Bring up the word Pop to any Metalhead and you better follow it up with words like Fuck, Shit, Bullshit, Garbage or Fuck Justin Bieber’s Shitty Bullshit Garbage. In the Metal dictionary, Pop music is synonymous with young teenage girls drewling over boy bands, blonde white girls talking about love, breakups and desire (source: New study confirms that most hit songs are about the same things) and black girls talking about shaking dat booty, you get the picture …
However, as Metal spawned from Rock’s bosoms, one must recall that the original rebellious / loud / in your face music back in the 60’s and 70’s was very popular. Now of course, The Beatles were Pop and The Doors were not quite so, nevertheless both displayed the same kind of massive cultural impact that Pop has on the majority of teenagers and young adults. Music icons like Jimi Hendrix would play in Pop festivals, Pink Floyd were huge and no one could really identify what Pop music was. Was it that “bubblegum sound” with golden poster boys and a radio friendly approach (hello Beatles), or what it simply what was hugely Popular at the time? One could then argue that these answers are two sides of the same coin! However, nowadays Pop is so huge compared to Rock / Metal music (Metal is still huge, but Metallica will never play the Super Bowl Halftime) that no Metalhead gives a shit about the Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance, while Madonna and The Beach Boys take an awkward middle seat in Rock and Roll’s Hall of Fame next to Black Sabbath and Metallica (The Beatles and The Doors sitting next to one another would not be so weird by comparison).
Even though he was a terrible singer who did not have the basic constraint to not burn his instrument on stage, guitar hero Jimi Hendrix was by all means one of the most standout icons of that time, and one might even stay that he was a Pop(ular) star since he famously played Pop festivals (Monterey Pop and Atlanta International Pop Festival which, to stir our semantics headache “was a rock festival held …” – Wiki), at the same time being a rebel voodoo alien. Pop or not?
Nobody knows what would Hendrix sound like today, but young guitarists looking to become as iconic and popular as him must really work out their Pop sensibilities. The best example of that would be John Mayer (early 21st century) who mastered the art of using Pop to draw in the crowds (and female Pop stars), only to later unleash his true sound inspired by Hendrix’s trio.
Things have changed since the early 2000’s though – nowadays aspiring young guitarists wanting to be guitar heros need to dig deep into the elements that make music Popular, while displaying their musicianship and unique musical identity as well. Meet 24-year old Harts from Australia, a one man band writing the book on being a standout guitar player while still getting praise from the likes of Prince (Metalhead info: Prince is a Pop legend). His 2014 debut album “Daydreamer” is mainly a mix of Electro-Pop-Funk that would alienate most Metalheads, but managing to squeeze in his own guitar sound shows what Hendrix would had to be doing to still be popular in the 21st century.
Harts kicks off his debut album with “Red & Blue”, a big turnoff to a typical Pop fan with its screaming guitar sound. Here’s him performing it live:
Here’s him covering Hendrix’s “Purple Haze”:
And a song from the album that would alienate Rock/Metal fans is this 80’s-music inspired “Lovers In Bloom”. The videos starts from the solo part just to impress you (we assume you are a Rock / Metal music fan), but do continue to see how he walks the thin line between Pop and Rock: