THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Stephen Autar Headshot

In Which I Share Something Personal

Posted: Updated:
Print

I have a confession to make. Yes, I know this is our first time interacting with one another, but there is something that I really need to get off my chest before we go any further: I am obsessed with pop music. Yes, pop music. That stuff you hear on Top 40 radio, the exact opposite of the kind of musical taste that gets you cool points on the Internet. And I am not ashamed of it. I will always wave my flag of pop-music-fanboy-dom proudly.

Besides being highly enjoyable, pop music is just fun. What I love most about it is what's missing most from it: that sense of intolerable pretension you find in the kind of stuff these hipster folks listen to. Pop music is just music to listen to and it's unabashedly so. It doesn't try to be anything more than what it is and, to me, that is miles more fun to listen to than music that tries entirely too hard to be poetic and deep and dark and mysterious and soulful and soulless all at the same time. That's just way too many flavors in one blender for me.

For me, the absence of that layer, or layers, of hidden messages adds so much depth to pop. Due to the fact I'm not spending my time searching for the supposed symbolism and story in the lyricism of a song, I'm able to the enjoy the song much more and I'm also able to decipher the meaning of the song as I see fit. When you are told there is meaning to something, it cheapens the depth of the work of art; finding meaning in something should not be a path clouded by obscurity, but instead, a path able to be simply followed by one's heart, emotions and senses. If I'm told there is some great, deep meaning to a song then I'm offended by not having the chance to discover that fact for myself. The pretension in that song blocks me from reaching the plane of intelligence it tries to tell me it's on; I want to be able to decipher and unravel songs without being told I have to.

Okay, you're saying. I get what you're trying to tell me here, but pop music is garbage. The lyrics discuss nothing but descriptions of partying, boozing and sex. How could there possibly be any substance to that kind of trash? To this, I say Ha! You, my friends, have put yourselves into a box by listening to all that obscure hipster music. You can only think of songs having a deeper meaning if they use flowery language and obvious symbolic references and figurative speech. Simple language can just as easily portray a deeper image. To prove this point, I will use one of my favorite songs by my favorite artist: "Gimme More" by the incomparable Britney Spears, who -- along with being my absolute favorite recording artist -- is probably the poster child for trivial, major-label, mainstream pop music and also a constant target for those who love to trash pop music.

At first listen, "Gimme More" is a one-note, one-dimensional song in which the first-person protagonist narrates how intensely she feels attraction for an unknown object of affection. She then further describes how that fierce attraction propels her to dance quite sexually with this stranger despite the sea of voyeurs surrounding them -- voyeurs who appear to be encouraging the couple to, well, give them more of this heated display of passion, attraction and lust.

Yes, you're saying, that's exactly what that song is about -- albeit in nicer wording -- how in the world are you going to argue that there is any substance beyond the surface of that crappy song? And to that I say Ha!, again. The key to deciphering anything lies within one word: perspective. It's important to remember what was happening when that song was released. Britney was crazy, going through a heavily-publicized meltdown, and so the music she released during that time period is to be looked at as a window into her world at the time; a glimpse into the mind of a troubled star.

Armed with that perspective, when I listen to that song and hear those lyrics, a different meaning emerges. I hear a narrative, yes, but not one of intense gyrations on a strange man in the corner of a packed club while the crowd is screaming to see more. No, instead I hear an account of her relationship with the public, especially the media: going out, seeing the paparazzi, bombarded by reporters, cameras, microphones and men screaming "More! More! More! Gimme more, Britney!!", suffocating her and clobbering her, and then her desire to appease them and get rid of them all at the same time.

It is a manifesto, truly an autobiographical manifesto. And that declaration wrapped up in a simple dance-pop ditty that no one would have thought meant more than a narration of a night of dirty dancing is much more impressive to me than lyrics using symbolism and flowery language to describe climax or coitus.