Case Study #1
With the essay, On Popular Music, Theodore Adorno theorized that the average American was simply a mindless machine, programed with the popular music they found comfort in. Furthermore, Adorno speculated that all popular music was nothing but the same song with minor changes. This repetition puts people at ease and allows the songs themselves to have a degree of control over the listener. The control is then perfected through a number of effects including glamour, baby talk, rhythm, and the most important plugging. The idea of controlling music can be seen in the popular song Sleepyhead, by Passion Pit.
Sleepyhead, while never quiet making it to the Billboard top 100 still reached major mainstream success, making it a pop song by Adorno’s standards. The song was released in 2008 and peaked at 105 on the pop charts but the electric tune was “plugged” in commercials internationally. The song was used to advertise the Palm Pixi cellphone and later a videogame, Little Big Planet. The song was then featured on a popular television series Skins. The song continues to be used and remixed today, and is a constant in stores and on indie radio stations.
The song’s title, Sleepyhead, ultizes childish language. The use of the phrase is both visually appealing and pleasing to the ear, it acts to instantly calm the listener by giving off a friendly very non-combative feeling. This is because the phrase in itself sounds like something a child would say because it is something a child woud say. The song then begins with an over synthesized high-pitched voice that acts to further relax the listener. The voice has been so distorted that the words cannot fully be understood; yet the singing is oddly soothing. It acts as the stimulatory effect Adorno discussed. The high-pitched voice while gentle is paired with a melody that is constantly changing, almost challenging the listener to keep up. The music acts to stimulate while the “lyrics” begin to calm. This...
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