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Gimme More and a defense of Pop Music.

September 17, 2007

So I’ve just heard the new Britney track: Gimme More. I hate to say this but I’m impressed. I frequently hate having to say that. I should be honest here. My biggest guilty pleasure is pop music. Most of my junior high and early high school years were spent hiding this fact. I was lucky enough to also enjoy rap and rock. Both separately and together in the Rap/Rock or Nu Metal genre. These gave me a degree of respectability with my peers. But when I got home I would borrow my neighbour’s latest n’Sync or Backstreet Boys album and bask in the delightful melodies, harmonies, and professional songwriting.

Yup, I just said that. Professional songwriting. I think that is something often overlooked by music snobs. The reality is the song your favorite “indie” band just wrote and released was written by amateurs. The songs my brother and I write and record are also efforts by amateurs (efforts I know have at least one fan: Me). But a pop song is usually, almost scientifically, constructed with amazing hooks, perfect chord progressions, and wonderful melodies and harmonies.

In terms of Gimme More, it reflects the degree to which pop stars are denied the ability to grow up. Lyrically it is a pretty stupid song (the reality is that the lyrics are probably as close as Britney gets to the writing process). But the melody and construction of everything but the outro is well done. The subtle use of the synth strings to change the chord structure during the chorus is brilliant, simply because nothing else changes. It took a number of listens to figure out that one. The melody is mostly on one note. Perfect for having a crowd sing along.  The outro is what producer Danja, apparently a protege of Timbaland, has learned from Timbaland, throwing in some shameless self promotion in the song you’ve just produced.

If you want to be a songwriter or producer you have to listen to pop music. It is the best (if not the only) way to learn how to make hooks and melodies. It’s time to let go of the musical snobbery. Gimme more.

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One comment

  1. Guilty pleasure? What are you talking about?

    You have identified the main reason WHY pop music is popular – it has melodic and harmonic hooks that tweak the ear. If the lyrics were the most important thing, we would be reading poetry….

    I agree with you – the best way to get to know these hooks is to listen to the stuff that’s out there. When I was at SCA, I actually went to a workshop (on a Saturday) where we talked about songwriting and using hook. Zane Zalis was the guy giving the workshop – he runs the music program at a high school in River East Transcona. His main point was that we needed to go and listen to the big “hits” and figure out how they were writing thier songs.

    He also had us write melodies. Mine – too complicated. figures!

    On an aside, Liam – some songs by Vineyard, Hillsongs and Maranantha(spelling?) would be a Christian version of the same idea – melodic hooks with little lyric composition involved. Sorry, but I find the theology in some worship songs very lacking….



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