Pop Plugs in the Patch Chords in a Paean for Posterity
Soon, the pop princesses will fail their piss tests, and be sent off to the glue factory. This is no great prophecy; it’s simple fact, like poor ol’ Leslie Visser, pushed out to pasture in favor of Melissa Stark. But this is pop music, not Monday Night Football. And I’ll bet you the combined cost of Eric Dickerson’s speech therapy classes that the stable of pop divas currently inhabiting MTV and Neutrogena ads will be out in the back 40 chewing their cud by year’s end.
But whatever will the KISS-FMs of this world do? What vacuous tripe will replace Mandy Moore in the hearts and wallets of a million pre-teens, frantically dialing the KISS lines when they hear the touchtones, hoping to score tickets to an arena show featuring 20-minute sets by performers whose names they do not yet know?
Fortunately, the uber-producers that record companies look to for this sort of thing have an answer. And it seems to be the Rock. No, not as in Kid. And not that howl coming from the gaping maws of The Bald And The Angry (Stain’d, Disturbed, etc.). No, the rock of which we speak is the twee kind, consisting of cheap power chords and overblown, Hanson-like production, currently being purveyed on pop radio by the likes of a re-tooled L.F.O. You remember L.F.O. A boy band before boy bands were boy bands again, L.F.O. blew up the 1998 Spring Break scene with their ode to girls who wear Abercrombie & Fitch. These dorks were 2 dudes short of Color Me Badd, but had left the shitty flow and re-tread back beats intact. Well, in a twisted turn of events that has to make the three guys who are actually in L.F.O. truly feel like the commodities that they are, the group has re-emerged in a new millennium as the American BB Mak, singing a ditty about –really? – a girl. But this time, in the accompanying video, one of the faceless dopes who isn’t the frontman totes a Les Paul, hesitantly strumming along with the song’s simplistic power chords and looking all the while like he’s afraid Slash is going to return any minute, drunk and angry, wondering why the fuck this pretty boy is trying to play his guitar. But it doesn’t matter how convincing L.F.O. are as rockers (they aren’t), or how much actual rock is contained within the cheap walls of the song (not a lot). For the producers and label figureheads brokering in Pop, the addition of electric guitar and some Eddie Money sensibilities to their normal collection of Blackstone The Magician drum tracks and keyboard blips is a way to subtly distort their product into something ostensibly new and exciting. L.F.O. – re-packaged and re-sold for your purchasing pleasure. “And listen for those touchtones for your chance to attend the KISS-FM Star Party, featuring L.F.O., EMF, ELO, and EE Cummings!”
There’s nothing memorable about L.F.O. They will most likely complete their 2-month run of mall appearances and low-level arena gigs, and find themselves back in their holding tank at Jive Records, waiting to be re-assembled as a klezmer group. But their re-emergence under the guise of Rock marks what could be a disturbing trend, as the Pop life breaks down and the money train runs out of gas. Rumor has it Britney’s covering “I Love Rock & Roll” on her upcoming record. The popularity of Incubus will no doubt spawn soundalikes performing a less-talented version of that band’s Alice In Chains-meets-Ben Harper soul-core. And a young lady named Michelle Branch is making waves in multilple radio formats with her song “Everywhere,” a number that grafts the riff from Barenaked Ladies’ “Old Apartment” onto the pacing of Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn,” all the while with Michelle cooing like a cross between Britney and Jewel. The Rock is definitely back on Top 40 radio, but in a homogenized form that does nothing to save an already decrepit format. It will be interesting to see if this trend towards power chords continues, especially if Britney releases her Joan Jett cover as a single. But if the Rock becomes the new Pop, chances are it’ll be the same old, same old situation, the same old song and dance, and won’t do any artist who actually cares about his or her craft any favors.
Madonna’s always been a trend-setter. Maybe that funny photo of the Material Girl jamming on a Les Paul will prove truly influential, and not simply a photo-op.