A gentleman’s opinion

By Evan Minsker

One of my New Year’s resolutions coming into 2009 was to listen to more new music. I’d spent the majority of the year before listening to old records to get more of a sense of music history, so this year I wanted to be sure to keep up with the times.

So far, I’ve been doing quite well with a few genres-indie, hip-hop, singer/songwriters, rock, blues and country have all gotten a good amount of listening time.

I’ve noticed, however, that I’ve avoided some of the best-selling music out there: pop music.

Well, one time I did listen to the new Kelly Clarkson album, but I shrugged it off by saying, “I guess it was good for its genre.” My pop music diet ended there.

I’ll cut right to it. I’ve avoided the two artists who are aimed toward a demographic that I’m definitely not a part of-the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus.

It’s really easy to be snarky and pretentious and just laugh at the mention of their names, but I seriously challenge you to find a non-fan of those artists who has listened to an entire album or watched an entire film by one of those two.

I know that it’s inherently not my thing, but in order to pass judgment, I have to actually listen to the music. I took a dive into unknown waters, a frightening world meant for tweens only, and listened to some of the best-selling music out there.

To fulfill my goal, I began listening to the Jonas Brothers’ Music From the 3-D Concert Experience and the Miley Cyrus soundtrack for Hannah Montana: The Movie.

I began listening to the Jonas’ 3-D Concert music alone in my apartment, careful not to alert my hipster neighbors of my crimes by keeping the volume relatively low.

Here’s the thing about the Jonas Brothers that I’ve discovered in listening to their music for the first time-it’s sort of like listening to a G-rated Van Halen if you took all of the lines David Lee Roth sang about loose women and having sex and replaced them with lyrics about going to parties and kissing. Even the guitars and primal screams are somehow diluted into a bland, overproduced sound.

The tragedy, however, is that music criticism is obsolete to a group like the Jonas Brothers. It doesn’t matter how many bad reviews they get. The money is just going to keep flowing in.

Plus, who am I to pan this group? Yeah, I think their lyrics and songs are contrived nonsense with a thick layer of schmaltz and overproduction. But this isn’t made for me. This is just a (somehow) less-edgy version of “Good Riddance” by Green Day, which everybody was toting as an anthem in middle school.

Then there’s the Hannah Montana soundtrack. It’s just the same idealistic stuff, pre-packaged for tweens’ parents to drop hundreds on.

On one song, Hannah Montana (yes, there are tracks by Cyrus and by Montana) sings that when going to a party, don’t forget to bring a guitar. Last time I checked, the dude at the party who plays a guitar is always the one in the corner trying to unsuccessfully impress the ladies with his hot licks. A guitar is guaranteed to make the party that much more awkward.

Oh, and in typical Disney fashion, there’s an entire song about spending money. That’s right kids, grab your parents’ credit cards and head to the Miley Store … er … The Disney Store.

But again, this stuff isn’t for me. Yes, it gave me a huge headache and a severe amount of embarassment just to listen to it. Yes, it’s exactly what you’d expect from The Disney Channel. Yes, I think it’s terrible. But it’s for tweens and fans of pop radio. Not bearded twentysomethings who shop at The Salvation Army.

So, mission accomplished: I’ve listened to two huge pop albums for this year.  Are they going to be making my year-end “best of” list? No thanks.

Unfortunately, despite my best intentions and attempts regarding open-mindedness, I still ended up hating what I heard. It looks like my year-end review is going to be the same lo-fi, avant garde stuff that made last year’s list. Oh well.