A big (maybe the biggest) story of the decade in pop for me personally was the thrilling and frequently surprising evolution of what has come to be known as “teenpop” (yeah yeah, I’m old — still prefer “bubblegum” myself). From “Since U Been Gone” to Girls Aloud’s “Biology” to Britney’s Blackout to Jojo, Cassie, Sugababes, and the apparently invulnerable pop factories of Max Martin and Dr. Luke, nothing — nothing — made driving (and crying) seem as consistently crucial an experience in the ’00s. And few writers tracked and made sense of the stuff as well as David Cooper Moore, proprietor of Cure For Bedbugs and Cr4Bdbgs (not to mention a contributor to the Stylus Jukebox, plus numerous other venues and comments boxes). Recently, Moore started delving into his own evolution as a fan and music critic, and I highly recommend the two thus-far published pieces in this series: 2001: A Taste Odyssey and 2002: My Convent Year.
I spoke with Moore recently about his discovery of and thoughts about the teenpop genre, including the journey he once described as “from Arcade Fire to Ashlee Simpson.” We also discussed his writing (including a short-lived stint at Pitchfork), his thoughts on Paris Hilton (and the attendant critical conversation around her), plus a bunch of other stuff, including his comics-artist wife Emily who was sitting in the room with him and who neglected to wrench the phone out of his hands to set any records straight. (Moore, btw, also partook in the rockcritics.com blogger symposium a couple years back.)
Listen to a stream of our conversation (in four parts) below:
PART ONE (on writing, commenting in boxes, etc.):
PART TWO (on discovering teenpop):
PART THREE (on Paris, Ashlee, Kelly, Rihanna):
PART FOUR (on Arcade Fire, teenpop machinery, decade faves):
Or download the mp3s here.
4 thoughts on “From Arcade to Ashlee: Interview with David Cooper Moore”
Dave Moore has now posted a verbatim transcript of this interview, and if you ignored the podcast version, you really should read it — it’s damn good stuff, an excellent distillation of some of Moore’s thoughts about teenpop and much else. You can read it here. (Thanks, Dave, for posting this.)
surprising evolution of what has come to be known as “teenpop” (yeah yeah, I’m old — still prefer “bubblegum” myself)
Scott, a lot of teenpop isn’t remotely bubblegum (Ashlee’s “Shadow,” Kelly Clarkson’s “Because Of You,” Aly & AJ’s “Not This Year,” to name a few obvious examples), and at least some bubblegum isn’t particularly teenpop: for instance, there’s a whole slew of silly Italodisco and Europop going back to “Chirpy Chirp Cheep Cheep” and continuing on through Aqua and “Mambo No. 5” and modern bosh like Cascada that’s gum-smackingly chewy without being marketed specifically to kids.
What I like about Scott’s dichotomy between “bubblegum” and “confessional” is that it pretty accurately points to my kind of binary relationship with teenpop-as-one-word as one OR the other (we never got to talk about it, what with you not being able to pronounce “teenpop” any different from “teen pop” in an interview — but the one-word “teenpop” as I’ve come to understand it really refers to a series of critical arguments, most originating in the pages of the Village Voice in the 90’s and 00’s and was perhaps an editorial decision, around something like “teenybopper music” or “teen pop” or “teen-pop” etc. etc.).
I mention the Dr. Demento tapes, and also mention the silliness that comes out on the first Arcade Fire record — and, in retrospect, more so on the second one than I give it credit for! — and of course Ashlee can do bubblegum, but it’s usually in the service of at least a little bit of serious stuff. (The actual message of “La La,” a very bubblegummy Donnas-esque rock song, is complicated and interesting — “you make me feel so comfortable that no matter how I dress myself up, no matter how ridiculous I might appear, I still feel good.” Feeling comfortable in your own skin is a difficult thing to express without seeming false (fake empowerment), or arrogant (boasting). But that’s what Ashlee does well — give you the complexity and detail, the pain and the ambivalence and even some of the clunkiness and inarticulateness (or the poetry, sometimes) of the self, and still give you the sense that she “gets” something better than she did before, something she can hold on to. Which describes my 20’s pretty well!
True that “a lot of teenpop isn’t remotely bubblegum” and vice versa, but is it not just as true that a lot of teenpop isn’t remotely “teen pop”? Certainly much of it is not pop conceived by teens, right? Though is it primarily consumed by teens? Maybe that’s the more important question, but is the answer to that obvious? I honestly have no idea… Is Radio Disney the real driver for the type of pop we’re discussing, in terms of dissemination? Personally, I’ve mostly encountered the stuff — everything from Girls Aloud to Kelly Clarkson to JoJo — via various message boards and from the enthusings of individual rock critics, i.e., you guys and a few others. It’s hard for me to think of a single “teenpop” song I loved in the previous decade which captured me via radio, though AFTER I read so much about “Since U Been Gone” it did suddenly seem to be all over the dial for a while.
Anyway… I was mostly just engaging in a fit of nostalgia with my bubblegum reference. I frankly just think the term is more fun, more evocative, more tasty.