This week, we’re putting the spotlight on fellow podcaster Hannah Zoe Weilbacher who is 1/3 of The B-Sides (@listentothebsides), the pop music appreciation podcast for progressives. You can find the show on Apple and Spotify and subscribe to the newsletter (with playlists!) by going to bit.ly/listentothebsides.
Pop music can save the world. That is, if we stop denying ourselves the pure joy we can access when we listen to it.
But here’s the problem. We get in our own way when we don’t take pop music as seriously as we take other media. Critical progressive thinkers often feel more comfortable with a nuanced appreciation of the new Star Wars franchise than the new Taylor Swift album. Don’t get me wrong, I love Star Wars. But that’s kind of the point. We need to treat the mushy, pop-y magic of movies and television the same way we treat pop music.
At The B-Sides, we constantly unpack the myriad reasons why pop music is dismissed despite it still being part of dominant culture. One reason we have clarified is simply misogyny. People associate pop music with young women, whose taste is not taken seriously, despite young women from all demographics consistently being on the cutting edge of taste (see: Elvis, The Beatles, and frickin’ One Direction).
And there’s another misconception: that pop is unsophisticated, inauthentic, and overall not a genuine form of expression.
That misconception is also rooted in structural oppression like misogyny as well as racism and homophobia. It comes from the limiting, reductive thinking that suggests that the only music worthy of legitimacy is made by whiny white boys on guitars.
I see the tides turning on how we talk about pop with the success of a new era of artists, with Lizzo in particular. Her powerful messages combined with true musical prowess is allowing pop skeptics to finally embrace the unbridled joy that comes from listening to pop. Lizzo is a classically trained flutist who was mentored by Prince – you’re wrong if you think she’s not a truly talented artist.
Listening to pop music sends a different message: one of choosing joy and of rejecting dominant narratives about whose talents are worthy. So blast that Lizzo song – or that Carly Rae b-side – and dance your butt off.
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