If you dig the mix then please feel free to pass & post it along; if you dig a particular artist then please support them and go out and pick up some of their stuff.
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Being the most up-front pop-oriented of them, if any representatives from the last of the commercial sub-genres listed above were ever to land a hit to temporarily dominate the charts for a season or two then it was likely penned, recorded (and often digitally assembled note-for-note, syllable-by-syllable) by a cabal of nine middle-aged Nordic men. Although their birth certificates stated names that would likely bring to the average American mind images of Vikings or monks, they were typically credited under monikers that were easily forgettable despite their frequent use of the letters Z and X and honorary titles, such as Dr. Cztarlab, Sir LapLux, Mr. Mixus, and Professor JaMeZ. Almost no one would really ever recall these writers’ professional pseudonyms or note the central role they played in the hits that were so pervasive in their lives. These facts of anonymity were by design, as they did not want to interfere with the ascendency and celebrity of the “artist” that was to sell their work to the masses.
Through focus-group brand testing and weeks-long song-writing “cook-outz” where the annual trajectory of a (largely absent) performer’s career could be plotted by the continuity of tunes assigned to them, this committee had perfected a formula for pop familiarity—and thus, top ten hits. Not to oversimplify their equation, but it could be described as so: the forward swirl and bright texture of say, ABBA’s “SOS” but manufactured in a manner that ensured it could effortlessly and cyclically give way to the emphatic gush and catch of an arena-sized shout-along, something akin to the big-rock, chest-thump chorus in Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer.” With these elements married and laid atop a plush bed of programmed beats (or beatz) borrowed from the latest fashions in re-heated Hip Hop and R&B, all that was needed to complete the job was the appropriate vehicle to deliver the song. Sold to a Star-Creation division operating in-house under one of the various record-label executives, the likely hit-song could then be allocated either to a veteran presence or one of the newer recruits from the pop-celebrity academies.
The sound was always bigger & brighter & brighter & bigger. The sound should have little trouble in filling a stadium. Yet, it rarely needed to fill a stadium, but the sound must fill a shopping complex daily. Yes, the genuine smash hit was truly achieved when it facilitated an easy browse along the aisles of capitalism—interrupting consumption only long enough for an involuntary duet between pop star and shopper, a reflex response from the teaser tinsel of the pre-chorus build and the persistent bass and treble hook of the chorus returning again and returning again. At times the production could be so seamless, so unremarkable, so successful that one could pause and ask themselves: How do I know this song? Have I always known it? Has this song always been here?
With these narrow options before her, what was a girl to listen to? There was the feminine powerhouses of the Divas; at least they were aggressively advertised as such. These “Queens” and “Ladies” were always presented in context to the objects in their orbits: the relationships new or sour; the clothes; the hair; the promotional tie-Ins; the prop outrage performed on an award ceremony stage; the boyfriends and husbands; their current positions on the charts; their current positions in the rotating feuds between the other Divas. Watching music videos one day after school with her best friend since ninth grade, Rebecca turned to her and said: “Ugh, these role-model bitches are always either selling church or snatch.” Mireille laughed until she snorted. It was true, those who were not peddling their brand with the accompanying image of Clean American could be found rolling their eyes, spreading their legs, and retailing their lives under a banner that read Liberated & Nasty. Purchased from the Nordic committee, they all currently had the pull of a melody that was so easy to babble-along to. The Divas’ singles could be fun, but listening to them, Mireille reasoned, would make her feel like merely some consequence of a premise.
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