There are two kinds of beauty – one that draws you in, and one that tries to keep you out. The first is what we call attractive, something or someone that we are drawn to, that gives us a sense of pleasure and at the same time, makes us feel at home. The other is what we call, and here is the rare, correct use of the word, awesome. Human beings have a tendency of looking for things bigger than them. It may be an inexplicable function of our DNA, to always be looking for things that challenge us, make us feel relatively small and insignificant, so that we can go after that thing or that person, primarily to eliminate the feeling of being awed that we sought after in the first place. It is this feeling of disappointment that we like to call human progress.
Music around the world roughly divides itself into two categories – folk and classical. You may understand these two terms differently from culture to culture, but the ideas they evoke are similar. The control aspect of this categorization is the same globally – music is beauty. But, there is the music that draws you in and makes you feel at home, while there is the other type of music that mystifies you, and challenges you to understand it.
In the twentieth century, to refer to Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, the relationship between music and the world went “topsy-turvy”. Three things happened – modern politics, advertising and the invention of pop music. All existed in some form or the other before, but here’s what they did: politics decided to represent the disenfranchised and claimed its soul through its music – what is generally called folk. Advertising, on the other hand, celebrated the modern culture of consumerism by claiming the classical representation of taste, affluence and aspiration – classical music. Pop music was created to not only bring both strands together to where they belonged – to the people as objects to be appreciated for their own sake – but also, to redefine and add to what they are meant to do in the first place. It would be grossly underestimating the capacity of pop music to call it democratic. There was nothing, that ever existed in any form, that could surpass its enchantment and its beckoning.
Though musicologists may try and try, there is no rule or spatial/temporal geography for pop music. I’ve spoken about music and community vs. music and individual relationship before, but what makes pop music different from any other musical experience is that even when shared communally, it is always an individual relationship. Always. No matter how much critics try to trash or praise the new popstar, what you feel about the music you listen to is your own. Some of you might disagree, saying that someone or something spoiled an artist for you, or turned you on to them, but remember, with pop music, you can never afford to trick yourself.
I do not have any particular genre in mind when I use the term pop music. That is the best part about it – it can be any music you want it to be. It may be Queen to you, Demi Lovato to someone else, but it’s yours. That’s what counts. It may even be Mozart or Beethoven, because the way you arrive at music is different to the way people arrived at it when the term classical music came to exist (in early to mid 19th c.) in the first place. Classical music had its place, folk also had its place, but the pop attitude makes it possible for music to occupy any place at any time.
Some call it the global language. Some call it the language of love. My own attitude to it, and to art and culture in general, is cosmopolitan. It is my own free art gallery that I can step into anytime, to invoke ideas and emotions in me. I call it the Mick Jagger effect. I’ve already said what makes me feel like Mick Jagger, but here’s what I believe – everyone can, must and does feel like Mick Jagger some of the time. I thoroughly believe music is not for “cool” people. That it is not for people to escape from their dreary lives. It is a freedom, a state of intimacy, connectedness, synergy between your human urges, and your expression of it. Even if Mick Jagger hated being Mick Jagger every night, I bet he couldn’t help how happy it involuntarily makes him, how he must think he has the best job in the world.
Neil Tennant, of Pet Shop Boys, has said that the dancefloor called ‘by yourself in your bedroom‘ is very underestimated, even if that is where the most music gets consumed. I couldn’t agree more. I could put up with anything at a party or some other event, but my music for myself is sacred. No matter how much I talk about it with friends and strangers, it is my own world that no one can ever have access to. Or understand. It is to build that private world we all have, that we need to cope with the outside one, that pop music is for. There cannot be anything more welcoming and awesome than it.