Every teenage boy wanted to rip off the schoolgirl skirt she effortlessly debuted in the music video for 1998’s “Baby One More Time,” while every teenage girl (and some boys) dreamt of wearing it. Did she know this? Did it make her feel powerful? What did she even want?
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Pop music is there to make us absent-mindedly nod our heads, we think, not speak to the part of us that we are afraid to look at in the mirror. But whether it is a particularly poignant line or an entire lyrical theme that gets us, when a manufactured pop song overcomes its sugary coating, it becomes the kind of song we listen to instead of just hearing.
I have really good taste in book and movies, and then when it comes to music, I just sort of give up. When I start making a mix CD for a friend, I start off with a couple of good tracks by, say, The New Pornographers or someone — and then I start feeling an inevitable drift towards the shitty, shitty songs that I actually love. Then I start coming up with excuses in my head: “Maybe X also likes the Spice Girls,” I say to myself, knowing that this is not, in fact, the case.