Normally I don't go out of my way to listen to music the moment it's released, but I devour on-trend, manufactured pop like a snake devouring its prey. I digest over a period of days, listening to it over and over, and then something snaps inside me and the song is gone. At a rate of approximately one song every three days, I am often hungry for trashy pop.
Enter two of today's biggest pop stars, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, and their simultaneous single releases of "Applause" and "Roar." I am beyond thrilled because two brand new songs might buy me more than a week of entertainment. The downside is that for the first day, at least, both songs will disappoint me.
It's inevitable: never like a song the first time I hear it, which makes me a terrible reviewer. It's nothing against music in particular; some of the things I enjoy most in life are things I once loathed, like oatmeal or cats.
Music takes me longer to come around on, however, because people often tell me how I'm supposed to feel about a song. No one gives a damn how I feel about oatmeal.
Music, particularly pop, is held to a high standard. Within hours of a song's release, each word is dissected like an earthworm in an eighth-grade science class. Does this song live up to the artist's previous offerings? Will it meet critical expectations? Will I be able to properly drop my booty to it on the dance floor?
These are the questions that plague listeners' minds as they comb over page after page of reviews, which represent a colorful pastiche of opinions ranging from "Not as good as her last single" to "I liked her better when she performed in underground clubs/at my church." These are all legitimate points, but they have nothing to do with what actually makes pop "pop."
Here's what pop music is about. You hear the song at the grocery store, and it's still playing in your head when you leave the store. You don't know the words, but you're singing them into your kitchen spoon the next night when you're doing the dishes.
And it's infectious: Your friends have it on their iPods, too, and now every grocery store in town is blasting it at all hours of the day. You might love the song, you might hate the song, but when the bathroom door is closed and the shower is on, you take that song and become the King or Queen of Pop.
I'll say this much for "Applause" and "Roar": I listened to both of them and neither blew me away.
Katy Perry or Lady Gaga songs never do, though. Not the first time I hear them. Like a fine wine, or cheap Chinese food, they get better with age.
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Don't believe me? Have it your way. But don't let me catch you living for the applause in your car.