Not so dynamic
June 11, 2011 § 1 Comment
2) This particular dynamic trope – & I probably wasn’t clear enough about this in the original piece – doesn’t seem to simply be (as ZSTC speculated) the result of hip-hop producers turning to Ibiza as they grew tired of post-Timb/Neptunes angularity. If you check the production/songwriting credits on a couple of recent albums – Flo-Rida’s Only One Flo (Part 1) & Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream – the names that crop up are interesting. Benny Blanco (one half, with Spank Rock, of Bangers & Cash), Bonnie McKee, Dr. Luke (who wrote for Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys, Pink & Avril Lavigne), Max Martin, one of the pioneers of the ‘Swedish’ sound that dominated American (& hence global) teen-pop throughout the early 00s, were all involved with writing & arranging the latter; Blanco, Luke, Martin & DJ Ammo (a cohort of Will.I.Am for those not paying attention at the back) all had production duties. These same folks wrote & produced most of the Flo Rida album & Mr. Cruz’s ‘Dynamite’. What we’re seeing, then, is in fact the return of an older, formerly dominant mode of pop, & the personnel who originated it.
3) Of course, this doesn’t cover everything: the kind of hip-hop producers who worked on pop singles have, in fact, moved over towards a more Ibiza-inflected sound – in the case of Will.i.am, the contrast between the acoustic/rock work of 2003’s Elephunk & Black Eyed Peas’ recent work is all too obvious, & Timb’s atrocious Katy Perry-assisted single last year made clear how far the trend had gone. (Incidentally, I’m sure this whole thing is connected to the increasing encroachment of rock-‘n’-rote methods into hip-hop over the last year-&-a-bit – cf. Lil Wayne’s Rebirth, B.o.B.’s Adventures of Bobby Ray; hip-hop losing faith in its own powers & means of production?)
4) The question of why is more complicated, & not one I can really answer without resorting to abstraction: the intermeshing & tension of economic/label pressure, the artistic culture inside labels (senior execs lean in different stylistic directions), internal power-struggles between competing producers & tendencies (whose stock goes down or up) & the intent of artists themselves has always been intensely complex in pop, & I don’t think imputing the change to any one factor is very helpful. There is, as well, the complicating factor of the audience, who are always both leaders & led of the pop industry. But, of course, wherever something happens in pop, the market isn’t far away. I don’t mean that in any crudely deterministic way – oh, the bottom’s fallen out of the base, so the superstructure’s got fucked, natch – not least because pop is, more than any other artistic form, both base and superstructure, an artistic product that is also (& inextricably) an economic engine. But I don’t think that the coincidence of the renaissance & subsequent crashing slow-down of hip-hop with the 00s boom & crash (99-01 for the first, late 06-08), an arc predicated on virtual & cultural capital (in wh/ hip-hop, with its recurrent dream of making mega-money via rap talent, participated and embodied more than perhaps any other form) really is coincidence. If, as this trend suggests, the locus of rhythmic innovation has migrated from the centre to the margins – & it seems no coincidence that underground producers have made 00s R&B their default reference as it fell from the top of the charts – then we really should ask ourselves why the dancefloor, radio, major label – the institutions and production sites of pop – can no longer support complexity – at the moment, in fact, when the underground/overground distinction is being eroded, & the biodiversity of pop’s ecosystem (taking in everything outside of the clearings, as it were) is at its most lush, complex & teeming. That takes more than technological determination (e.g. the internet).