I was thinking about this in the shower this morning, because it always seems to be in the shower that Bad Music pops into my head and refuses to leave until my hair is dry; it seems to be a problem in the local water supply. But here's what I was thinking: Bad Music (Britney Spears, Usher, Jessica Simpson, etc.) seems to have a very short shelf life, thus ensuring its purveyors that they will never have any listeners who become fans for life. You can take any Britney Spears single and tell the year it was it recorded even with no prior familiarity with the song, because it will sound exactly like any other popular single from the same year. Most likely, the singles will have been written by the same songwriting team, and produced by the same producer of the moment, using the same hooks and techniques that were used to make most of the top 10 for that same year. And this is why no one can listen, in 2005, to the Britney Spears/Christina Aguilera/Backstreet Boys/etc. cd that they purchased back in 2000. Because it's only 2005, but the stuff already sounds dated. It sounds like stuff that was recorded in 2000.
Because it's all canned and synthetic and extremely formulaic, there's no way this music can endure. There's nothing charming in any of it, nothing memorable in any of it -- even most of the lyrics sound the same, as though even the same themes were required in each year. Take 2004, which was the year of Mediocre Teenage (or Very Youthful) Singers Attempting to Sound Rebellious: Avril Lavigne, Ashlee Simpson, Ryan Cabrera, JoJo, Lindsay Lohan. If these kids are the most dangerous, rebellious youths out there, I think we're doing all right. But of course we all know that they aren't; they're just puked off the assembly line that way.
I can see why people like this type of music, and buy it, and put up with it. It's because it's good background music. You don't have to think much about it, it has a certain beat-per-minute rythym to carry you through your day, it sounds okay loud or quiet, it's slickly produced so that nothing jars you out of whatever it is that you're doing besides listening.
But what you will almost always notice is that the only people you will ever hear say that any of these type of "artists" are actually their favorite musicians are children -- mainly girls between the ages of 6 and 13. Adults who listen to it will tell you it's a guilty pleasure or cite any or all of the reasons listed above for not minding it. The kids, on the other hand, love these pretty girls and cute boys, and adore the simplistic life themes presented in the songs; it's something they can deal with on their Limited Life Experience level. And then, once they've hit the magic 14th birthday, they lose all interest (14 at the latest; some are earlier bloomers and move on to real music at 10 or 11) -- just like my friends and I lost interest in Shaun Cassidy and the Monkees when we were young.
I suspect that, 15-20 years from now, we're going to be hearing a lot of these songs on some kind of "Turn of the Century Bubblegum Music" collection. I have to wonder if then even I will wax nostalgic at the sounds of, say, "Not A Girl (Not Yet A Woman)" or "Yeah!" or even "Genie In A Bottle." But I guarantee you that nothing, not even time, can make a Simpson not suck.