Nevermind The Posers

See ya in the pit.

Shovelware, A Rant January 22, 2010

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.


3 Responses to “Shovelware, A Rant”

  1. The Atheist Angel Says:

    I loved it. well written, and i could not agree more with the bullshit- it kind of inspired me with an offshoot rant that was also sparked by the horrifying shit storm that is Ke$ha. (guess shes good for more than just an easy lay and a song white girls can sing to each other as they pre game). Now normally I would take the time to be grammatically correct and focused with sentence structure..but…

    I’ve been a musician for the last 12 years of my life and I have had the opportunity to share the stage with many a local band in my quest for rock stardom. Despite the horrible ticketing systems, and every venue you ever played shutting down before you book a second gig there-I’ve met some really talented bands driven by young, bright, and energetic musicians all pouring their hearts out on a stage to a less than packed house just in the name of passion. Sure, not all of them were great. Shit, lets stop candy coating- I’ve played with some bands whose sound made me want to secretly destroy all their equipment so they couldn’t play anymore- but no matter what the talent level, be it amazing or bad enough to make me find the nearest pointy object and jam it full force into my ear canal- they all faded away. No one broke through, no one made it. Even if they sold all their tickets and were tight as a drum on stage. .. you know…dare i say it. . .Talented- Poof. Gone.

    And then……fast forward to late 2009 when what we know as Ke$ha breaks onto the music scene with “Tik Tok”( did anyone else notice the blatant attempt for scene points for Ft. P. Diddy on the track?. . even though he only says two lines in the first measure) and suddenly blows up. I often find myself angrily gripping the steering wheel of my car cursing the music industry seething while repeating phrases like, “how does someone this shitty get famous” and “What are we real musicians doing wrong!?” Like Paris Hilton, this girl is famous for practically nothing. And like Paris’s sex tape. . sure you watched, even though it wasn’t even all that good, you saw it, you got into it for a little while. . and inadvertently made her a household name. . . Ke$ha has begun doing the same thing.
    I don’t care if its got a catchy beat or not. Lets face facts. .. she’s a no talent hack. But this is what pisses me off- There are countless musicians, bands, singer/songwriters . . hell , even those guys you see down in the subway station playing paint buckets turned upside down as drums- that are way more talented than this golden calf reincarnation of every pre gaming guidette you’ve ever seen. So how did she get a deal? Did she have to sell tickets to try and prove her worth only to be paid less than gas money for selling less than 20? Did Ke$ha have to drive in a van all over her home state schlepping her equipment and then some just because some dive bar said they would let you play a full set? I wonder how she felt on the nights she played to five people. . . who also happened to be her friends. Or did she have the frustration of so many local artists when discovering that your sound doesn’t give you access to venues; its having a well polished, and often expensive, Press Kit.

    I understand the music industry has turned into a well oiled machine and the days of playing some local joint every Friday just because the owner likes you, are relatively gone- its a business of marketing, buying and selling. Moreso, I stress the word business; in which artists now compete with one another in order to be the top seller. A far cry from that Woodstock/camaraderie kind of feeling as musicians, no? Now, especially with major labels- the artist is also a product, that’s why contracts exist with specific goals and deadlines. But how is it that in the A&R department so many talented local artists’ demo’s and albums get thrown into a pile never to be heard again, and this …THING that is Ke$ha breaks free into the light. It just leaves you going. . . maybe she gives really good head…cuz to get garbage like that funded your nickname better be Bissell.

    Ok, so maybe I’m a tad bitter about the whole thing and like a five year old want to beat my fists against RCA’s doors going “No fair!” but its a nice segue into the notion that the local scene and music industry need help. To be honest, every time I hear the Black Eyed Peas latest singles on the radio I want to vomit. They’re latest release, “The E.N.D.” is a garbage dump mess of autotune and what used to be talent. Just take the track “Ima Be” for example. . I’ll admit, the first few bars into Fergie’s verse we’re tolerable. . but then…something…happened. The song crashed and burned until I couldn’t even recognize it anymore. And it hurt the whole way down. Pop is morphing into what Dan so eloquently called “Shovelpop” and Hip Hop is skipping merrily along just a few feet behind in its footsteps.

    The world deserves real music bred of social commentary, passion, rebellion, and love. Seems we’ve melted down all the plastic we could find and erected ourselves some clean and polished American Idols.

  2. Audrie Tease Says:

    Great article. There’s a lot of good info here, though I did want to let you know something – I am running Fedora with the latest beta of Firefox, and the design of your blog is kind of funky for me. I can read the articles, but the navigation doesn’t work so good.

  3. Stigz Says:

    Just read this dude, months after the fact. Kick ass writing and great metaphorical use and delineation!

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