A is for “Accessible”

Accessible: Adj. — easily understood

This is a term I’m always amused to see in a music review. It’s either a praise point or a snarky commentary, depending on the reviewer’s degree of elitism. Since my quick essay on this term shows up in a blog titled “Hopelessly Pop,” you can guess where I come down on this issue. Music is about an artist or performer communicating a viewpoint or idea to a multitude of ears out there. Getting more ears to tune in long enough to absorb the idea or viewpoint is usually a good thing.

A song or performance being labeled “accessible” is generally positive as long as the viewpoint or idea isn’t overly diluted to fit the medium or production format. I know it can be a fine line. “Accessible” can pretty quickly slip into the territory of “sell out” or “pandering.” My threshold is pretty forgiving, I’ll admit. Here are a couple of comparisons that may help delineate my sense of “accessible” vs. “pandering.”

  • “Sugar, Sugar” by the Archies — accessible
  • “Shake Your Booty” by KC and the Sunshine Band — pandering

Interesting that the former is a total studio fabrication and the latter is an actual “band.” And did I ever take a lot of abuse for liking “Sugar” when everyone else was into Neil Young! Lucky me — I loved it all.

OK, here’s another delineation:

  • “Tutti Frutti” by Little Richard — accessible
  • “Tutti Frutti” by Pat Boone — pandering, at best

Add to this the fact that the song was, in part, Little Richard’s attempt to deal with his homosexual feelings in a pop format and the two versions, side by side, get even more interesting.

Let me hear from you. Where do you draw the line between “accessible” and “pandering”?

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