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Hyper, Social, Short & Canned – They Might Be FUTURE Giants
MUSIC is not a GENRE - Season 3 Episode #19



FEATURED SONG: REC -“KPS (Korean Pop Song)” (from The Sunshine Seminar

Pop music is wonderful. More diverse than its reputation suggests. But it’s not everything. And while it can often be very accepting of new ideas, it can also be a bully. The bouncer who passes quick judgment from a few superficial cues.


That’s why it’s critical that agitators exist. I don’t mean artists who deliberately shun the mainstream and carve a more eclectic, experimental, indie path. I mean those artists who strive to infiltrate the mainstream and shake it up. Trojan horse artists who disguise themselves in pop trappings so they can sneak in more subversive elements.


Hyperpop is the latest in a succession of musical styles that take pop music and turn it on its head by going to the brashest extremes. Ultra bright. Ultra fast. Ultra polished. Ultra short. Ultra weird lyrics. Cherry picking elements and mashing them together like mixing up all the Play-Doh colors. It’s brought some cool new points to the conversation, and will most definitely move things forward. But it’s not the first time this has been done.


Subversive pop music has been around as long as normal pop. Wherever there’s a movement, there will always be a counter to it. A perfect example of this is They Might Be Giants. The Johns got their start in 1982 and over about ten years infiltrated the mainstream. Sort of. They were doing ultra bright ultra fast ultra polished ultra short ultra weird-lyricked songs decades before hyperpop. In particular, their first four albums stretched what a pop song - and pop album - could be, in all directions.


Pop music didn’t love them. They never topped the charts because pop wasn’t ready for them. Like an early 1980s bouncer scoffing at parachute pants, pop took one look at this accordion and guitar duo playing to canned backing tracks and DID NOT LET THEM IN. It couldn’t handle the weirdness.


As always, the future has the last laugh. Weirdness is just normality minus a decade or two. Slowly but surely, pop music caught up. Now so much of what they did is becoming a central part of the pop landscape. Short songs and shuffling playlists (see the “Fingertips” compilation). Songs on demand (the pioneering Dial-A-Song). Songs available only online (their Long Tall Weekend album). And so much more.


And they influenced so many other artists. Think of all the “bands” that came into existence 20 years after TMBG who are just one or two people playing to backing tracks. No one was doing that in the 1980s and barely even in the 1990s. I’d say that They Might Be Giants are one of the top 20 influences on my music. I’ve performed “solo” tons of times, snuck weird lyrics into otherwise poppy songs, messed with length and form and genre - on one album and even one song, pushed pop to its limits and turned it on its head. Every album of mine has at least one song that does this. Here’s an example that sounds to me very TMBG-esque:


REC -“KPS (Korean Pop Song)” (from The Sunshine Seminar)


Do you know TMBG? If so, do you know mostly their classic stuff or their kids albums or TV/film/stage work? Did you think they were ultra weird? Can you hear their influence on any other artist? Discuss dammit!

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