by Daniel Petrino
In the PC/Gaming world, there’s a phrase applied to software that is more prolific in its quantity rather than quality: shovelware. From Wikipedia:
Shovelware is a derogatory computer jargon term that refers to software noted more for the quantity of what is included than for the quality or usefulness. The term is also used to refer to software that is ported from one computer platform or storage medium to another with little thought given to adapting it for use on the destination platform or medium, resulting in poor quality.
“The metaphor implies that the creators showed little care for the original software, as if the new compilation or version had been indiscriminately created/ported with a shovel, without any care shown for the condition of the software on the newly created product.”
As the musical landscape transforms and evolves into a medium where genres are bent, crossed and synthesized into something completely new, I find more and more of what I’ve come to call Shovelpop. Don’t think I’m about to go on a rant about pop music; I like pop music – GOOD pop music. Nearly every artist on today’s Top 40 has some pop element to their music if they’re not straight up pop. There’s a large swathe of pop music that I consider “good,” but there’s more and more Shovelpop being pushed onto the radio than I can take. Let me start with some of my favorite pop music:
The Cardigans – EVERYONE knows them for their pop monster “Lovefool,” aided in no small part by its inclusion in 1996 soundtrack from Baz Luhrmann’s interpretation of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The first thing I think of whenever I hear “Lovefool” is Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes in their iconic roles.
But can anyone else name any other song The Cardigans released? Does “My Favourite Game” ring a bell? Did you know they did an absolutely heavenly cover of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man?” Did you know they’ve put out six studio albums? SIX! The Cardigans are one of my favorite examples of good pop music. Each one of their albums has a totally different feel to it while retaining the soft pop sound that makes them unique and an absolute pleasure to listen to. Their last album, Super Extra Gravity, has some fantastic photographs within its CD booklet pages, not to mention great songs like “I Need Some Fine Wine And You, You Need To Be Nicer” and “Don’t Blame Your Daughter (Diamonds),” the latter having one of the oddest and macabre music videos I’ve seen in quite some time.
Robyn – Tina and I did a Music Swap of Robyn’s latest pop offering, and while she wasn’t overly impressed, I’ve loved Robyn’s self-titled return to the music world since I heard the first single, “Konichiwa Bitches.”
Robyn’s new sound is somewhere between electro-pop and rap, between aggressive female re-establishing herself as an artist and fragile, sensitive woman. You’ll never hear the playful, piano-banging “Jack You Off” or vulnerable “With Every Heartbeat” on the radio, but it’s better than half the pollution that clogs the airwaves. Her music videos are a must-see! Oh, and be sure to listen to her sing on Royksopp’s track “The Girl and the Robot!”
Katy Perry – So “I Kissed A Girl” may seem a little gimmicky, but damn if it didn’t establish her as an artist to watch out for, and she delivered. Her music is infectious, aggressive and great to dance to. She’s almost the new, pop version of Alanis.Le
Lenka – Lenka’s self-titled debut is sweet without being saccharine. Her music is light pop fare, but her voice is delicious, especially when juxtaposed with some of her darker songs. “Trouble Is a Friend” is absolutely haunting; “The Show” is positively sparkling.
The Pipettes – A female pop import from the UK, The Pipettes are reminiscent of female pop trios of days gone by. Catchy, upbeat pop beats coupled with a harmonizing trio of ladies provide such pop gems as “Pull Shapes” and “Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me.”
Kylie Minogue – She’s the fucking queen of pop overseas. “In My Arms” and “Love At First Sight” are my favorite Kylie songs.
La Roux – She falls in a similar vein as Robyn, but her music is a little more 8-bit electro-pop. “Bulletproof” and “Quicksand” are definitely standout tracks.
Lady GaGa – What can I say about her? She’s the Princess of Pop to Madonna’s Queen. Not an overly huge fan of some songs on Fame Monster, but I enjoyed most of The Fame.
Pink – For an artist who consistently releases popular singles, I feel like she doesn’t get the credit she deserdigansves. “Humble Neighborhoods” is an amazing song.
September – She had a minor hit a couple summers ago with “Cry For You,” and although she never quite took off in the US, she’s a monster in Europe with a handful of albums. And if you question her voice, look for the acoustic version of “Cry For You” on YouTube. It will break your heart.
Okay, so what about Shovelpop? What music did I endure to set off this rant. Jessie James and Kristinia DeBarge happened. If you’ve never heard of either of these ladies, count yourself among the lucky.
Jessie James takes her musical cues from such ladies as Carrie Underwood, Faith Hill and Miley Cyrus, except she’s less talented and more of a whore. She’s toured with the Jonas Brothers and Kid Rock. She’s worked with some pretty big producers of both pop and country music. Unfortunately her voice is better suited to a karaoke bar somewhere south of Nashville. My left toenail is more exciting than listening to her music, and her music videos are essentially softcore porn set to her own Shovelpop. She should be a stripper.
Kristinia DeBarge is WORSE than Jessie James. At least James has a country feel to her music, whereas DeBarge’s music is just a fucking mess. Screws and washers in a glass jar would create better music than the repugnant shit DeBarge “sings” over. And her “dancing” bears closer resemblance to a striptease than any “dance” I’ve ever seen. It looks like she developed early and discovered the way to get what you want is shake your rack in the faces of everyone…which is probably how she got a music deal. She comes from a musical family – her father, James DeBarge, was the youngest member of the group DeBarge – so that explains how she got a music deal.
Listening to these two “artists” is like nails on a chalkboard, and it’s clear that their music was shoveled down to whoever put it on the radio. Even Britney’s “3” is a fucking mess. It sounds like a mesh of everything else she’s ever done, so either her producers are getting lazy or they’re running out of Frappucinnos to lure her into the studio.
Even though I like Ke$ha’s “TiK ToK,” it’s an atrocious song. Is it dancey? Yes. Is it catchy? Absolutely. Does it sound like one of the drunk bitches from Jersey Shore did the vocals for it? Totally. She’s like the inebriated, trashy version of Lady GaGa, Amanda Lepore and September; she sounds like she’s singing with either bubble gum or a dick in her mouth! I don’t know why I act like I’m surprised by what I just typed. Take a look at the track names on her album and you’ll know what you’re in for. I swear she ripped some of this stuff from The Donnas, whom I LOVE. Remember Flo-Rida’s monster hit “Right Round?” Ke$ha did the female vocal. I’m sure she’s no stranger to poles, both metallic and phallic iterations. Oh, and when I refer to Ke$ha “singing,” I mean slurring, because she’s clearly wasted on every track.
Has everyone heard the Taylor Swift wannabe Orianthi? Ugh. It feels like anyone who kind of vaguely sounds like another popular artist gets a record deal, puts out some crappy single and BAM, more Shovelpop fodder for the masses.
And what the hell does Justin Bieber have to sing about? Growing hair under his armpits and using deodorant?! He doesn’t know what love is! Does he know what a vagina is? Does he even know where babies come from?
You might notice an absence of Miley, The Jonas Brothers, Demi Lovato, etc… They are part of the Disney Corporation. They have teams of marketing and PR people ready at the drop of a hat. They’re produced, packaged and sold…they’re kind of like the music version of High Fructose Corn Syrup…they may seem innocuous, but little does anyone realize they’re slowly eroding the standards of good music…like how HFCS erodes nutritional value, and that shit is in EVERYTHING. High Fructose Pop Music…I’ll save it for another rant.
It’s just upsetting when you see bands who are insanely talented, but don’t have record deals because record companies are more concerned with making a quick dollar off some carbon-copy prostit-tot than actually getting good music on the radio. At least commercials have slowly been bucking the trend, featuring good artists like Ida Maria, Cage the Elephant, Passion Pit, Kenna and Phoenix to sell their products.
I can only pray the new year brings some new music over the radio waves, or I’ll listen to less radio in 2010 than I did in 2009.