Reflection Section: This is Pop – Episodes 5 and 6

by Jordan Mark

Welcome back to Reflection Section! We’re onto the next two episodes in the eight-part Netflix series, This is Pop, “Hail Britpop!” and “Festival Rising.”

“Hail Britpop!” explores the local 90s trend of British pride heavily fueled by Blur and their competitor Oasis. After a trip to America, Blur’s desire for upholding British pride got the press to notice, storming a flood of bands to be entangled as Britpop bands. On the other hand, Oasis was rising with their grimier content, and their popularity had both lumped them into the Britpop label and caused friction between them and Blur. A tide between the two became prominent among the United Kingdom, so much so that preference between the two bands was considered big news and Tony Blair was incorporating the hype in his politics. All that attention would soon end when maintaining the label would barricade Britpop from existing further, and the once-important trend sailed away as fast as it sailed in.

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The biggest thing I saw regarding Britpop was the perception of British pride. Blur, living in a wealthier area, had figured British pride was associated with being posh and prim. Oasis, living in a poorer area, was more content with exemplifying the brash image as being authentic Britain, almost as if it was a battle of a conventional and unconventional viewpoint of the United Kingdom. Regardless, both sides had followings, with Oasis giving lads motivation to embrace themselves as loud, abrasive, wild people, while others got muddled into conforming for the lifestyle. As Miki Berenyi of Lush mentioned, “It was a wet dream for blokes.”

Much like the Orville Peck-narrated episode “When Country Goes Pop” (whom I have since realized is a real artist and not a character they made for the program), marketing played a role in Britpop, especially in the perceived battle with Blur and Oasis. Though a simple move, by releasing an extra format, Blur took the victory when their fourth album entered around the same time Oasis’s second album was released. Despite it being legitimized as a pinnacle in British society, both Oasis and Blur would have bigger victories later. Oasis’s “Wonderwall” would manage to resonate with the lads and the lad-nots. Blur’s “Song 2” would resonate similarly. The songs are polar opposites of one another, and yet they could co-exist at the same time. In the context of Britpop’s effect on music, being British may earn popularity, but being yourself earns respect. (Granted, Oasis may never see “Wonderwall” as their record ever again, if they even saw it as that in the first place. You would expect nothing less of a response from them though, so it is what it is.)

“Festival Rising” is a synopsis of the large music festival scene. With rising counterculture making itself known in the world, it expressed a feeling that, when mixed with music and fresh air, created a gnarly synergy. The template for the music festival arose, and so did it a bunch of attempts to create that synergy again, some being successful while others being failures.

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As the series itself was made pre-pandemic, it made the people’s ideas and thoughts in this episode sound more valid. I was a little confused on the ideas at first, given that concerts provide a similar feeling, but I guess the fresh air really does make an impact. Given the association with counterculture and drugs, its origins might be part of that magic that even standard outdoor concerts can’t exactly mimic. That, or the idea that festivals last forever and a day compared to concerts. Regardless, the idea of letting inhibition out and enjoying the moment is critical to society as much as it sounds comical to imagine.

That being said, the type of music and the changes in society do play a part in how a music festival runs. Woodstock, for instance, was fueled by culture with peaceful intentions and laid-back music. Woodstock ‘99, on the other hand, was fueled with a free spirit different from its counterparts, with a lot more guts to approach things furiously. A harder sound was part of the cream of the crop in music, and the differences between Woodstock and its ‘99 edition are night and day.

As festivals have managed to exist as an entity for decades, the yearning for that sensation remains. It doesn’t excuse people to pose a rambunctiously disgusting behavior that stimulates violence, but it does excuse people to be less calculated. Colin Hay of Men at Work equated festivals to being things that, when done right, can make people recognize who they really are. Hopefully, festivals don’t make some people realize how much they hate music, but to each their own. For those that do find joy in festivals, it’s something that, much like life in general, can’t be taken for granted. As seen with the return of Coachella this year, festivals are well…festive. No point in being a Debbie Downer in something that requires joy to function. Simply put, festivals are a place to have fun.

That’s all for this post. Tune in for the next post where I wrap up This is Pop with its final two episodes.