Pop comes of age


The second annual Popopolis music festival at the Southgate House on Saturday night celebrates Pop music, but what does that even mean any more?

In its traditional sense, Pop music connoted exactly what its name suggested — Popular music. But even that description is a little broad. Popular music usually refers to music that's not Classical or instrumental Jazz (Jazz standards, with singers, would count as Pop) or some form of World Music.

Today, Pop music seems to have numerous definitions. Some say everything commercial is Pop, Mariah Carey to Smash Mouth. With the current teen phenomenon in music, Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears are often referred to as Pop.

Pop also gets used as a derogatory term. Hardcore Hip Hop artists will often put down more lightweight artists as Pop Rap performers. If someone is playing Jazz with a repetitive, rigid verse/chorus/ verse/chorus structure, detractors say it's Jazz Pop.

The breed of Pop performers that Popopolis strives to celebrate is none of these. But those who use the term negatively are on the right track. When a performer uses that verse/chorus structure in Hip Hop or Jazz, for example, it's seen as getting away from the freeness of the form. And the more avant garde Rock musicians will say the same thing.

But there is an art form within those structures and that's the kind of music Popopolis honors. It's all about the song-artists, performers who use the traditional song form as a catalyst, devising the melodies to stand-out above all.

There are the certain Gods of Pop within that definition, The Beatles being at the top of the list. The songbook of Lennon/McCartney also represents the elasticity of the form. As experimental as The Beatles could get, you could still almost always hum the hook (something taken to the limits in the '90s by Radiohead). The Beach Boys also stand tall at the top of the list of Pop icons, alongside the likes of '70s underdogs Big Star and, to an extent, even The Rolling Stones and The Who.

Pop Rock acts (by the Popopolis definition) strive to write the perfect song, whether it gets on the radio or not seems to be irrelevant (though radio seems the logical place for a super-catchy song, few Pop/Rock acts manage to break mainstream radio).

Today, Matthew Sweet, Ben Folds Five and Oasis carry the torch of the Pop song in the mainstream. The Elephant 6 collective (which includes Apples in Stereo, Olivia Tremor Control and Neutral Milk Hotel, among others) are representative of Pop's strong presence in the Rock & Roll underground, as are labels like Spin Art, Arena Rock and Big Deal.

Popopolis (also a benefit for the FreeStore/Food Bank) could be seen as a reclamation of the word Pop. Or it could just be a chance to gather the area's best melodic performers together to build a sense of community for those performers. Or it could just be a big party. Anyway you chose to see it, you can be sure of one thing: After you leave the Southgate House on Saturday night you'll have at least one song swimming around in your head for the rest of the weekend.

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