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November 02, 2005

Comments

Jim

"It's time ABBA took its rightful place alongside the Jackson 5 and the Beatles in the pop pantheon.."

The test is reproducibilty. If ABBA is attracting fans who weren't even born when they were popular, and they do, they pass the reproducibility test. This holds for Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin and Jim Morrison, and Hendrix. Janis Joplin fails. Frankly the same holds for Bach. High school kids love Bach and the Supremes, or at least they did when I used them during bookwork ("guided practice").

Abiola Lapite

Considering ABBA's still selling more than 10 million CDs a year, I'd say they pass the popularity test with dazzling colors.

Jim

Apparently, and I bet it is not all to refugees from the disco era either. That was mu point. They still appeal to new audiences.

As brainless as some of those songs sound on the surface, they are anthemic, and they appeal to and speak for new listeners all the time. "Dancing Queen" comes to mind.

buglesam

I have a dim recollection of reading that Sweden outdoes all countries except the US in music production. This article - http://www.sweden.se/templates/cs/Article____8216.aspx - hints at it.

Andy

Other than the test of longevity, is there anything that necessarily makes ABBA better than Britney? If Britney is still selling well in 20 years, will you put her too atop the pantheon? Does your argument _only_ come down to longevity? I personally find hints of "sadness, melancholy and longing" in Britney's music as well.

jeet

"It's time ABBA took its rightful place alongside the Jackson 5 and the Beatles in the pop pantheon, if only the "ironic" hipster set will stop cringing at admitting that they like ABBA's music long enough to let them in."

Hey! I NEVER cringed.

Abiola Lapite

"Other than the test of longevity, is there anything that necessarily makes ABBA better than Britney?"

Other than being richer than God, is there anything that necessarily makes Bill Gates more influential than you or I? That's a very big "other than" you have there - it isn't as if there were many sterner tests of artistic merit than longevity.

"If Britney is still selling well in 20 years, will you put her too atop the pantheon? Does your argument _only_ come down to longevity?"

I feel totally secure in predicting that this will only remain in the realm of the rhetorical. Watching "Hit Me Baby One More Time" was a better experience with the sound turned *off* than otherwise - her lolita-look did a lot more to launch her career than her unexceptional voice and insipid melodies - and I've never felt the urge to repeatedly listen to anything that's ever been attached to her name.

"I personally find hints of "sadness, melancholy and longing" in Britney's music as well."

To the extent those things are there - and your ears don't work the way mine do if you can hear them in Titney's work - they owe entirely to whichever relatively anonymous souls wrote the music she's lipsynched, not to any talent inherent in herself. Ms. Spears is as deserving of critical respect for "her" musical "skills" [sic] as the two guys who fronted as Milli Vanilli, and their only misfortune was that they didn't pull their stunt in an age in which people had ceased to care about anything *but* image.

PS: Some evidence that Ms. Spears is more Debbie Gibson than Agnetha Fältskog.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/4248174.stm

Evidently her album sales were already tanking before she took her extended break from performing. No ABBA-esque longevity in sight there ...

Jim

Britney may be going still in twenty years, but if it's only her twenty-year-older currnet fans, that won't count. Will she have fans born today in twenty years?

There are has-beens still showing up to play casinos - what does that prove except that stoners get old and play the slots eventually?

radek

Fernando!

and why does Janis Joplin fail? Or are you just not counting lesbians?

TangoMan

Considering your diverse taste in music you may find some of Bjorn and Benny's post-ABBA compositions appealing.

Back in the ABBA days they started experimented with the musical theatre format with their mini-stage show "The Girl With The Golden Hair" which you can see interwoven in "ABBA-The Movie," which has just been released on DVD so that a whole new generation can appreciate the winner of the Sexiest Bottom Award.

After ABBA the gents went on to compose "Chess" and then they cemented their status as Swedish cultural icons by composing "Kristina från Duvemåla" which is now destined for Broadway.

Once you witness their musical maturation it's not hard to understand why they turned down the $1 Billion offer to reform.

Jim

"and why does Janis Joplin fail? Or are you just not counting lesbians?"

Because 8th graders don't listen to her the way they listen to Hendrix and the Doors.

Janis rocks, and I'm not a lesbian - she and her blues-rock had a profound influence on other artists. But I like her because she was part of my childhood, so I don't really count as a judge of her enduring appeal.

Abiola Lapite

"and why does Janis Joplin fail?"

Because she was a far better singer live than she was a recording artist:

http://www.villagevoice.com/books/9909,mcdonnell,4236,10.html

It's hard for people who came into the world after you died to appreciate what you did if you happened to do it best in the flesh. In any case, it's easy to overstate the extent to which she "failed": if it were true we wouldn't be talking about her in the first place, and I doubt anyone's going to be doing anything similar 35 years after Britney passes from the scene.

dsquared

hmmm, the NME from 1995 called, they want their "ABBA are really great, actually" article back.

The problem with ABBA is that ABBA Gold is a really good album, but there are lots of quite dreadful filler tracks on the actual albums. Show me a non-Swede who owns an Abba album other a greatest hits compilation and I'll show you either a) someone who bought it for the kitsch b) someone with very questionable taste in music indeed or c) my wife.

Also I don't know why so many people believe that Britney Spears can't sing, or that she lip-synchs. She's been performing since her Mouseketeer years and had singing lessons from the age of about five. Some of the production on her singles is absolutely amazing work (I suspect she has a load of dodgy album tracks like Abba, but I don't know because I'm not gay).

btw, any test that Janis Joplin fails, Jim Morrison certainly fails. The Doors are IMO the most criminally overrated band in history.

Abiola Lapite

"Also I don't know why so many people believe that Britney Spears can't sing, or that she lip-synchs."

Er, cause her former manager said so (long) before he was fired, for one? Besides, I've seen her lipsynching with my own eyes while watching her pathetic documentary mini-series. One can't perform the sorts of athletic exertions she does in each show even while flawlessly belting out tune after tune.

"She's been performing since her Mouseketeer years and had singing lessons from the age of about five."

All the singing lessons in the world can't turn crap into gold (though a skilled producer can work wonders in the studio); try watching "Chaotic" yourself and hear how well she carries a tune without backup singers and fancy equipment to dress it up - even I could do better than she does.

radek

"Because 8th graders don't listen to her the way they listen to Hendrix and the Doors."

Well, they're not shopping for Mozart either. Some music you just come to later in life. I'm sure there's plenty of college kids buying Janis.

"Because she was a far better singer live than she was a recording artist"

That may well be true, but still I think she was good enough as a recording artist to qualify.

"any test that Janis Joplin fails, Jim Morrison certainly fails. The Doors are IMO the most criminally overrated band in history."

Hear, hear.

Sebastian Holsclaw

"Dismiss ABBA's origins and fashion sense all you like, but there's a reason why "Mamma Mia" is still packing them in after all these years...."

It sure isn't the story of the play, which is crap. I think one of ABBA's great strengths was an appreciation of harmony which is often lacking in modern pop music.

Jim

"any test that Janis Joplin fails, Jim Morrison certainly fails. The Doors are IMO the most criminally overrated band in history."

They are pretty simple, but by the metric of staying power, they are apparently pretty hot.

Radek is right about the late emergence of a taste for Mozart, but you can guage an artist's cultura; appeal by mena sother than direct sales of his/her music. The degree to which someone's music is used in advertising is a measure of their drawing power also. Look then to who the advertising is aimed at. Those cadiilac commercials with Led Zeppelin aren't aimed at Gen Yers.

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