Saturday, January 8, 2022

Pop Will Eat Its Elf

There's not much that I regret about my twenty-plus years in the mmorpg trenches. It's been thousands, tens of thousands of hours, devoted to a hobby that has, as it has for many, come close at times to becoming an obsession but it's given back plenty. I've never doubted it was time well spent.

Nothing is perfect, of course. Of the handful of crosses in the negative column, top of the list would be the degree to which my immersion in virtual worlds during the twenty-oughts left me with only the loosest idea of what the hell was going on in the culture, even the parts that interested me.

That sounds dramatic but all I mean is that from around the time I turned twelve until I fell off the platforms in Kelethin for the first time almost forty years later I knew the most of the names in the music charts, had a fair idea what sort of music they made, maybe knew the names of some of their hits, could probably even sing you a chorus or two. 

The same applied to television, cinema, comics, all the fields of creation I've taken as mine since I began to form my impressions of the world but really it's always been music that mattered most. When I finally began to emerge from my mmorpg-induced blackout sometime in the early twenty-teens I felt almost ashamed as I looked back over the last decade and realised just how very, very much I didn't know any more.

It's been a long, slow climb back to the precarious ledge on which I rest now, looking out to the horizon, marking the peaks as they rise. For the first time in years, this year I was able to read the various Best Ofs and Round Ups with some sense of recognition. Better yet, with at least a touch of acknowledgment and ownership.


Yes, I'm congratulating myself on knowing the names of pop stars. So inappropriate but it gets worse. It's embarassing how pleased with myself I was when I saw the nominations for BBC Radio 1's "Sound of 2022."  It wasn't just that I knew some of the names. It was only four out of the ten, after all. It was that I'd already covered all four here on the blog.

They're supposed to be acts likely to break wide in the next twelve months although, as with all of these kinds of awards, by the time any mainstream organization gets to grips with them they're already here. When I checked the six names I didn't recognize, all of them had YouTube videos with hundreds of thousands, even millions of views.


They were all good, too. The standard is high, as I knew it would be. Going into the third decade of the twenty-first century, the baseline quality of popular music has never been higher. Everyone knows how to do this stuff now. 

The four whose names, at least, ought to be familiar to regular readers of this blog are Wet Leg, Yard Act, Baby Queen and the overal winner, Pink Pantheress. Blogger's search function is very good if you want to go back and refresh your memory. Of the other six, good though I could see they were, none were exactly my thing. 


From a bunch of up-and-comers to a call-out to those who've already arrived, Stereogum's incoming Pop Columnist, Rachel Brodsky introduced herself by picking her forty favorites of last year. These are supposed to be Big Names so it may not sound that impressive when I say I was familiar with the work of two-thirds of them but if you'd shown me the equivalent list a decade ago I doubt I'd have recognized one in ten. Progress.

Ticking off credits for the blog, seven of the artists listed have appeared here, several of them more than once. For the record, those would be Clairo, Halsey, Olivia Rodrigo, Taylor Swift, Charlie XCX, Billie Eilish and once again Pinkpantheress

There was also one more name that hasn't featured here before but almost did. For last week's "New Music Is the Best Music"demi-post I really wanted to go with Caroline Polachek's Bunny Is A Rider because it's great but I wanted even more to shoehorn some dariacore in there for the sheer newness of it.  Also because Leroy is also great. Also.

So there it is. Old man pats himself on the back for knowing the names of pop stars. Again. I plan on keeping it that way, too. 

Suck on that, elves!


  1. I know Halsey from her appearances on Saturday Night Live --and I've been impressed with her work-- but the others are a blank to me. (Okay, I know Billie Eilish and Taylor Swift, but they've kind of transcended normal pop channels.) I think part of that is due to having little kids during the Naughties, and my desire to not get caught up in pop music after dealing with the Boy Bands of the late 90s. I was also far more into Alternative, Grunge, Metal, etc. --and even Folk, Jazz, and Classical-- than Pop. So this post, plumbing areas of music that draw a blank from me, was a rather nice jumping off point.

    1. Olivia Rodrigo looks to be headed to the same levels of celebrity as Billy Eilish and Taylor Swift and based on the quality of her songwriting she should. Halsey's had a much tougher time getting to be taken seriously but I've always liked her songwriting and her attitude. There's something by her on the blog right back when I started posting ab out music, I think.

      I can't help but agree about the late 90s boy (and girl) band era. It wasn't a great time for pop music if you weren't in that target audience. The quality and variety now is orders of magnitude higher from where I'm sitting. I wonder how much that has to do with the immense changes in the way music is distributed? Pop charts aren't driven by the chain stores where tweens spend their pocket money any more.


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