“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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“River Deep-Mountain High” (Ike & Tina Turner)

Moving past the stock, insipid metaphors (I’m a puppy, you’re my rag doll, etc.), the attraction of the track long premised on inability to hear its coherent architectural foundation (its abyssal bottom, provided by Spector). Recently, and within “pop,” perhaps only W.C. Hart’s Circulatory System tracks function this way, with the 4 or 8 tracks compressed and recompressed to the point of invalidating depth perception (telescoping out and out again, a la House of Leaves). Relation to the other as endless, and without ground.

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