Popping The Question: Is Bad Pop Better Than No Pop?

Something I often think about is whether it’s better to have bad pop music in the charts or no pop music at all. While it would be awful to see no pop acts in the top ten (as was regularly the case in the early/mid-’00s) I think it’s even worse if the chart is full of songs that give pop music a bad name. Unfortunately the latter issue is what we are facing at the moment.

While it does to some extent make me happy to see cheesy Europop in the charts, as such a thing was once an impossible dream, and I admit I quite enjoy some of David Guetta and Flo Rida’s songs, it becomes a problem when this is the type of music that the average person thinks of when they think of pop. In the early 2000s I complained about artists such as Westlife and Atomic Kitten giving pop a bad name, and now that ‘honour’ goes to the DJs and rappers who have discovered that basing their musical repertoire on Eiffel 65 and O-Zone is a recipe for success.

Now, let’s not get this confused – Eiffel 65 and O-Zone made brilliant, carefree cheesy pop, but that is not what we get from Guetta, Rida and friends. I love it when a song is perfectly calculated for success, and that ability is what makes pop writers such as Max Martin and RedOne so great, but with the Guetta-Rida clan the calculation is to work out what is the least effort they need to make to create the biggest hit possible. And that is the formula behind hits such as Good Feeling by Flo Rida, perhaps the laziest of any song in this genre: a sample combined with an Avicii rip-off backing track and a rap made up of what can only be summarised as complete nonsense.

The fact that there are a lot of people who agree with me that these songs are terrible should be a good thing, but the problem is that the people who hate this music are beginning to think this is what all pop music sounds like. And apart from a few shining examples such as Lady Gaga and Beyoncé proving otherwise with their fresh, exciting pop hits, they don’t have much to prove them wrong. Even the pop releases which aren’t Guetta-inspired are weak copies of past classics, such as the depressingly lifeless examples of boyband ballads that JLS and One Direction have tried to palm us off with in recent months. Even I, as pop’s staunchest supporter, have found myself running for cover with an iPod full of indie-pop.

Today is a particularly dark day for pop, as the song that is no.1 in the new midweek chart may actually be less imaginative than even Flo Rida can manage. Alyssa Reid is a completely un-noteworthy, grumpy-faced Canadian singer whose limp urban rewrite of Alone by Heart is being released by dance label Ultra Records and playlisted by Radio 1. It’s not the worst song of all time, but it could well be the least special. I love the original Heart song and it’s clearly been ripe for a cover for a while as it’s been a popular talent show choice for years, but with all the creative, intelligent people working on new pop songs around the world every day, can none of them come up with anything better than this to top the chart?

Of course they can, but those songs are not being released or not being promoted well enough to be a success, and the reason for that is because it takes time and effort to promote a fantastic original, innovative pop song. It takes a week playlisted on Radio 1 and Capital FM to get a dance track with a sample and a rap from Pitbull to no.1. It’s sad, but totally understandable why record labels and the media are supporting those songs. It’s a safe bet at a very unsafe time in music. So now we just have to wait. If history is anything to go by, the world of pop will have to put up with a lot of narrow-minded thoughtless insults first, but once Guetta and chums have had their day, it’ll be pop’s turn to prove itself again, and of course it will do so brilliantly as it always does.


  1. I wrote this whole (tiny) thing about defending David Guetta not in general but at least for “Titanium” which is amazing. And now Popjustice has made that point for me sort of. I think DG's collars with rappers are universally dreadful, some of the ones with girls I don't mind and Titanium is positively amazing.

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