Why is Contemporary Pop Bad and Repetitive?

The stupidity of contemporary pop music is in the news again and the explanations are about as disappointing as the music itself: as it turns out, we're told, our brains enjoy stuff that is simple and repetitive....

Ah, yes, the simple and repetitive reductionism of brains and 'because evolution', etc. Hang on there, Darwin, there's a more complex but also more interesting explanation.

Let's start with the cohort that determines the form and content of popular music: young kids. It's not that kids are just inherently stupid and consequentially enjoy stupid music 'because evolution' or undeveloped mental powers. Rather, like everybody else, kids are attuned to what their peers are interested in. It's that kids are more attentive to popular trends than your average 40-something, but we can all be guilty of following the herd.

Being accepted and being part of a group is important for kids. You're either part of a group or you end up being that dopey loser at the front of the bus with the bowl haircut and breakfast on his neck.

Most groups have a central personality, the hyper-popular boy or girl, that will, to a great extent, dictate the tastes of the group; like what they like or be cast out. If you were paying attention back in the day you'll remember that the most popular kids seemed to be the dumbest. Like total idiots.

You can see where this is going: the willing and active sacrifice of the intellect on the part of group members (Nietzsche) for the sake of collective co-existence and all the emotional effervescence that is gained by group acceptance (Durkheim).

Think back to when you were a kid and reflect on the who the most popular kids were in school. Were they not also the dumbest people you knew? The top jocks? Rocks. The head cheerleader? Duh. Being popular in school is not easy: it takes an endless string of stunts and idiotic pranks to maintain celebrity status and there's nothing sexy about solving for X.

Look at it this way: smart people don't like groups to begin with so the virtuoso group leader tends to be the dumbest and establishes dumb patterns of action and thought. And musical tastes follow this  logic.

See those ding-a-lings in the above photo? They're just ideal-typical (extreme) representations of your average junior high celebrity ding-a-ling.

Unfortunately, stupidity is where the fun is. Freud called it the intellectual poverty of the group. He might have been overly pessimistic but there is a certain truth to that idea of group stupidity, at least when it comes to things like religion, politics, culture, shopping, .....uh, okay, Freud was right.