Thursday, August 23, 2012

Spurgeon’s General Warning: Positivity Pop

Posted By on Thu, Aug 23, 2012 at 10:51 AM

Last week, I coined (sure, why not) the phrase “Positivity Pop” to describe Natasha Bedingfield’s “Unwritten.” The way I see it, those kinds of songs exist for one reason: to fill the vague, questionably existent emptiness of a hypothetical female listener. Are you scared of going to college? Is junior high miserable? Is there a tiff amongst your book club members? Are you homeless because you ran away from your abusive father? Weirdly enough, Positivity Pop has a song for all of these wildly divergent occasions. Falling under the larger umbrella of MOR adult contemporary, Positivity Pop can still be broken down further into three main categories: B Strong! B Urself! B Happy! Examples? Below!


Natasha Bedingfield, “Unwritten”

Probably the only song me, your mom and the aging secretary your dad no longer wants to sleep with have in common. I listen to it while putting on makeup, your mom listens to it while she contemplates divorce, and your dad’s secretary listens to it as she cries her way home from work.

Des’ree, “You Gotta Be”

The ur-Positivity Pop single, the template from which all platitudes are born. It doesn’t matter that it wasn’t the first; it was the best, and single-handedly kept VH1 afloat during that awkward mid-'90s period before they figured out “Pop-Up Video.”


Christina Aguilera, “Beautiful”

According to this video, being gay is basically the same thing as having an eating disorder (anorexia nervosa, look it up in thinspo blogs and the DSM-IV!).

TLC, “Unpretty”

Let me put you into the mind of a girl with low self-esteem: “Why are the attractive women of TLC specifying MAC cosmetics? Is my drugstore Cover Girl not good enough? Great, now all the time I spend on covering up acne scars is doubly worthless, because I’m poor.”


Bobby McFerrin, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”

Though I’m pretty sure this song is about ignoring the fact that you’re homeless, it doesn’t really matter, because people use it over iVideo montages of Orlando vacation photos. People also still dance to “Every Breath You Take” at weddings, but that’s neither here nor there.

Vitamin C, “Smile”

Actually, both of these “B Happy!” songs are mostly about deep, pathological denial. I guess it’s fair enough to send a message to preteens that not every slight is the end of the world, but some of those preteens come from abusive homes, you know? (Now who’s smiling?)


Coolio, “Gangster’s Paradise”

Gangbanging doesn’t hurt anyone but urself and ur family :(

Also those people you may have murdered.

“What Would You Do?” City High

So! Here’s a pop song that reached the Top 10 with the line “Me and my sister ran away so my daddy couldn’t rape us.” (Running away was Plan B, listening to Vitamin C was plan A.) The fun thing about this song is that the message of “hookers are people, too” essentially segues into “those hookers aren’t trying hard enough to be good people.”

What songs get you through the tough times? Did you cry at your high school graduation? How many problems has Michelle Pfeiffer seen you through?

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