Saturday, November 27, 2010

Music You've Never Heard - Billie Piper

Hey y'all.  So I was thinking the other day that while this segment tries to show music that you've never heard before, it is under no obligation to have to show you good music.  While I much prefer this, this week I have something else in mind.  This may sound like a harsh criticism of Billie Piper, but honestly, she's not that great as a singer.  She's by far not the worst thing you've ever heard, but still.  I bring Billie up as an example of something I want to address in music today.

If you've heard this name before, it's because Billie Piper played the role of one of the most iconic companions to the Doctor in the television show Doctor Who: Rose Tyler.  Notably, I like her on this show.  I think she did a good job of portraying someone who is a friend and helper to the Doctor.  Her acting was good and consistent.  Rose was more or less a normal British girl who worked in a department store ("the shops", Brits call 'em) who gets swept away into the adventures of an alien who travels in a blue police box that's bigger on the inside.  I highly recommend watching her during seasons 1 and 2 of this show. 

Season three is where everything starts to go to crap as far as writing goes (with a few notable exceptions), so unless Matt Smith is a good doctor (I haven't seen him yet), then it's not really that much worth watching past the first couple of episodes of season three.

But this post is not about Doctor Who, though I expect I'll be writing about that at some point too.  In any case. Billie Piper was a pop star before she was on this show, and I'll be featuring some of her songs on here. 

I have a few questions for you.  What exactly makes a song a "pop" song?  Is pop as a genre good or bad?  What makes a successful pop song?  Is Billie Piper a good pop artist, merely a successful one, or just plain bad?  You should answer these questions for yourself, but for the sake of form I'm going to try to answer them from my perspective.

Okay, so how do I define a pop song?  To me, pop songs are songs that are more or less lighthearted, expressing surface emotions without really going deeper.  These songs are about living life, love (or lack of), or partying.  They have simpler melodies that eat your way into your brain and make you think of them during odd times, and you find yourself a little ashamed (or possibly amused) that you remember some of the words.  These songs are by no means to be taken seriously.  They are for fun and nothing more, other than kpop and possibly jpop.  Those, however, I usually consider a different genre from normal pop; Koreans and Japanese are not like out west pop people.  A lot of the times artists take their work too seriously, like trying to make a song about breaking up with someone intense and "hardcore".  Yeah.

Okay, so pop songs are
1. Shallower than other genres
2. About normal things, possibly taking them too seriously
3. Simple, catchy melodies
4. Potential shame for liking them (depending on you or the crowd you hang with).

Now, is pop a bad genre?  I have to say not necessarily.  I mean, we've had good pop songs over the years, help me here...ooh, Sweet Dreams by Eurythmics.  That's synthpop and not normal pop, but still.  Synthpop is fun stuff.  In any case, pop is like any other genre: it depends on who makes it and how they make it whether or not it is good.  Now, at this point in time pop is very stupid, because it has forsaken love for lust, soul for screeching, talent for notoriety, and effort for bad, emo crooning.  Pop is bad now, but there's no reason why it has to continue being this way.  Most undergrounders throw out pop entirely because of this, but this is too far in my opinion.  Everyone just needs to have fun once in a while.

My definition for a successful pop song is one:
1. that you hear on the radio over and over again.
2. that will not leave your mind unless you drive it out with techno or rave.
3. that makes you listen no matter how much you don't like it.

Feel free to add more to this definition if you feel it lacking.

Okay, so let's get on the topic of Billie.  Two words will describe her singing style: Britney Spears.  No, really.  She's just as silly, bland, and auto-tuned sounding (she may not be, it just sounds like it) as Spears sounds.  The saddest part about this is that Billie is British, and yet in only one of her songs does she display any sort of British accent.  I don't expect her to be a stereotype, but the reason I listen to music from other countries is to hear the styles of those countries.  An artist shouldn't be afraid to represent who they are, and they shouldn't be so drowned in metaphorical pop ketchup that you can't see their individuality. 

That's my opinion, though.  Do you agree?

Let's start with this one song right here, Day and Night.  This is the single most cliched song I have ever heard in my life.  Not unless Weird Al decides he's going to come up with a song where he sings nothing but cliches.  It's a song about love, I guess...maybe?  She needs a dude, apparently.  Maybe I'm just being critical because the most pop I get is Sarit Hadad, but the words of this song are so repetitive and unpoetic that it's hardly worth listening to.  Then again, this follows the idea of making you listen no matter how much you dislike it.  Try and see.

Day and Night:

Next up is Honey to the Bee, and...ugh...ugh, ugh.  It's so bad it gets me talkin' like a caveman.  The other songs of Billie's I've heard are meh at worst, but this one is plain bad.  First of all, it feels touched by country (kryptonite for techno peeps).  It also has bee pun lyrics, shallow ones about...whatever.  The lyrics drag on like the drolling way she sings.  Guh, the bridge of this song just makes me sick.  I haven't once listened to this song to the end.  You won't either.  Don't believe me?

Honey to the Bee:

Okay, okay, enough ragging on Billie.  Let's put up a better song.  This one is actually a lot of fun, and it plays on nostalgia.  I'm not going to pretend it's something important or great, but it accomplishes the pop mission of having fun.  It's called She Wants You, it's a story about a girl noticing another girl trying to steal her man.  The lyrics and the topic aren't that special, and the music video is laughable, but I actually kinda like this song.  It's fun stuff.  It will eat into your brain like one of them critters from Star Trek II.

She Wants You:

I can't say the same for Something Deep Inside.  You kinda think with a title like that that this would be something more heartfelt and deeper.  It's just about bland love.  Blah, boring.  I can't say "meh" enough times so I won't try.  Seriously, Backstreet Boys kick this song's butt.

Something Deep Inside:

There's one more of Billie's songs I like.  It's called Because We Want To, and it's essentially a pop song glorifying youthful independence and self-righteousness (teens think they know crap about crap; you know how they are).  I love the beat.  In  my head I change the lyrics to more violent things, but I tend to do that to cheesy things.  That's what I like about this song.  It's so cheesy that none of the pretentious, bland pop-ness that infects Billie's later songs catches this one.  This is the one where you can actually tell Billie is British if you didn't know otherwise, sort of.  It's fun, but you cannot possibly cheese this cheese.

Because We Want To:

And let's round this out with one last song.  It's called Walk of Life, otherwise known as Meh.  At least to me.  It's just not interesting.  Not the words, beat, or the way Billie sings it.  It's like the musical equivalent of watching paint dry.  Do you seriously like this song?

Walk of Life:

So yeah.  I realize that this is nineties stuff, but at the end of the day you have to look at this stuff if you want to see what happened to music.  Nobody really seems to like music anymore.  Everyone nowadays talks about how all the older music is better than now, and you have to wonder where it all went wrong.  I hardly know.  There are a few generic answers, like artists caring more about good money than actually making good music.  There's narcissim, too.  Maybe people are so impatient for new music that they don't realize good music takes time.  Looking at Billie's songs up there, it seems like her best songs were the ones where she just tried to have fun rather than try to be so serious.  

Also, I'd like to point out that the best songs are not about the artist.  They are about common feelings and thoughts that we share as humans.  When an artist sings to someone out there, not for or to themselves, that song is touching.  It's humble and endearing, and it pulls us in.  It's like I was saying with the Disney songs in the The Princess and the Frog review.  The best songs are either fun as all get out, or are ones that reach out to the audience.  Nobody likes songs where people sing how great they are. 

Now, I'm not saying Billie has no talent, though I personally feel most of it lies in acting rather than singing.  I don't mean to criticize her unduly, as there are worse artists out there.  Tell me what you think of her, and if you think I'm full of it.

So yeah, that's todays rant. Next week I'll get back to posting music I like again.

No comments:

Post a Comment