As a musician, it is easy to criticize popular music. After all, top 40 hits are generally simple, repetitive and cheesy. The same handful of chord progressions are recycled over and over again, and new software seems to eliminate the need for any musical talent at all. Lyrical content, if not vulgar, is shallow at best. So, is there anything to appreciate on the local pop station? Sure, but more importantly, how come we can't resist blasting that catchy tune when no one's watching?
Enter Justin Derrico. If you don't know Justin, he has long curly blond hair, he's 32 years old, and he somehow finds a way to split his time between the house band on "The Voice" and touring with P!nk. Oh yeah, and Justin shreds. A simple web search will prove his immense and stylistically diverse guitar playing ability. Widely considered as one of the best studio and live guitarist out there, Justin chooses to spend his time playing pop, and he's not alone. There is impressive musicianship all over popular music. Why? Maybe it has to do with the money, but there must be something more.
To answer this question, we have to dig deeper into the purpose of music as a whole. Why do we make music? What is it for? Music is a mysterious thing. It is hard to explain how a combination of notes and lyrics can combine to create something that is capable of eliciting emotion. There's something about music that tugs at the soul in a way nothing else can. In the end, that is why we make music. Even if we don't understand how it works, whether it be words, notes or a combination of the two, music makes us feel.
Though not generally powerful from a lyrical standpoint (there are some exceptions; Parachute's "Forever and Always" or Taylor Swift's "All Too Well" for example), pop does bring out emotion. Producers like Dr. Luke (Ke$ha, Katy Perry) and Rami (Backstreet Boys, One Direction) seem to have mastered this aspect of the pop song. Their upbeat chord progressions, well written melodies and driving rhythms take full advantage of music's ability to lift the spirits.
So, maybe good music doesn't have to be complicated and technical. What if a synth-heavy Justin Bieber song is just as "good" as a Steve Vai tune if they can both get your blood flowing? Even though there are many talented musicians like Justin Derrico who choose to play pop (check out Jay-Z's drummer if you don't believe me), appreciating pop and other music is deeper than that. If a song can make you feel something as you listen, it doesn't matter how musically complex or innovative it is. Music should be enjoyed. So, the next time you're in the car with your friends and that new One Direction song comes on, don't fight the urge to turn it up.