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Pop Goes Pitchfork?

Posted: 22/11/11 00:00

Has Simon Cowell set his homepage to Pitchfork or something? In recent weeks, pop music has gone noticeably hipster, tapping up the indie world for inspiration. From the XX samples on the new Rihanna album to the X Factor acts covering the likes of Bon Iver and Bjork, there's something going on. Has indie slipped through to the mainstream or is something more sinister afoot?

The artists enlisted to rework Lady Gaga songs on the forthcoming Born This Way remix album is basically a who's who of hipster chic. The Horrors, Two Door Cinema Club and fellow cult concerns Twin Shadow have all contributed to the album. Even perennially cool next-big-thing The Weeknd has lent his talents. Furthermore, if you've tuned into the radio in recent weeks you're bound to have heard 15-year-old pop songstress Birdy covering - or mutilating, depending on who you ask - any one of the 10 Pitchfork-friendly bands whose songs feature on her debut album.

Faster than you can say, "JLS in boat shoes and thrift store plaid shirts", the pop world has become obsessed with indie. If you're both an Animal Collective enthusiast and shameless pop fanatic like me, you'll notice it feels a bit weird. Like watching your best friend get off with a work colleague at your own birthday party.

It's pretty tempting to be cynical about all this. It really isn't too hard to hard imagine some suited Patrick Bateman-esque character in the boardroom at a major label HQ, frothing at the mouth at the commercial potential of tapping into the indie market, is it? But all this should be reason to celebrate for music fans. The Birdy album might be the musical equivalent of a tepid bath but this new Rihanna song, Drunk On Love, is a revelation, the gloomy atmospherics of the XX providing a refreshingly different backdrop for the singers impassioned wails. It's every bit as intoxicating as the title suggests, basically - I feel tipsy just writing about it.

Perhaps most importantly, there's the warm feeling that a Lady Gaga remix album might just be the "gateway drug" needed to get more people hooked on the likes of Metronomy and the criminally underrated Wild Beasts. Watching an X Factor contestant melodramatically emote their way through a rendition of one of your favourite songs can be a gruelling experience, especially if the song is Skinny Love and especially if it's being performed by a cutesy young thing so twee she makes Laura Marling look like Norwegian goth troll Mortiis (seriously, Google him). But if more people discover and invest in these bands as a result - in an age when it's becoming increasingly hard for bands like Wild Beasts to generate revenue - that can only be a good thing, right?

Where will this burgeoning trend take us next? A One Direction tribute to Shellac? Perhaps Steve Albini will be roped into helming production duties on Justin Bieber's next album. Maybe in turn indie acts will take a leaf out of pop's book and Deerhunter will introduce choreographed dance moves and uniformed trendy outfits into their live performances. Or perhaps it'll all blow over before we know it. Either way, it's something we should all embrace.

 

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