and was lifted to prominence with the help of a bunch of established songwriters and producers (including the legendary Frankmusic). And I have high hopes for Ke$ha's next round of work provided she can actually escape the smothering presence of Dr. Luke (who probably is most responsible for the disaster that is Perry's latest).

Oh, and M.I.A.'s new one is really good but after all the advance sneak peeks at her songs—and her certifiably being a senior citizen in the pop music world—this isn't surprising.

So I think it's safe to say that the superstars are faltering and the up-and-comers are rising. Same as it ever was, only the timetables from great to good to bad have severely shortened. Which also isn't particularly surprising. What is surprising is that none of the folks mentioned above is producing anything that's pushing any new boundaries, and that's a bummer all around.

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