The thing that bothers me most about modern pop music is it's hyper-sexualized image. Now, I like sex as much as the next person (in fact I'm in the middle of an orgy right now, but it's kind of difficult to write with someone's elbow continually hitting my keyboard, so I'll keep this short). For me pop music is meant to be catchy and light-hearted or else solemn and emotionally captivating, even at the most shallow level. So you can see where the problem lies: I don't find music beds and pop-style chord progression arousing. I find rock music, rockabilly, gritty garage, and certain old R&B sexy. That's where the chaos lies. The sexy, sexy chaos. Hell, if I were a club person, I'd add house and techno to the list. But pop music in its classical sense is too innocent sounding to be sexy. It's like getting hit-on by a nine year old. Ick.
Wanting a return to that sexual naivety, I recently rediscovered a style of music called Ye-Ye (aka Yeah-Yeah) which rocketed to popularity in France, Spain, and Quebec in the early 60s. This style of music is notable for its catchy melodies, lightheartedness, and most importantly its aggressively cute European singers. It can be likened to Go-Go style popular in America, but whereas that attempted to be erotic, the Ye-Ye crowd preferred to be naive about it. Yes, the girls were sexy, but they presented themselves as though they weren't. And really, the overall themes seemed to shun such topics anyways. Francoise Hardy (pictured above) sang about being lonely and wanting to experience romance like all her friends do.
There is something refreshing about finding music like this. It's simple and fun, the kind of sugar that puts a smile on your face. And it's campy as hell. Susan Sontag even mentions Ye-Ye in her essay "Notes on Camp" as a style of music completely composed of aesthetic exaggeration and a departure from seriousness. As she says "the whole point of camp is to dethrone the serious. Camp is playful. Anti-serious." I honestly think Rebecca Black's music would fall into the realm of Ye-Ye style campy playfulness... if it were likably awful rather than intolerably awful.
And now some selections. Links will remain as long as the clips stay on Youtube.