Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Popular Music 2000-2008

This was the "title" of my final lecture for the semester in my Popular Music class. *Sigh.* We met last night to discuss the current state of pop music in the current decade. The textbook I use does a pretty good job of moving chronologically through American pop music history from the early days of good ol' minstrelsy (never an easy subject to teach) to today. Well, the book was published in 2005. So, until then, I guess. The biggest flaw in the book is, indeed, the final chapter. How do you write history while living it?!?!? Oh, wait......blogging. Ha ha!

Anyhoo, I mentioned in the last post that I like to shift the burden of the work at the end of the semester toward my students. Yep, that's the kind of professor I am, dammit! While they are already scrambling and all-nighting, I ease off my responsibilities and give them even more. But wait, before any raised-eyebrows get tilted my way, here's the method behind my madness:

My Pop students were in charge of creating the content of last night's lecture by preparing the following things:

1. select one song from one year between 2000 and 2008 that is a good representative of "popular" music for that year. Explain how it contributes to our historical consideration of "popular music" in the US. Explain what elements of the song (artist, production, genre, etc.) caused it to become popular.
2. Offer three artists who remained absent from our discussion of popular music, or the book's discussion, but who belong in it and why.
3. Offer one or more artists who should be beamed off the planet due to the advent of their popularity.

I did, actually, bring in examples of my own to contribute. I used Kelly Clarkson's "Breakaway" for #1; Kansas, BTO, and Hall & Oates for #2; Nickelback, Maroon 5, and the J.Geils Band for #3.

On the whole and throughout the semester, my Pop students were not as enthusiastic about the course material as one might think. It is a history class, after all, so we have to actually talk about and dissect not only the music, but the events, people, places, times surrounding the music. We can't just "simply" sit around and listen to tunes all the time. *Sigh.* I will be the first to admit that I would prefer to create a course simply called "Led Zeppelin," and be done with it. And, alas, sometimes, the actual enjoyment of music in music history classes gets bogged down by, well, the history.

But, last night's class rocked. I have a smart classroom so almost all of the selections had videos/clips available on youtube, which was fun. My students were enthusiastic and had a lot of things to say about the music of "their" decade. I, in turn, felt connected to them a bit more than I have in the past. Although I still feel (and probably act) like a 20-year old, *Another sigh.* There have been moments teaching pop music, like the week of the 1980s, where I felt totally old, out of touch, and wrinkly. Last night, my students absolutely taught me things about the past 9 years of music that I would never have known. Lovely way to spend a snowy Tuesday, me thinks.

Here's the best part, the part that makes me blush with pride in my young 20-something students.....below is our compiled list of bands who should be beamed off their earth. Zap. Gone. Not a tear shed. Bye-bye bands we don't like (and now you know who you are):

Maroon 5 (I just typed "Moron 5" without even trying to be funny. How funny!)
J. Geils Band
Axl Rose (after the GnR breakup)
Britney Spears
Miley Cyrus and all aliases
Lindsey Lohan (as singer and all else)
everything to do with High School Musical
Jonas Brothers
Rufus Wainwright (I guess he performed during the college's SpringFest recently. Not good.)
Gwen Stefani

Hope for the future, yes indeed. *Final Sigh*

1 comment:

rrb said...

Great class activity, J!
Though, I have to strongly disagree with U2 being on the list--sure, if you weren't born until the late 80s and never bothered to go back and listen to the first few albums, but really...beamed off the planet? Who will wear all the over-sized sunglasses?

Hope you have a great break and some well-earned rest!!