“Pop Musik” (M)

Robin Scott was a folkie who adopted the “M” moniker in order to undertake, in his words, “a cynical reflection of contemporary politics.” So what is M’s angle? The topic is the revaluation of “pop” and the ways it can be said to be more interesting than “rock” because of its cosmopolitan ability to travel and its unique primary audience, made up of denizens of global cities. Certainly, the song says something in particular about 1979, the year of the trax’s release: at that time, the British independent charts often saw action from “New York, London, Paris, Munich.” (Tokyo is obviously missing from this list, as is a Benelux representative, such as Brussels.) Neither the British nor the U.S. charts are strongly cosmopolitan in the 21st century, but perhaps we can still hear the call of this argument. One of its requirements would be lyrics that are relatively simple to the point of nursery rhyme nonsense. Sung in the voice of a carnival barker, with heavily ironic “shooby dooby do wops” in the background, the “cynical” perspective is clear. So when M sings “fe fi fo fum” (literally, Gaelic for, “Behold food, good to eat, sufficient for my hunger”), one realizes a secret agenda behind the transnational singsong: we’re tasty, and global pop wants to consume us.

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“Good Guys & Bad Guys” (Camper Van Beethoven)

Slacker cosmopolitanism that places false contingency at the core of identity production: “[I]f you didn’t live here in America/You’d probably live somewhere else.” Kick back, “be yourself,” and sing (y)our song—since you’re living under Old Glory. But “folks like you and me” don’t seem to make any decisions whatsoever. Professionals do, be they licit or illicit. Countries do, too, but they’re entirely repressive. Even Randolph Bourne believed in the potential of positive law (dual citizenship and migration without restrictions)—despite the WASPy chauvinism. Life as a case of premature withdrawal.


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