What You Kno’ Bout Me?

After surviving last night’s two-hour gag-fest to crown the latest American Idol, I can sort of empathize with all you curmudgeonly pop-music-hating composers out there. Sure, it was nice to see that Doug E. Fresh is still alive, but for the most part it was snooze city all the way. Luckily, the tawdry televised spectacle of blandness is not some sort of credo followed by the music business as a whole. There’s a lot of spicy stuff out there, you just have to be willing to hunt for it.

Sometimes a pop song comes along that is so inane and single-minded, it goes beyond the numbing zone and crosses over into pure genius. No Doubt’s “Hey Baby” and M.I.A.’s “Pull Up The People” come to mind. Really though, nothing is more shocking than when, say, Christina Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle” actually ends up rubbing you the right way! But in the end, nobody is going to revoke your serious composer membership card just because you can admit to yourself that you like a Kelly Clarkson song.

My indulgence of the moment is this. Is it just me, or is Lil Mama conjuring up some early minimalism here… Reich’s Clapping Music perhaps? Yeah, the song is about, um, lip gloss—lame—but the stripped down sound and sheer relentlessness behind it all has me hooked. So what’s stuck in your head?

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14 thoughts on “What You Kno’ Bout Me?

  1. GalenHBrown

    I don’t know about the Lip Gloss song–your link is busted and I’m too lazy to hunt it down elsewhere right now–but Madonna’s “Die Another Day” actually starts with a sample of “Clapping Music” as far as I can tell. And I actually really like the song, especially the string parts.

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  2. bdecker

    I think this song’s repetitive rhythmic backbone (which you’re right – is quite infectious!) has more roots in city-schoolyard clapping games. This in turn also has roots back hundreds of years in west African culture.

    Thus, Clapping Music perhaps is influenced from this song, in a way. (OK – that’s a stretch; but at least this style of rhythmic clapping and phrasing, which is very much an African/African-American influence on American musical culture as a whole)

    In addition – this song on the surface may sound like it’s about lip gloss. It’s really about this girl’s status in her school, both socially and sexually. Historically, pop, blues, R and B, and early Rock songs tend to use simple themes as allegories for such topics.

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  3. EveretteMinchew

    I am one of those “curmudgeonly pop-music-hating composers” and I try to listen to very little of it. But at my work I am usually bombarded by constant pop/rock/country music and I dislike 98% of it.
    Your post made me recall a conversation my wife and I had a while back about songs that we are kind of ashamed to admit that we like.

    My wife’s pick: Britney Spears – “Toxic”
    (I do enjoy the Nickel Creek version)
    and my pick: Justin Timberlake – Sexyback

    Both are terribly catchy. I enjoy the distorted vocals on Sexyback and it is very difficult to not tap your foot while listening to either.

    By the way Randy, is there a pop song that you consider to be the ultimate of catchy pop songs?

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  4. pgblu

    accurate transliteration
    Hey Randy, I have an even dumber question: How do you know that the word ‘know’ has been pronounced without the w ?

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  5. maestro58

    …is Carrie Underwoods Before He Cheats. It may not have any modern elements to it but it is a brilliant piece of pop construction. Not only is the music infectious, but every word is placed with a jewelers precision. For anyone who takes pop seriously (and I say pop, because it has crossed over from the country chart to the pop chart on the radio station I listen to), give it a listen if you choose to.

    Now back to writting my brass fanfare…

    Reply
  6. RustyBanks

    I un-abashedly listen to pop (though most of it alternative). I freely let it influence my music. For my last commission I wrote a post-minimal trombone quartet based on material from pop songs with the word “jump.”

    Most pop music is crap, but so is most classical music. What percentage of any genre can be great? Also, what’s on the radio is always crappier than stuff off the beaten path. Think of classical music programming. It’s just awful. It’s the “Starship” of classical.

    I’m listening to Bjork’s new album now. Also the new They Might Be Giants album.

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  7. randy

    Hey Mr. Blume, those of us with discerning ears can definitely tell when “know” is pronounced sans w. A closer listen will reveal that the w is only heard on the second repetition of the word.

    And on the Timberlake front, I find “What Goes Around” much more crack-like than “SexyBack.” But to each their own…

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  8. randy

    w
    Okay, I’ll drop all the formality, but not the last letter of my name! Maybe throw out that pesky silent h instead: Nordscow. Ah, that’s much better.

    Reply
  9. jbunch

    If I added an umlaut over the u in my name, would that make me into a more curmudgeonly composer?

    James Bünch?

    Jæméß Büñçh™ ??

    ∆åµ´ß ∫¨˜ç˙7 ???

    My guilty pop pleasure(s) are:

    The Pogues – “Dirty Old Town”
    Imogen Heap – “Let Go”
    Damien Rice – “Cannonballs”
    Nouvelle Vague – “I’ll Melt With You”
    Rufus Wainwright – “Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk”

    My guilty classical music pleasure(s) are:

    Tchaikovsky – Violin Concerto
    Pablo de Sarasate – Zigenerwiesen
    Ravel – Piano Concerto in G
    Lou Harrison – Concerto in Slendro

    Reply

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