Friday, May 9, 2014

Dance ... And Pop ... Combined? AKA The Revenge Of Aerobic Rock

I believe it was Gandhi who once said, "First, they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win." I'm pretty sure he was referring to Aerobic Rock. Oh, how they laughed at Aerobic Rock. No music could have been more disposable, more frivolous, more transitory, they said. But Aerobic Rock, if only under a different name, was here to stay. A tweak here, a wardrobe change there, and Dance Pop, as it came to be known, took over the world.

Let me say this: the average rock and roll fan in 1985 probably would have laughed in your face if you'd told him that dance pop was going to be the future of pop music. But it may not be a stretch to say that more pop music after 1985 sounds like dance pop than it sounds like rock and roll. I request a rigorous scientific study on this topic please.

Basically, what we're talking about is the secret triumph of disco. They performed six autopsies, they wrapped the coffin in chains, they poured concrete on the grave. But like the T-1000, disco couldn't really be destroyed. You could freeze it in liquid nitrogen and shatter it into a thousand pieces, but it just melted back together and re-formed. First, it re-formed as Aerobic Rock. But Aerobic Rock was only a transient host for the ghost of disco, featuring too many one-hit wonders and aging MOR stars from the '70s to truly make a lasting impact. No, it needed to take a more effective, more permanent form.

I think the problem with disco was that, with a few notable exceptions, it was relatively faceless and lacked any sort of recognizable personalities. The key to dance pop is that the music is all about the star. Even when the star has nothing to do with the actual making of the music. Dance pop is all about image. The public needs a brand. They need a storyline. They need to see the young teenage girl gradually, album by album, dip just a little bit further into skankiness.

In another sense, you might say that dance pop was simply a continuation of New Wave, but I don't know if I can get on board with that. While dance pop may have shared with New Wave a fondness for 1) synthesizers, 2) drum machines, 3) catchy choruses, 4) music videos, and 5) concise singles, unlike New Wave, it shared almost no connection to punk. The artists and producers crafting dance pop records couldn't have cared less about equal rights, social justice, Reagan, Thatcher, overthrowing the "system," etc. They wanted to make hit fucking records. And make hit fucking records they did.

Well, somebody made them. At least we know who sang on them. Or at least, we think we do.

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