Pop Songs for Normal People

 by Chad Foltz


Now let me start by saying I almost always hate – no, wait a second there’s a better way to put that. TAKE TWO: I fucking loathe and despise everything that is considered “pop” music today. Which is to say, I hate most (if not all) of the Top 40. Yes, long gone are the good ol’ days when I’d listen to Shaggy from Scooby Doo list the top hits on KISS FM while I played Star Fox on the N64 for the millionth time. I’ve always had a hatred for what seems to be the fad and no, I am not a hipster. Oh, some have called me a hipster but apparently all it takes to be called a hipster in Ohio is converse shoes and a flannel. Look, I’ve been wearing flannel since I was a lad, it’s what you wear when you live in country and I can’t help that somehow ‘fashion’ caught up to me. Yet despite my hatred for all things popular I think somehow I’ve started liking “popular” things. Which means one of two things: In my old age my cynicism is finally dying. Or that the world of “popular things” have finally come up with something that is not only fun for everybody but good as well.

Since I picked the word fun, I guess I will start there. There is this song that you may have heard all over the radio. Which I wouldn’t know because I don’t listen to the radio because I’m a hipster… shit. It’s by a band called “Fun.” – yes, with a period. For my 20-year-old cynic self spells “FUCKING TERRIBLE” buthonestly, now that I’m 25 and much more mellow, I can’t help but love it. A band that to me sounds very much like Queen gone hip-hop, which to many Queen purists is like the worst thing you could do. If you pair Queen with the likes of other big, bombastic, epic hip hop acts like say Jay-Z or Kanye it kinda makes sense, right? Evolution? Well, it certainly makes sense to my ears as I scream out with utter stupid joy every single line every single time.

 I also want to bring some quick attention to a song that a friend showed me some time ago, a song that feels like Bobby Pickett (the guy who did “Monster Mash”) got together with the Beach Boys and Sonic Youth to do a pop song. The song in question, Foster The People’s “Pumped Up Kicks” which joins the long line of pop songs about really fucking dark shit, holy good god almighty is this song dark. But how many people listen to the words upon first listen, or even second listen –I’m looking at you Rupert Holmes’ “Escape”. We sit there singing along like assholes until we realize what we’re singing. In this case it’s a song that would fit on the soundtrack to Gus Van Zandt’s “Elephant”. It’s about a kid going on a killing spree at school. Like I said, fucked up material for a pop hit. But that never stopped The Kinks “Lola” or John Lennon from writing a song about cheating on his lady while he’s still with her in “Norwegian Wood”.

What’s always been a pop mainstay are love songs, right? Or break up songs? Or just songs about young love or sex or anything to do with. Which brings me to the other “pop” hit song I’ve fallen for; it’s Gotye’s “Somebody That I Use To Know”. I can honestly say I have no shame in loving this song despite its overt commercialization because shit, I’m a hipster. But in this case I can’t help but to love it. And carry no shame in loving it even after now admitting that I first heard this song on American Idol. It wasn’t until my brother showed the original version that I really fell for it. I don’t quite know how to describe it other than to say, it’s like Peter Gabriel came back for one more encore. And it’s just perfect.

What pop music has taught me is that it doesn’t matter the volume or who produced it or how it got to you; whether it was on some obscure shelf in a “trendy” record store or if it played on the hit radio station in the next room. The thing is: good music finds people. God dammit does music find people. And for me that’s always been the most beautiful thing about it. I love nothing more than running across a riff in a song or a chorus that makes me tap my feet, even if it’s only for a week. It’s always been my drug of choice, and no I’m not going into a public service announcement here. It’s just that for me listening to a damn good song or even more so turning the lights off and listening to an album has always worked for me. It’s always taken me off to wonderful places. I just need music, it doesn’t matter how I get it. I’m an addict in that way.

I’m going to end this for no reason at all by quoting for no fucking reason at all and with EXTREME cheesiness, and for COMPLETELY MY OWN REASONS FOR BEING HAPPY LATELY by saying “Tonight we are young. So let’s set the world on fire. We could burn brighter than the sun. So, if by the time the bar closes and you feel like falling down I’ll carry you home tonight.” Now imagine me singing that completely horribly with a big cheesy grin on my face. Cause really that’s what pop music is for. Big cheesy grins.

Chad Foltz is a musician and filmmaker living in the greatest state, Ohio. He can be found doing things here or here.