Monday, August 21, 2006

Here to Stay

As I was finishing up my latest round of reviews for Punk Planet last night, I took a listen to the latest Sound Opinions podcast. In lieu of the usual music news they do at the top of the show, Jim and Greg reviewed the new Outkast and Christina Aguilera records. While I cannot say I really care for either act, a sense of puzzlement came over me as they talked about Aguilera's new double-disc release, Back to Basics.

When was the last time you heard of a mainstream pop artist releasing a double album? I'm not talking a rock band like Smashing Pumpkins or the Foo Fighters who have a pop appeal. I'm talking those seemingly disposable pop tarts that sell sex sex sex and also serve as role models for pre-teens and teens alike. I cannot remember a single one, but there could be a few. Double albums often test the attention span of a listener and are more often than not found in the album rock genre. With so many songs on them, double albums usually fly over the head of the "I want it now!" mindset often found with young fans of pop music.

With Back to Basics, I wonder how this will play out for Aguilera's longtime fans. What will they do with such a vast number of songs? Will they take their favorite tracks, rip them into MP3s and burn them onto a single CD-R? That seems like a logical course of action . . .

Then there is this track entitled "Thank You" which ends the first disc. Consisting of bits of phone messages left by longtime fans, the gushing and the praises are overly-congratulatory. Putting this track on an album seems like a way of "giving back," but this comes across as cringe-worthy self-lauding. Maybe this would work as a free download on a website, but putting this on an album is rather ridiculous to me. As Greg put it best: "five of the most excruciating minutes you will ever hear on a pop record by a major celebrity ever in the history of recorded music." I couldn't agree more.

It's not like I'm not a fan of pop stars that have this kind of mass appeal. I still really enjoy a number of those big hits in the '80s from Pat Benetar, Whitney Houston and Janet Jackson. Those were artists that were smart, sexy and fun and they had a string of great singles. So when I saw this second generation of pop tarts selling sex in a rather trashy way with limp songs, I couldn't get into this. Though I think Aguilera's "Beautiful" is a great song, I have yet to be convinced that this kind of "dirrty" pop is worth my time. Now I'm starting to think that these pop acts are trying to age with their audience but aren't doing that great of a job. Maybe it's prime time for a third generation to come in and speak to the MySpace generation of teens.


Rj said...

wow, a double album. I wonder if linda perry is still writing all of her songs. Linda Perry was the singer of the four non blondes. She wrote that song "beautiful" that you like.

That track with fans thanking her, just sounds fucking horrible.

What's next, a Britney Spears concept album?

Maybe a Justin Timberlake Rock Opera?

Eric Grubbs said...

Oh yeah, I remember Linda Perry and Four Non Blondes. I still enjoy "What's Up?" along with a number of the pop hits she's written. She has that Midas touch . . .