It should have been one of the most embarrassing moments of my entire life.

It should have been one of the most embarrassing moments of my entire life. I was in Blockbuster with my 15-year-old sister when we saw two magazine covers sitting side by side: Christina Aguilera on Rolling Stone and Britney Spears on Teen People (or maybe it was the other way around). My sister suddenly ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ over Christina and I looked at her in disgust. I asked, “You like Christina Aguilera?” I shouldn’t have cared. My sister is almost 10 years younger than me and her music choices are entirely her own. But I couldn’t let it go. I said something not entirely nice about the blond pop tart and before my sister could say anything else, I asserted, “Besides, Britney is so much better.” There it was. Loud enough for the entire Blockbuster to hear. I was a Britney fan. But it gets worse. My sister and I began a full-fledged debate -- dare I say an argument -- about the subject: who had the better voice, who was the better dancer, who was nice, who wasn’t, who was smarter, and -- descending further into the mire in which I was now stuck -- who was prettier and who was a stank ho’. I’m not entirely sure how this happened. I grew up during the reign of NKOTB (that’s New Kids on the Block) and I knew enough, even in eighth grade, not to like them. Their music was pure marketing, a bottled beat and some chiseled cheekbones. Maybe it was the “Oh, baby, baby,” in that slightly synthesized voice that begins “Baby, One More Time.” Or maybe it was the can’t-sit-still-if-you-try dance beat. But I think what really got me was Britney’s jaunty choreography: the wolfish walk and the crisp arm slinging, like she’s dishing something out and maybe, just maybe, you can take it. From there it was only a matter of time, really, before I fell into a pit of pop wonderment. Suddenly 98 Degrees didn’t sound that bad. The Backstreet Boys rocked. And ‘N Sync? Musical geniuses. I know, people will scoff. And I should be at least a teeny bit embarrassed, liking music specifically designed for 12-year-olds. But I’m not. It’s not the only music I listen to. Also, I can’t name the members of the 98 Degrees or any of the boy bands and liking bottled pop shouldn’t be three types of shameful. Listening to pop is easy. There’s not an emotional divide to cross wondering about the lyrics. The rhythm and harmony don’t take a master’s degree in musicianship to appreciate. And I think it can be almost as satisfying as your run-of-the-mill criticsâ darling. While Sleater-Kinney or Radiohead communicate feelings, ideas, and emotions, there are times when I don’t want to hear or feel or think anymore. I just want to be. And when that time comes, there’s something to be said for the plain old panacea of ‘N Sync. Pop is the dessert of music, the chocolate ice-cream after a nourishing meal of rock or jazz. We know it’s not chock full of nutrition, but it sure tastes good. And while no one wants a diet that consists purely of empty calories (you’d make yourself sick), a diet without the occasional confection doesn’t sound that appealing, either. I would explain it more, but I don’t have time. I have to go practice my dance moves.


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