Recipe for a Generic Pop Song

On the 8th of November this year, it will be 41 years since the release date of what is widely regarded as the greatest song ever written: Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin. Now personally, although I love the song, I don’t think it is the greatest of all time but for the purposes of this post, let’s just assume it is.

Now in that 41 years, can we still say that the music released is of the same standard, substance, and longevity as songs such as Stairway to Heaven and other masterpieces of it’s generation and those previous? Really, is it plausible to think that in another 40 years time, people might regard the music of today as highly and consider them masterpieces? With no due respect what-so-ever, I really don’t think the time, effort, work and genuine soul that ARTISTS put into their work 40 years ago is present in today’s music and pop culture. Because that is exactly what the work they produced could be considered as: Art.

Now I know there are some of you out there who are permanant residents of  ‘the fence’ and like to appear suprerior in a musical argument by playing the whole “music is subjective” card and “everyone has different tastes, so why bother arguing” song and dance. And I cannot refute those statements (irritating as they might be). What I can argue though, are the differences in the process to which songs today are written and produced and recieved by the public. As unlike trying to argue whether one song is better an other is a purely subjective, the aforementioned can be argued from an objective stance. So sit back fencers, you might actually have to form an OPINION!!!
Obviously, as a ‘trainee journalist’ and in no way a ranting man, I have done the necessary investigative work in order to further support my opinion. And I am so commited to this piece that I have been working non-stop to get it right. Every day for the last year infact; every time I turn on my car; every time I go out with friends; every time I turn on the TV…Infact, arguably I have been forming and moulding this opinion since my brain was competent enough to memorise sounds. Yes, since my childhood, my ears have been bombarded by music. All types of music. Some good, some bad. But at the time I had no real distinction between the two. My first recollection of music that I felt was my own, that meant something to me, was the day I got Green Day’s American Idiot album. Only then were my ears filled with sounds and words that I had a visceral connnection to. It wasn’t another catchy chorus; it wasn’t what was popular with friends; it was…real music!

That album, was the cornerstone of which my music taste was built on. I would certainly not pigeon-hole myself into a particular genre but that is the point: from that album, I have continually expanded and diversified the music I listen to to incorporate practically everything. And only when you can appreciate so many types of music can you really understand what goes into creating the sounds, the words and the stories that undeniably become a part of us.

That, was my intro, here is what I am really driving at…
For the purposes of comparison, I am going to take a model song that I hate in the charts at the moment: How We Do by Rita Ora. Firstly, this song doesn’t even have a gramatically correct title but let’s not be too pedantic to begin with. I will get onto lyrical content soon…
Recipe for a Generic Pop Song


Step 1: Intro
The intro for your Pop Song first and foremost must be instantly recognisable and have the same affect on the listener as 200volts to the backside (in other words: makes them want to dance). As in How We Do by Rita Ora, they have opted for the ‘sing-along-vocals and guitar only’. A very widely used approach as seen in Good Feeling by Flo-Rida and You Don’t Know You’re Beautiful by One Direction. Alternatives can be diving straight into the main melody of the song more often than not played on the synth (see We Found Love by Calvin Harris feat. Rihanna) or the more complex option being a softer introduction, trying to decieve the audience before hitting them with ‘da beat’ (Chasing the Sun by The Wanted). To judge whether your introduction is successful, your audience should collectively shout “AWWWWWW!!!” upon hearing it. The intro basically is the rest of the song so if you get it right just press copy, paste and your done!

Step 2: Main Melody/Theme
Now, pop songs are aimed at the youth of today. And what do they love to do more than anything else? Partying! Or so pop songs keep telling me…So what you want for the melody of your pop song is more than anything just a really loud, bass and synth driven, repititve chord progression that must be in a major key (because hey, who wants to hear something depressing right?). The only exception of the key of the song (for those of you not musically literate, major=sounds happy; minor=sounds sad) is if the song is sexually suggestive. A master of this technique is Rihanna. However, for basic melodies good examples come from Nicki Minaj, Cheryl Cole etc…And yes, they really do always sound the same!

Step 3: Da Bass
Now I know I briefly mentioned bass in the previous step but this one is important. Infact it is fundamental to modern music in general. The reason people dance, the reason people have a strong reaction to this music is essentially the beat. See that constant, unrelenting, pounding you feel on the dancefloor? That’s what is called a 4/4 bass drum beat. Nothing more. Basically, a computer has been programmed with this as the default to every song released. With this in your song, people cannot resist to move your song. It is in our blood as human beings; as animals. We have a reflex reaction to a drum beat, a setting that was installed when our ancestors were first experimenting with rhythm with their sheep skin bongos around a fire. So in order for your song to be played in clubs where your audience is, it needs this essential ingredient.

Step 4: Lyrics
“There’s a lady who’s sure, all that glitters is gold
And she’s buying a stairway to heaven…”
Yuck! See those lyrics – pointless in a modern pop song.Why? Too ambiguous, too wordy, too much…meaning! Who wants to sing along to that after a few jagerbombs right! No, for your modern pop song all you really need are 5 words. 5 words. It really is that simple! All these words need to be is easy to remember and to reflect the setting in which they are being sung. For example, 5 words at random for your song could be “party”, “night”, “baby”, “good”, “time”. These are probably the 5 most used words in modern music because that is what people are doing these days! That’s all they want to hear! Why be reminded of inconvenient subjects such as the recession, poverty, war, corruption and the such when you can not challenge yourself at all and just think of how GREATyour night is!

Step 5: Musical Talent
You kidding? No, for modern music all that is required is a laptop and a face to attatch to the Apple Garage Band production. You may be sucked into the lie that those adorable little boy band members have real musical prowess when they’re doing an acoustic version of their already annoying song with a guitar but really, they have no more skill on a 6-string than a lepar. So really no genuine, raw talent need be found. Even for vocals, as today we have the beautiful invention of Auto-Tune, which to the untrained ear is practically undetectable, so don’t go to too much effort in this stage of making your pop song.

Step 6: The aforementioned ‘Face’
What you really want to strive for when completing your pop song is the cherry on top to make it all the sweeter. And that cherry has to be a real shiner, so no rotters. Think Rihanna; think One Direction; Nicki Minaj (so I hear); Cheryl Cole. Wonderfully crafted tools which don’t necessarily have any real ability but look good pretending to know. So to really give your song some ‘zing’ I suggest only the best.

And that should be about you! Once your pop song is packaged and ready to be displayed, always remember that this process can be recycled to produce similar results again and again until humanity collectively goes insane because of brain damage caused by excessive bass exposure. At which point, the only music we will be able to hear is the harmonising screams from the other patients in the psychiatric institution we all share!

I have been Ryan Stewart, thank you for reading my miserable blog post. I cannot be held responsible for any injuries or fatalities you cause to yourself or others following the reading of these words. But cheers all the same!

If Scotland was America…

So, Hurricane Sandy. A Superstorm; the “Frankenstorm”.  Without doubt a force of nature to be reckoned with. America is used to such things: Katrina, Mount St.Helen’s, San Fransisco – they, as a Nation, know the drill.

Scotland however, not so much. The way we dealt with the last two winters stand testament to that. Granted, the Scottish people don’t piss their pants at the first sight of snow in the same way that our Southern cousins do but we are still partial to a wee moan about how cold it is or how the bloody gritter hasn’t been yet.

There is one trait however that I believe that we, as a nation, hold high over everyone else on the planet and that is our glorious ability to make light of literally any situation that is slapped in front of us, regardless of how dire the condition could be. Scotland is full of funny people. It is in our nature; our blood. Hence why when – for the first time in 30 years –  we are struck by what can be considered a small hurricane, do we officially name it? With a name that is statistically chosen to demand the greatest respect for the serious situation? No, the job was clearly given to Tam wae the good patter. And now history shall forever refer to that storm as…Hurricane Bawbag. Sort of poetically beautiful in a way isn’t it? Personally I love the idea of it being 100 years down the line, and on some version of BBC Scotland News where Jackie Bird is probably still inexplicably presenting, there will be a segment like “This Day in History” where they open the Facebook archive posts of everyone talking about the damage cause by Hurricane Bawbag.

And it is just this sort of sense of humour that is lacking from so many things in the world. Namely, like I said, in people across the pond in America. I genuinely believe that if we inhabited a chaotic world where Hurricanes, Tornado’s, Earthquakes and Volcanoes existed, we wouldn’t view them as forces of destruction beyond imagination, more inconvenient niggles that would disrupt us every now and then. Would we view them with respect? Hell no! Just imagine, rather than one freak occurence of a Hurricane, we would have whole seasons. Whole seasons of reports of storms named after human genitals. Tornado Alley (the area in the South and Mid-West of America that was named most likely to have Tornadoes each) year I imagine would be renamed the “Windy Tunnel” or something along those line. I would leave it to my fellow Jock to coin a phrase that would be both succinct and hilarious.

The point of this blog is less of a comment on how Americans should be trying to think of more jokes during events that I know demand an incredible amount of seriousness; more an endorsement of the Scottish people. Yes, the stereotype painted of us is not particularly a positive one: heavy, drinkers, smokers, fighters, swearers…heavy people in literal terms also; that we are a miserable bunch whose personality reflects the climate they are subjugated to year round… The list goes on.

However, speaking from an observational point of view, I think that we, as a people, are one of the friendliest, most inviting, most generally positive countries in the world. As expressed by our dearest Zimbabwean member, Arnold Bhebhe. We are not necessarily optimistic (lets not push it). But our collective psyche is one more of a jovial realism. In other words: we know our weather is crap, we know we will NEVER win the World Cup and we know that our ‘storms’ are a bit limp wristed too but at the end of the day, after 6 pints down the road with our friends, insulting each other and paradoxically becoming closer in the process…
We just don’t gee a f**k!

A miraculous survivor…