21.2.09

BEN LEE DOES NOT HEART POP

Ben Lee - I Love Pop Music


I love pop music, more and more every day this year in fact. 2009 is my very own Year of Pop. But it's not going to be trumpeted by this utter douchebag's apparent 'tribute' to that genre, nay MODERN PHENOMENON, that we call pop. Because there are about a million reasons why Ben Lee has it all wrong, why he neither understands nor loves pop music:

Pop, despite what some might think, is not so fucking obvious as this song. This song thinks it can perfunctorily summarise the entire genre whilst simultaneously operating in it's register. Observe:

I love pop music, this is how we do it
It’s politics you can romance to
I love pop music, sprinkle sugar through it,
Philosophy that you can dance to

(Started listening to the actual song to transcribe those lyrics, found an almost primal reflex within myself to instantly hit 'STOP' and was thankfully saved having to live out any more than the first line again by the joy that is Metro Lyrics)

THIS IS NOT HOW WE DO IT (this, however, is) - what the fuck does dude think he is doing reducing the utter complexity that is pop to this pithy little couplet? I can imagine Ben sitting there in his studio, writing that one down - I dunno, maybe it came to him in an epiphany whilst 'jamming' - and thinking to himself how supasmart he is, "Well done Ben," he says to himself (classic narcissist, we all remember), "you've cracked the code!!!"

Like, fuck, no way, pop music can hold in tension seemingly contradictory positions/affects?! Wow. Now I know that that's something I've banged on about here, but where Ben makes the obvious fuck up is that he thinks it's that fucking simple. That that's all there is to it. Tellingly, for him its a zero sum game; his lyric posits a kind of mutually exclusive equation - it's political and after that you can romance to it, as if there was no politics to the romancing itself, or no romancing to the politics, etc etc. But that's not even the half of it.

Coz like I said, the worst part is that he thinks he can get away with revelation of pop within pop - just not possible dude. The whole reason pop can work in paradox is because it is entirely surface but with a second side, like a surface that conceals another surface that is its mirror. I have no idea if that makes sense, but think of like looking down from a still boat at the sea, then looking up from under the water at that same spot. Kind of like that. So it's meanings are simultaneously clear and yet always completely hidden. It's like it's depth works through its shallowness, so some throwaway lyric about Kissing A Girl is politicised just as it is seemingly only romantic. But Katy Perry certainly didn't sing - "This is a song about ambivalent sexuality / Even though I sound like I'm kind of tolerant and/or experimental re lesbianism / I'm actually just a hetero scab / That cares more about turning on my boyfriend". NO ONE SINGS WHAT THEY'RE SINGING ABOUT IN POP. That's just not its mode of self-reference. This kind of shit actually nullifies its very force!!!

And where it really becomes clear (haha, like anything I write here ever is) that he has fucked things up is his fucking hubris in just casually throwing in completely fucking bare sentences like

"Our leaders have not committed to a plan of action on renewable energy
The food crisis is currently affecting a hundred million people world wide"

If pop is ever going to have political import or effect it's certainly not going to be through bashing its listeners over the head with such loaded and yet entirely boring (written like they are as gross little sound bites from some lazy left-wing politician's speech) statements as this. Because that's the entire fucking point of pop - sure it matters, its powerful and political - but it doesn't solve global hunger/warming/war, there is no material conditions to pop, it cannot propel or change these conditions, in fact it never claimed that it could or should. So why the fuck is Ben Lee singing about this stuff in a fucking pop song? And why so fucking obvious?

When it comes down to it, dude has completely and stupidly confused the politics of pop with Politics proper, and the artifice of pop with the manifestly explicit, the simple.

Listening to this song is to know what it feels like to play a song as a complete and utter document of itself - there is no depth, nothing but what it says and plays, and no conception of its own stupidity. Max aptly compared it to 'Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)' - and he is completely right. Both songs are so far stuck up their own completely megolomaniacal and solipsistic philosophising that they can't ever provide even a scrap of insight, all the more because they think they are peeling back the layers of the whole fucking world.

Plus you know you're fucked if Missy Higgins is on backing vox.

7 riffs:

Harriet Gregory said...

Ouch! Ben got burnt. I really like the energy of this post. I agree 100%!

richard said...

100% word!

Adrian said...

I think he's just lazy and now content with writing supermarket jams. I mean he's all like, "Oh what's that..? Yeah pop music uh huh. American television.. yeah that's a decent enough one liner for the Qantas flight radio. Now fuck, what was I doing..? Oh yeah.. counting my MONEY."

Lawson said...

Take your point Adrian, but there's two things I'd say. Firstly, there's too much of a sense of self-entitlement and earnestness (though sickening) Ben displays for these to be 'throwaway'. Second, this isn't a very great supermarket jam. It would be if it was, nah mean?

Anonymous said...

Randomly came upon this posting... Here's my comment:

I've never really listened to ben lee, but when I heard this song I thought he meant the whole thing to be sarcastic... as in: pop music is ridiculous, there are so many other important things going on in the world (which he lists). I thought it was a kind of satire... maybe i'm wrong. Food for thought.

J. M. Richards said...

Interesting...
I just heard and downloaded the song on Sunday, and I really like it. I never would have guessed some people would find it so offensive. But I just read another review that said some similar things.

Interesting.

But I still like the song.

Ryan said...

Hahaha! Love it! Ben Lee is such a pretentious little turd.

Here is another, much shorter, attack on this shithouse song: http://sicshooters.com/forum/index.php?topic=123.0