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Thanks for the compliments.
>I presume you work in the industry. Did an appreciation for pop music inspire you to move into this line of work, or did it come later as a consequence?
Both my parents worked as session musicians, before becoming music lecturers. I had a brief stint in a band that got a major label deal (worked my arse off, did an album that sold fairly well, made less money than if I had stayed on the dole) before spending some time as a session player and eventually leaving the industry for the sake of my sanity.
I used to be very snobbish about music, and had no interest in anything that wasn't serious and challenging. Partly, my opinion changed because I saw that many other genres of music were just as manufactured as pop - the ghostwriting and studio trickery just gets concealed to protect the credibility of the artist. Mainly though, working with pop producers made me realise just how hard pop music is to get right, and how immensely skilled hit-makers are.
Like a lot of 'proper' musicians, I thought that pop was just formulaic crap that only sold because it had the promotional might of a major label behind it. I thought that my sort of music was innately better, because it was complicated and pseudo-intellectual. It turns out that being clever is much easier than being good.
If it was so easy to make a hit record, then everyone would be doing it. If the major labels just followed a formula, then they would have an intern knock something together rather than giving Guy Chambers six figures plus points on the album. Making something simple, memorable and emotionally resonant is part science, part art, part alchemy. Pop songwriters and producers are highly skilled, work very hard and truly care about their work.
I think that to enjoy pop music, you just need to invest yourself in it a little bit. Let down your defences, look past your cynicism and take things on their own merits. Something can be pink and bubbly and slickly produced and still be brilliant. Good pop often explores an emotional range that men are discouraged from engaging with - yearning, the desire to be desired, vulnerability, emotional need, self-reassurance. It takes a certain amount of courage to allow yourself to empathise with that, rather than the more "masculine" sentiments found in rock music.
We often accept the idea that our taste in music defines us as a person, but I think that's a cage of marketing and tribalism. It's OK to like Ornette Coleman and Kylie Minogue. It's good to say "I don't like that song, but I'm not going to let that prejudice me against an artist or a genre". Some things are good, some are bad, some are good but just not to your taste, some are bad but you like them anyway. The same applies to all of art - there's good and bad to be found everywhere.
If you're interested in the craft of song, then I highly recommend the Sodajerker podcast. They interview renowned songwriters from right across the musical spectrum, and really get into the substance of their work. The podcast is quite insiderish, so the interviewees are often remarkably candid.