Epic Tuesday Reads #3: Why We Fight About Pop Music

In 2007, the Canadian music critic Carl Wilson published a book-length experiment in extreme aesthetic sport: a sincere and shockingly comprehensive study of music he had already decided he hated. That book, Let’s Talk About Love, named for the Celine Dion album it studied, has become a cornerstone text in the school of criticism known as “poptimism,” because it treats seemingly disposable pop music as worthy of serious thought.

Last month, Let’s Talk About Love was reissued with a set of new essays by writers like Nick Hornby, Krist Novaselic, James Franco and NPR Music’s own Ann Powers. The timing couldn’t have been better. In 2014, nothing starts a fight more quickly than a huge pop song. Ann and Carl exchanged notes on why.

Back and forth between Carl Wilson and Ann Powers at NPR


2 thoughts on “Epic Tuesday Reads #3: Why We Fight About Pop Music

  1. I don’t know, maybe I didn’t read the piece as closely as I should, but this banter — aside from making some dubious claims, i.e., the notion that “shaming” is currently on the comeback trail (like it ever *hasn’t* been part of the teens-and-music continuum) — for me fails in almost every way to convey the actual joy of listening to and thinking about pop music. That’s a problem, I think. The comments are almost uniformly negative, and while that’s going to happen anytime a pop music thinkpiece gets posted in a venue like NPR, there’s a palpable feeling of disconnect between the writers and the readers here, and I don’t feel any closer to the former than I do to the latter in this case.

  2. Yeah, I agree with you and I’m glad you commented first. (I also admit to not reading it as closely as I probably should.) It really smacks of the kind of paternalism I was referring to in my other comment, but I haven’t thought about it closely enough yet. Powers’s “rules of the road” for pop criticism, especially, seem deadly (&) dull to me. If this is what enlightened pop criticism looks like, I’ll go find somewhere else to party AND to think (and have, tbf). This just comes off as scolding.

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