The fifth - I guess you can call it annual by now - Experience Music Project Pop Conference kicks off tomorrow. If you are unfamiliar with it, the goal is, in their own words "to bring academics, writers, artists, fans, and other participants into an all-too-rare common discussion".
Discussion about pop music, that is. I think it's a brilliant idea, and something we'd benefit from having here in Norway as well (though, I guess they've made attempts at a some of the by:Larm-events). But you see, Norwegian music journos don't like to think too seriously about music, let alone pop music. Their idea of a discussion elevates to whether or not Idol is good or bad for pop. And that's about it. (Swedes are a bit better. Note, for example, the superior quality of SVT's Musikbyrån over it's Norwegian version Lydverket).
One of the sub-themes to be discussed at this year's EMP Conference, has to do with the awkward notion of "guilty pleasures", as if such a thing really exists. Christgau puts it well in his introduction:
"It's a pain that the idea of guilty pleasure has entered rock-critical discourse at all, much less taken a prominent role. The concept reeks of the notion that rock-versus-pop is some sort of paradox--the dim-bulbed theory that meaningful longforms with a rhythm section preclude three-minute trifles with a hook, and vice versa. In fact, as all good critics should understand, the satisfactions of these polar caricatures (most beat-based popular music, of course, falls somewhere in between) often bleed into each other, and figuring out how they interact is a continuing challenge."
But their aim is broader than merely discussing "guilty pleasures". One of the more interesting aspects of "liking something you're not "supposed" to" is when you end up enjoying a piece of music despite its politics, i.e. you don't agree with it's politics, as is the case regarding my relationship with Tammy Wynette's "Stand by Your Man" (if you don't understand why, listen to it once more). Looks like the Dean is going to talk about something similar to that.
Drew Daniel's paper, excellently titled "How to Sing Along with "Sweet Home Alabama"", looks like it will tackle the issue of invoked versus taken meaning, which may be especially significant in the case of that Skynyrd classic. Rob Wallace's paper "Angels and Demons at Play: Some Case Studies in Free Jazz and Race" should be very interesting. And the title of Tim Lawrence's alone is intriguing: "Go Bang: Some Queer Songs About Masturbation and Orgasm".
I'm not invited, of course, and wouldn't have been able to go if I was, but Zoilus has promised daily blogging from the conference.