Eilene Zimmerman got the duty of tackling the phenomenon of High School Musical, and delivered this dead-on observation:
Musicologist Elizabeth Upton, a professor at UCLA (and mother of two tweens) whose many areas of scholarship include children's music, says in the last decade there has been a dearth of pop music for the 5-14 age group. The reason Disney's songs are so attractive to tweens is that they are, well, pretty. "This kind of melodic pop music just hasn't been fashionable for a long while. A lot of what's been popular has been scratchy, alternative stuff," says Upton. "If you're a kid and you're going to listen to pop, Disney isn't a bad place to be. Imagine that for your entire life, pop music has been ugly, edgy or beat-heavy, from grunge to hip-hop. This kind of music is a revelation."
Exactly. They're catchy. They're pretty. I hate every song from High School Musical with a deep blue passion (and have had to tell my daughter to not play it the third freakin' time, twice was too much), but they are sparkly little nuggets of pop.
Upton is right. If you can find a local radio station that plays new music (or, even rarer, one that fits the original mold of radio, cycling old stuff with new hits), you're not going to find a lot of "pretty" music. It's either rap, repetitively mind-numbing (and usually crude) hip-hop, or cookie monster vocals over banks of droning steroidal guitars. Not much of it is downright pretty. When a pretty song comes on, you should see both of my daughters (ages 10 and 2) light up.
So, dear God, for all our sakes, let's let pretty music actually make it to radio stations and best seller lists so we don't have to die in a sea of Disney tunes. Next time you read a music critic take apart an offering of pretty, catchy (non-Disney) tunes, write them and tell them they are responsible for the demise of civilization.
It's your civic duty.
FWIW, some examples of great pretty music from the past:
- Marshall Crenshaw
- Electric Light Orchestra
- Pink Floyd
- Steely Dan
- Earth, Wind and Fire
You get the idea. Fight the power.