I don’t know what it sounds like when it’s good. Go read a pop concert review. Take this one for example. They’ll talk about the singer’s personal history (she calls herself Ke$ha), her costumes, her antics, the words to her songs. But they never talk about the music.
The one inkling I have about the quality of the actual sounds involved in this performance come from the reviewer Ben Ratliff’s single sentence that describes it: “She sang loudly and in tune, though she wasn’t fussy about it, and she let some of her better lines deflate and droop.” Singing in tune is a good minimum requirement for any decent performance, but that’s all there is to say about this performer’s music.
I’m not singling this review out at all. It’s everywhere in pop reviews. And I realize that this is electro-pop, which probably has little to do with actual pop, but I’m using the term broadly, just like classical is an unfortunate catch-all term for the stuff I like.
Classical music reviews can have their own problems, sometimes reading like mad libs. “The chorus sang _____. The conductor gave a _______ rendition of this _______ masterpiece.” But at least it takes me there a bit, and I don’t have to learn the (usually boring) details of the singer’s love life or politics.
So I don’t look down my nose at pop music. I just don’t know how I’m supposed to get into it when no one can tell me how good pop music sounds. Maybe the industry should stop being so elitist and help educate those of us unfamiliar with this vast field of repertoire…