Power pop lyrics, hewn from the same stone as the prose of Chekov’s plays or Dostoevsky’s novels.
What I like about you, you hold me tight
Tell me I’m the only one, gonna come over tonight
Okay, that one’s kind of simplistic. Perhaps another classic song will supply some erudite words.
Baby, please, go all the way
It feels so right (feels so right)
Being with you here tonight
Hmm. That does not seem particularly… insightful. Perhaps a final example?
Mother told me, yes, she told me
That I’d meet girls like you
She also told me, “Stay away
You never know what you’ll catch”
Well, perhaps it’s all not as heady as I remember it to be. In fact, there seems to be an obsession with S-E-X. “Sex, sex, sex. That’s all they think about,” as Brian’s mum says in The Life of Brian. In this case, they refers to those prodigious purveyors of power pop, The Romantics, Raspberries and Cheap Trick.
Which leads to the question: What is power pop?
Most people could name examples of pop music: Pink, One Direction, Johnny Mathis… All are artists who perform popular music, even though there is a fair amount of diversity in the music they produce. Power pop is rooted in the catchy melodies and memorable choruses of pop, but its style is more aggressive: crunchy guitars, power chords and high energy.
In order to understand power pop characteristics, let’s take a look at Cheap Trick’s I Want You To Want Me (1978).
I want you to want me.
I need you to need me.
I’d love you to love me.
I’m beggin’ you to beg me.
Robert Frost it ain’t. But, that’s kind of the point. These are lyrics at their most banal, an embracing of the uber-vapidity that is pop music lyrics. And the music? Same as the lyrics, but with a twist! Cheap Trick created the ultimate exaggeration of a pop song and then made it heavy, crispy and punchy (a breakfast cereal slogan if ever I’ve heard one). And this is power pop!
If you want it, here it is, come and get it
Mm mm mm mm, make your mind up fast
If you want it, any time, I can give it
But you’d better hurry ’cause it may not last
Badfinger’s Come and Get It, an even earlier example of power pop (1969), was written and produced by Paul McCartney. The song first appeared in The Magic Christian, a movie that highlights the extremes people will go to for money (If you want it, here it is, come and get it). While lacking the edginess of Cheap Trick, this early power pop classic is lathered in drippingly sweet harmonies, hooks that could catch a blue whale and fab Beatlesque production. Soon to be followed by Big Star (1971-1974), Raspberries (Go All The Way in 1972) and Sweet (Little Willy in 1972 and Ballroom Blitz in 1973), Badfinger opened the power pop floodgates for future generations and beyond!
Power pop never caught on hugely, but it continues to be purveyed by countless bands. In fact, you can find a variety of PNW power pop bands at Everett Public Library, including The New Pornographers, Nevada Bachelors, Visqueen, Hot Hot Heat and The Cute Lepers. Take some time to check out this fabulous music, but most of all remember:
Mommy’s all right,
Daddy’s all right,
They just seem a little weird.