I'm a little late on this, but the above is DJ Earworm's United States of Pop 2008, a fascinating and beautiful mashup of Billboard's Top 25 songs from last year. It sparked off an equally fascinating Coilhouse discussion about the "legofication of pop music."
Not all cultural breakdown is bad. There is a growing mixing and matching with music that manages to take the slick but meager offerings of pop music and spin gold out of shit. Hell, sometimes this results in interesting hybrids out of songs that were already really good. Well, there's no Leonard Cohen/Pixies /Clash mashups yet, but a man can dream.
This is one area where a more globalized (but rapidly fracturing) world offers some unparalleled opportunities. An enterprising artist, writer, musician, thinker no longer has just a limited canon or a few schools of thought to choose between. There are now countless influences available and many, many more cultures open to draw strength from. The resulting hybrids (pure things are weak) can grow surprisingly quickly.
This is a good thing. Why then, do we have such block-like music?
To some degree that's a beast for another day. Because, like most things worth talking about, there isn't one single cause.
Keep in mind "pop" means popular and, as social animals, people get swept up very, very easily in prevailing trends. This is often deplored, but a better approach is to understand and find ways to use it. This is something would-be futurists, being from an intellectual background, usually ignore. That doesn't just apply to music.
In music, however, I'd wager that if you went back to 1998, or 1988 or (heaven forfend) 1978 and got an innovative artist to mash up the top 25 you'd get a similar transcendently terrifying mass-marketed "Om." I'd also bet that most of those songs are now nigh-forgotten.
In fact, no need to wager. Look at it: how many of those tunes are remembered today? Okay, one of them will not die. Ever. But most of the rest are forgotten. The memorable music from 1988 was down the charts or not there at all.
This distilled mirror of a year in pop-mind also shows us something fascinating. Perhaps it's simply staring and listening a little too long, but one doesn't have to know a thing about the events of 2008 to hear the plaintive, shivering yearning for an easier time that runs through the Year in Pop.
So let's not weep and gnash too much, hm? Because that song is old as time. Be glad that audionauts like DJ Earworm are making something good out of the inevitable, forgettable dreck of our era.