Eric Weisbard
he Pop Conference at Experience Music Project,
the source of this collection (the third book to date,
with This Is Pop and Listen Again1), took place
in April 2002, much more the spirit of American Idol
(then in its first season) than the aftershocks of the pre-
vious September 11. The Pop Conference quickly found
its voice as an expression of what Kevin Dettmar has
called “pop- positive criticism” (a play on “sex- positive
feminism”). All sorts of writers gather each year to bring
their passion, erudition, and laughter to bear on subjects
that others ignore or castigate. Elsewhere, the topics on
the agenda might be essentials: best- of lists and other
canons. At EmP, the focus is the opposite. One never
knows what will find its way onto the program: a Top 40
star reclaimed, a song’s lineage traced through radically
different incarnations, a seemingly random occurrence
treated as central rather than deviant. We have fun each
spring and go home rejuvenated.
Over the years, what started as a banquet has come to
feel more like an oasis. When we reconvened in 2003,
military operations in the Iraq War were under way. In
2006, Hurricane Katrina was on our minds, and the de-
struction of New Orleans, America’s musical cradle. The
recording industry steadily withered through the 2000s,
paralleled by the loss of jobs in music journalism. Then
the rest of the economy collapsed as well. As moods
darkened, so did our conference themes. In 2006, the
topic was, essentially, guilty pleasures, except that Drew
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