The Emergence of Bedroom Pop
Don’t be afraid to show your stripes because the mannequins is always right…”
Words of wisdom penned by legendary rock impresario Kim Fowley and sung by DIY pop genius Ariel Pink on the opening cut from his 2014 masterwork pom pom. I often refer to Ariel Pink as my favorite artist in the landscape of modern music. He’s a genius in his ability to synthesize influences from an encyclopedic knowledge of pop music and create something that’s both right-at-home in a past realm and aesthetically/socially vital in the now. He playfully mashes together colors and ideas from all shades of the pop world in ways that are at once jarring, irresistible, and satirically potent.
Perhaps most of all, I love Ariel Pink because he’s hands-on. He grew up adoring 80s radio so much that it became a ghost that he attempts to exorcise with his own self-taught songwriting sensibilities. Although he never learned to play any one instrument by the book, the obsessive pop historian in him fed an innate penchant for melody, and he made it all work nonetheless. Channeled through a prolific tape-recorded output, Ariel’s early music seemed remarkably akin to lost chart-topping earworms from 30+ years ago whilst sporting a dreamy surreal factor that was undeniably original. Ariel’s sound bred a cult that has since launched him into the divisive pop stratosphere he inhabits today.
Ariel drew from past do-it-yourselfers, perhaps most directly from Nashville-born R. Stevie Moore who is considered by many to be the leading seminal figure in homespun pop music. Moore has been building an empire of encyclopedic songwriting that’s as influential as it is obscure. Getting his start as a session musician, Moore became enamored with psychedelia and began taking up reel-to-reel recording with rabid glee, providing all of the instrumentation for his own Beatles/Beach Boys-inspired anthems.
While DIY pop seemed to escalate in the early 1970s (Stevie Wonder and Todd Rundgren spring to mind), it was R. Stevie Moore and by extension Ariel Pink who really seemed to make it into an art form. These are artists who studied classic pop records with life-affirming adoration and used what they learned to express their eccentric worldview. This is what inspires me the most as a songwriter: using the beauty and universal allure of pop melody to express the inherent absurdity of the human element.
Here’s the funny thing: it seems to be catching on! While Ariel Pink continues to become a well-recognized name in indie music (with recent features on The Eric Andre Show and Miley Cyrus’ latest album...!!) we have self-taught pop students like Mac DeMarco and young Long Island brothers The Lemon Twigs drawing from sophisticated soft/art rock records to create music that has recently passed through the mainstream lenses of Rolling Stone and Jimmy Fallon. As the lines between “mainstream”, “indie”, and “outsider” continue to blur into oblivion as a result of the current social media climate, I remain hopeful that these oddball artists will not only represent a potent force in the narrative of pop music, but also one of widespread appeal.
Jack Simons was raised in his family’s recording studio in western Massachusetts. He studied Audio Production at Ithaca College before joining the staff at Storefront Music. Outside of commercial music production, Jack performs solo and with a handful of other ensembles in the greater NYC area. Check out his latest album at: JackSimons.Bandcamp.com