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“This is Pop” Fizzles Out When it Starts to Get Good [review]

It seems I am now incapable of watching anything without reviewing it, as I had no real intention of writing a review of “This is Pop.” I legitimately started watching the new Netflix series out of my sheer love for pop music. Anyone that knows me knows that I have an unwavering and unyielding love for good pop music, a love that I have no problem owning at every chance I get. My workout playlists are comprised of primarily pop hits, I know just about every word to every pop in hit in the last 25 years, and I have no problem turning the volume up as high as it can go in my car while I’m driving with even the most poppiest of pop songs comes on. Needless to say, a series called “This is Pop” almost immediately grabbed my attention, and for a majority of the series, it was tailor made for someone like me. The problem with “This Is Pop” is that it only scratches the surface of pop music, starting strong and ending with little more than a whimper. It is a woefully imbalanced docuseries, one that would have you believe it’s about one thing and then quickly derailing into something else entirely.

This is Pop” begins with Boys II Men, detailing their journey through the height of their success to their downfall into obscurity to the undeniable impact they had on the boy bands that proceeded them. It is a fantastic look at the boy band before boy bands and how 4 guys from Phili changed the music industry indefinitely. It is well shot, well paced and wildly addicting. The first three episodes of “This Is Pop” are like that actually. All of them tell intriguing stories of the impact of pop music on just about every other genre and how Pop exists and impacts our culture throughout the decades. “Auto-Tune” and “Stockholm Syndrome” are probably the best episodes of the entire series, as they provide intriguing insights into artists like T-Pain and how Sweden is the nexus for the majority of the songs you hear on the radio in ALL genres. It is both informative and wonderful, opening up a detailed look behind the music industry curtain. I walked away from “Auto-Tune” with a renewed love for T-Pain. Here is vulnerable, charming, funny and open about the ups and downs of his career, and the docu-series does an excellent job in bringing out the man behind the sound while also giving him the credit he deserves yet continues to get shit on for.

Stockholm Syndrome” delivers a deep dive into the world of production, giving us a detailed look at how Sweden is responsible for just about every single major hit in the last 25 years. That’s not hyperboyle either, I mean literally every single hit song from every major pop artist was produced and written by some guy from Sweden. Don’t believe me? Google Max Martin (who the episode discusses at length) and see that I’m not making it up. It’s actually astounding how a guy you’ve never heard of is responsible for an astronomical amount of hits. It’s wonderfully crafted documentary fit for anyone who is a fan of music in general. “This is Pop” teaches you a lot through the music you love and artists you know, and these episodes make you want to continue the journey into this fascinating world.

Unfortunately, this where “This is Pop” loses its steam. Rather than continuing the trend of looking at pop artists, producers and the overall creation and impact of pop on our culture, the series takes some major detours that aren’t nearly as interesting. Rather an examining things like K-Pop or Pop collaborations or Pop Icons like Michael Jackson or how music videos reinvented pop stars, “This Is Pop” takes a hard left and becomes a docuseries about music related things overall. While the “Hail Brit Pop” is a great episode about the battle of the bands between Oasis and Blur, it doesn’t quite capture the magic the second British Invasion. It comes close, but you can begin to see that the filmmakers are starting to go beyond the scope of pop and get into music as a whole. This would be fine if they hadn’t planted their first foot so firmly in being about pop music in the series to begin with. It rails off even farther with “Festival Rising,” which doesn’t really have anything to do with pop music. It is simply an examination of festivals; their history, creation, and cultural impact.

Again, this would be fine if that’s what this docuseries was suppose to be about. “This is Pop” seems to lose its way rather quickly, deciding to no longer be about its title subject matter and trailing off into a broader commentary about music and the shared experience of listening to it as a whole. Festivals are awesome, but an episode dedicated to their impact in a series that is suppose to be about pop music specifically feels out of place and out of step with the very series it’s a part of. It’s even worse with episodes like “What Can a Song Do?” which examines politics in music. Again, there is nothing wrong with this type of documentary examination. It’s actually really interesting to hear from artists with political and socially charged music and how and why they stand for what in their music, but it doesn’t have anything to do with Pop music which makes it feel disconnected from the episodes before it.

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This is a very strange docuseries to review because “This is Pop” does every episode well even if they don’t feel like they’re all a part of the same series. It gives viewers a ton of interesting information, and for the first 3 episodes, really gives viewers looking learn about pop music a lot to discover. But then with its sudden detour, “This is Pop” becomes less and less interesting not necessarily because it isn’t done well but because it doesn’t stick to the framework it laid out in the first place. The well of pop music is vast and deep, and there are countless avenues that this series could’ve explored. Not only could they have explored more about pop, but they already prove that they can in fact do it well, which in turn leaves a lot to be desired in latter episodes.

All in all, “This is Pop” is an insightful look at music and its global effects throughout the decades. From Boys II Men to Abba, to T-Pain to Ace of Base (who fun fact are the subject of one of my favorite conspiracy theories they’re actually Neo-Nazi’s disguising their racists views through dance club pop hits), to the Swedes behind the music, “This is Pop” has a ton of things to be enjoyed. But it also leaves a lot to desired, departing from its initial concept into a series about something else entirely.

I would recommend skipping around the series to episodes that peak your interest instead of trying to watch the series in order. Each episode in “This is Pop” is independent of the others, so you’re not missing out on anything by skipping around to ones that seem to be a better fit for you and your musical tastes. “This is Pop” is good enough to be enjoyed by anyone who loves music, but it’s just shy of being great for pop lovers.

I would like a pat on the back for not loading this review with pop music puns. Just know I almost did, but I decided to quit playing games with your heart and not be toxic. With no strings attached, I steered clear and didn’t get down on bended knee to ask forgiveness. I’m sure puns was all you ever wanted, all you ever needed, but I’m stronger than low hanging fruit and as a reviewer, I will stay strong and remain larger than life.

It’s Britney, bitch.

This Is Pop” is available to stream on Netflix now.

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