Sunday, 26 June 2011

Joyously dumb: My writing and pop music

If you've taken some time to look at my "What is dag-lit?" page, you may have noticed that one of the ways I used to describe dag-lit was "joyously dumb. But what on earth is that meant to mean? It's a bit tricky to explain but I'll try.

Believe it or not, it actually has more to do with music than pure writing. Pop music to be specific. I'm a big fan off pop music. And this is where it gets a bit tricky, because there are lot's of different definitions of what pop music actually is.

When I'm referring to pop music, I'm talking generally about music that's not classical or jazz. It might be rock'n'roll or reggae or have a blues or country sort of edge to it. I tend not to put things into categories so much. I usually refer to it all as pop music.

I suppose that like anything, musical appreciation is subjective. Not everybody likes the same sort of things. And I certainly don't like all "pop music". I'm especially not fond of a lot of the production line, machine-like stuff that seems to be all over the radio these days (then again I might just be showing my age).

Pop music isn't clever like classical or jazz. It doesn't have lots of fancy chords or tricky time changes or all those other complicated things that can be picked apart by music scholars. As a form of music, it's pretty dumb. But to me that's part of its appeal. And when it's done well, it has a kind of magic to it that just takes you away into another world completely. Makes you tap your feet and hum away, and leaves you in a good mood for hours. And that's what I mean when I refer to the joyously dumb.

But there are certain musical artists who (to me at least) are able to achieve even more. These are the writers and performers who can marry pop music with great ideas, themes and lyrics. One of my personal favourites is R.E.M. A couple of great Australian (New Zealand?) examples are the wonderful Crowded House and a more recent Melbourne-based band called Augie March. These bands write really intelligent and intriguing lyrics to music that has all the joyous dumbness of the greatest pop music.

So, at last, getting back to the subject of my writing. What I've just described is exactly what I want to achieve as a writer. I don't want to write sophisticated literature that will be picked apart by academics at universities. I want to write stuff that moves people, and takes them away to a joyous place, like the best pop music. But I want to do more than that as well. I want to be just that little bit smart, to leave my readers thinking a bit as well as feeling good.

But I guess that that, just like music, is totally subjective. I'll leave it to my readers to let me know if I've succeeded.