Stew, On Writing Pop Music (today from the negro problem mailing list)
But my pop hiatus was less the result of a serious minded young writer’s quest for depth and more simply a complete misunderstanding of how the game worked. I learned that the musical limitations placed on what we call pop are precisely the point of the music. That is why when geeks start talking about their favorite new songwriter who “stretches the genre” i start reaching for that manure filled sock that Woody talked about – then earplugs.
I known and observed writers who’ve tortured themselves trying to be original, using weird personal tunings, a special combination of guitar effects, writing lyrics that don’t rhyme, songs with choruses that only happen once (if at all) and (the worst offenders) those that infuse their pop with virtuosity in an effort to raise it above the “common.” Its all very boring and serves little more purpose than allowing geeks to pat themselves on the back for being clever enough to connect the pointless dots. These folks think they are raising the genre but actually they are lowering the rim and pretending they can slam dunk.
The game is you (and everyone else) are dealt a certain amount of flowers. The trick is to arrange those flowers – those same f*cking flowers that everyone else has been dealt from Robert Johnson to Avril Lavigne – and come up with something that transcends the limitations. I used to feel hemmed in by the restrictions. Now i see that rules is rules. It’s more fun than coal mining and less complicated than bridge so why complain?
I love that. Let the limitations guide what you do. If everything is possible, then nothing is interesting. I think that’s another quote.
Love that Stew