Middle of the Road


Fun fact: Middle of the Road was an early 70’s pop group whose biggest hit was called Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep. It was, as you might imagine, terrible. This post is not about them, but it is one of those random things the dedicated researcher stumbles upon from time to time, much to their own regret. With that as an aside, we’re here to talk about the middle of the road as a conception of popular music and the subjectivity of perceived musical quality dependent upon contextual understanding. Or, in layman’s English, the phenomenon of not appreciating how good something is based on how much we’ve been exposed to it. In this case, The Pretenders have an awful lot of hit songs on the oldies radio circuit, songs you hear in grocery stores, songs that have become part of our collective aural wallpaper. That kind of ubiquity is the highest form of success, at least in terms of the artist getting a steady paycheck for the rest of all eternity. But I don’t think Chrissie Hynde set out to compose ambient music when she first picked up a guitar, and I think maybe she resents hearing herself in elevators. It makes people forget just how bona fide Hynde’s punk rock credentials are. There’s nothing more punk than marrying Sid Vicious for immigration purposes (she didn’t actually do that, but she tried.) Point is, The Pretenders were a badass rock band, and their having ended up on MOR radio is an unhappy irony. Of course, it’s a different time now, and the concept of certain music being MOR or ‘Adult Contemporary’ or otherwise somehow lacking credibility held a lot more water in the 80’s, before ‘credibility’ itself ceased to exist and irony became its own reward. So, like, idk, whatevs…

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