No one’s quite sure when pop music died. Maybe it was when S-club quit, or when Justin discovered the Neptunes, or when Eyebrow Boy (aka Charlie) from Busted decided to grow some designer stubble and form a ‘punk’ (no sniggering at the back) band. At this point, you might be wondering whether I’ve lost my mind. Pop? Dead? Have I ever been in Filth, Bridge or Park E…sorry, Lava and Ignite at 2am? But think back through the alcohol-induced analgesia over the music played: 5ive, Ricky Martin even (shudder) the Baywatch theme. All at least five years old, nostalgia (or should that be nausea?) inducing relics of a bygone era. Slowly but surely, pop has disappeared from our charts and airwaves. I have to confess, I didn’t shed many tears over this.  But, after celebrating the demise of pop,at least outside the Bubble, I noticed something strange; it was still everywhere, it had just got smarter. And the chief culprits of this camouflage are possibly the two most generic and infuriating words in the English language ‘rock’ and ‘urban'. Once both the ultimate expression of rebellion, these genres have been hijacked by the masses and diluted to such an extent that they mean nothing at all. Note to A and R men: overenthusiastic application of eyeliner, overwrought angsty choruses and learning three chords on a guitar does not a ‘rock chick’ make.  It’s not indie, its not even emo, its pop, pure and simple as, in a more innocent time, Hearsay would have put it. But what of so-called ‘urban’ music, a category so vague it spans from rnb to dnb? It has certainly come a long way from its roots as social protest in inner city America. Witness the Pussycat Dolls. Without even getting into their erm… unique brand of ‘feminism’ which, to the uninitiated, seems to consist of saying how much more attractive they are than other women, their musical value has got to be seriously questioned. By their own admission, only one of them can sing, and yet this only seems to propel them to No. 1 faster. Hell, at least Atomic Kitten put up an amusing pretence. But even the ‘authentic’ artists are in on the act. In a form of expression founded on lyrical dexterity and wit, it is now image, not content that sells records and consequently rappers have increasingly come to rely on stereotypes of the ‘ghetto fabulous’ lifestyle. The most notorious culprit, 50 ‘Fiddy’ Cent, has evolved into little more than a caricature of himself, culminating, ironically enough, in making his life into a movie: as if it wasn’t one already.  So, this is my plea: bring back pop. It may be unoriginal, repetitive, inane, but at least you knew where you stood. We could mock it from a distance, confident in our music’s superiority. But now the lines have been dangerously blurred; we urgently need to return to music so definitively, unashamedly pop that no one could be in any doubt. Thank god for the Spice Girls reunion.
by Rachel Breitenbach