She talks of the “delicious foolishness that has been exhibited over what is and isn’t authentic [in popular music] and thus what is and isn’t manufactured.”
I agree with her thrust. The idea of authenticity in music is a myth, a compelling and powerful myth certainly, but a myth nevertheless. It is almost impossible to identify what so called authenticity is when looking closely at any musical work. It is projected on to the work by the imagination.
As for “manufactured” - well, there’s another nonsense term riddled with hypocrisy. There are none more self-conscious and manufactured than your average indie band on the make. Everything from their clothes to their talk is considered, often the product of their art school background. Some impresario placing an ad for singers, then undertaking the phenomenally difficult task of forming a pop act and steering it to success, is no more contrived than your average band so called cool or authentic.
Burchill has some other interesting remarks to make about the pop world. She says pop music must be performed by young people. I’m still not sure about that, although I could be persuaded. There is something rather horrendous about fifty to sixty year-old rockers. But maybe that’s unfair. We don’t like them developing their work into complex art either. What are they to do? Get a real job maybe.
She says: “teenagers like sad songs because usually they’ve experienced no real tragedy so they feel free to try on misery as a pose.” I certainly did as a kid helped on by John Lennon. Problem with me was the misery stuck! She also defends “the voice of the teenage girl” which I’m glad to see her do. She says this is “the most desired yet most despised player-pawn in this multi-billion game of snakes and ladders.”
She’s not afraid to offend is Julie Burchill and although she would no doubt offend me too if I read her more often, her observations on popular music sit comfortably with my own. Cheers.
written 2003 in response to one of Burchill's articles