Reflection Section: This Is Pop – Episodes 7 and 8

by Jordan Mark

The final round of episodes is underway on Reflection Section! It’s time to discuss the final two episodes of This is Pop: “What Can a Song Do?” and “The Brill Building in 4 Songs.”

“What Can a Song Do?” details how a song can connect people together. The episode is broken down into several sections, each explaining a way music resonates, highlighting a song in the process. Between each section, an interlude of Hozier summarizing the reason is shown. Hozier’s narrations ultimately lead to him explaining his own experience of feeling the power in music with his song “Take Me to Church,” a song that describes love through religious analogies.

I think an important thing to takeaway is recognizing that the question asked is “What Can a Song Do?” rather than “What Will a Song Do?” The episode acknowledged that songs can’t solve problems, but it does recognize that songs can spark change. Woody Guthrie’s son Arlo echoed his father’s words in saying that a folk singer’s job is to disturb the comfort and comfort the disturbed, and that rings true to music in general.

Apart from the commanding remarks, it was a sightseeing adventure looking at different crowds appreciating songs that clicked with them. The people in Ghana singing MILCK’s “Quiet,” a song that was formed for personal healing over sexual assault that ended up resonating with other people’s experience with sexual assault, was joyous to watch. I found it joyous because it was sung with an uplifting tone, much like how others sung it, but the admiration just felt different when the Ghanaian people sang it. It was as if they were singing it just for the fun of it, despite the powerful message that struck a chord in them in liking it in the first place. Heavy subjects don’t always need heavy arrangement to pierce through people. A simplistic approach can attract, and potentially exceed, engagement levels beyond any expectations. For songs that become anthems, it’s riveting to see how much one thing can do. It may not do everything, but it can do a lot, and that’s better than nothing.

“The Brill Building in 4 Songs” is a tale about a time in music making. The Brill Building, and its surrounding area, was an epicenter of brilliance for songwriting. Curating content with careful consideration, the Brill Building produced timeless tunes that resonated with young people. Among the many songs made, the episode focuses on four that were spawned during the Brill Building’s lifetime. I included a fifth song on the chart (“Remember (Walking in the Sand)” by The Shangri-Las) since I felt it was highlighted in the episode as well despite not being one of the featured four.

The episode includes stories told about the music industry: inspiration from love, deception from the business, and admiration from the listeners. Nothing really new that’s not said in any other documentary, but it’s still nice to hear it from an older perspective (yet a bit sad at the same time, knowing that the business still runs with pockets of deceit flowing through). Seeing as how there were interludes of Andy Kim at the location talking about the building’s life in the past, the episode seemed to be made as the building was being renovated. Even though the building’s not a place for music anymore, the music itself lives on. Yet another thing that’s already commonly known, but at least it’s a pleasing thing to know.

That wraps up the series, and Reflection Section as a whole, for now. It was fun hearing about different transits of the music world across many generations. Despite it being called “This is Pop,” it touched on a lot of genres. Given that the pop part in “pop music” really means popular, it’s cool knowing that many types of music can rivet the world. I hope you have been enjoying these posts, and until next time, keep on grooving!