dispatches from the pop scene...minus the corn syrup.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Chart Rigger's 10-Year Anniversary Round Table: 15 Writers On How Blogging Changed Music Consumption & Created A Community (+ What The Hell Ever Happened To Pop Poster Girl?)

Ten years. How do you sum that up, and do so eloquently? Well, eleganza has never been my forte.

This space on the Internet sparked into being a decade ago (on January 22, 2005) in Los Angeles, after I was driving home in the evening from my job at Instinct Magazine and had the notion to create a forum to talk about pop music in everyday, Average Joe speak — none of this referring to my singular self as "we," calling my fucking couch "Chart Rigger HQ" or acting like a pompous know-it-all. Reading sites that employed that type of lingo always made me want to power-drill my dick to a tree.

I stopped at a Ralph's grocery store on the way home that evening, and, by the time I hit the parking lot to leave, decided that I'd head straigiht back to my apartment and create a blog. The name "Chart Rigger" just popped into my head as I climbed into my car.

One thing I remember clearly from very early on, once I had a fair amount of posts up here, is e-mailing a nice British girl named Jessica and asking her to pretty-please include Chart Rigger in the list of "ace pop blogs" on her own site, Dirrrty Pop. She did so, and I have never forgotten it. The second week of January 2006, local L.A. publication Frontiers included Chart Rigger in its list of "11 Essential Gay Blogs" (thanks, Alex!). Sometime also in early 2006, another blogger out of the UK named Paul Reynolds (then doing The Zapping) and a guy out of Washington D.C. named Stephen Sears (The Middle Eight) began commenting here regularly.

Through Paul and Stephen's own sites, I began to interact with an array of commentators possessing the same nerdy passion for pop. Music was all of our common ground in those days before Twitter, Facebook an Instagram. As the years have rolled by, I've even met several of these once-faceless online entities in person here and there, in cities far and wide. Hell, I work side-by-side with two of them today at Idolator, while a few others are in my pool of freelancers.

And then there's one of my very best friends for the past 20 years, John Hamilton (you know him as Moogaboo) — I've dragged the poor guy over to Chart Rigger to take part in countless gems such as Madonna: Banterview With The Vampyre, best lists, worst lists and even our infamous Hillary Clinton Mixtape. For that he deserves to be sainted.

So this brings us back to the original question: How exactly do you sum up ten years? In this case, I'm doing so with a little help from my friends.

To commemorate this classy milestone, I asked the below online personalities, all of whom I first connected with a decade or nearly a decade ago (save for John...see above), to give their unfiltered answers to a short set of specific questions. Some of them have gone on to actually work in the music business since the previous decade, or pursue writing professionally, or seek out an entirely different path altogether. But they are people I myself, and maybe you, remember as the champions of good pop in a thing that, not so long ago, was called the "blogosphere."

In alphabetical order:

Adem Ali (Audio Out, @AdemWithAnE)
Bobby Pop (Don't Stop The Pop, @Bobbypop)
Bradley Stern (MuuMuse / Idolator, @MuuMuse)
Dan Cullinan (This Man's World, @dancpharmd)
Jason Brady (Olga Loves Yuri, @olgalovesyuri)
Jessica Poptastic (This Must Be Pop, @Poptastic
John Hamilton (Chart Rigger, @foreverhamilton)
John Hill (Pop Music Notes, @ConstantLearnin)
Mike Sturm (Mobius News Blog, @SAWPWL
Mike Wass (Pop Trash Addicts / Idolator, @mikewassmusic)
Paul Reynolds (My Fizzy Pop, @myfizzypop)
Phil Robinson (Worrapolava, @phileastend)
Richard Chapman (RichardPchapman.com, @richardpchapman)
Stephen Sears (The Middle Eight, @xolondon) 

...and, of course, yours truly: Robbie Daw (Chart Rigger / Idolator, @chartrigger)

So pull up a chair, pour a glass (or, if you're like me on any given night, the entire bottle) and settle in for  Chart Rigger's 10-Year Anniversary Round Table!

 With John Hamilton (My parents' house — Butler, Pennsylvania, 2006)

Robbie: I'll get the ball rolling by asking if each of you recall how we first started interacting?

Bobby: "Yes. It was quite vivid. As in Chi Chi La Rue-porn vivid. As if it was yesterday. It was about Take That and whether they 'enjoyed themselves' after the concerts were over. And you know what, the man-band actually eventually went on record to confirm our suspicions. Which is another reason why I remember it. Chart Rigger was important to me because I had my eyes on whatever was happening in the Swedish, Spanish, Dutch and Danish charts. I often lost track what was climbing the greasy sparkly charts in the UK and USA. Robbie kept me grounded. Reminded me what songs were doing well in my backyard. I never knew what was going on in my backyard."

Paul: "I think we first interacted when I started reading your blog. I honestly can't remember what drew me there in the first place — it was most likely, of course, your amazing and witty writing style plus the fact that you were excited about the Take That reunion. In all honesty though, as I've always been shallow when it comes to blogs and pop folk, I probably thought you were a tall drink of water."  

Mike Wass: "I think I stumbled across Chart Rigger via Don't Stop The Pop. That was the first blog I followed religiously and found a ton of others through Bobby's blogroll and comments section. I remember reading a cunty post about JoJo or some other lofty icon on Chart Rigger and knew that I would keep coming back. Ten years have passed and I'm still a regular."

Jessica: "I remember Chart Rigger as one of the small group of blogs which were specialising in pop in the early days of blogging. At the time it was easy to have a comprehensive list of pop blogs on your blogroll, and it was always nice to have a new pop blog to keep up with. Even the word 'blogroll' seems amusingly outdated now!"

Robbie: "Jessica is being kind and leaving out the part where I e-mailed her around February of 2005, asking her to add me to her blogroll...which she did. By the way, I discovered B-Boys International's Melodifestivalen entry "One Step Closer" on Jessica's then-blog Dirrrty Pop that same week, and I still love and feel energized by that song!"

Stephen: "Robbie likes to portray me as elderly, but here is the truth: As a tiny child on vacation in San Juan, my minder took me to visit the set of the Pet Shop Boys' 'Domino Dancing' video. It was there that I first saw Robbie portraying one of the two homoerotic Puerto Rican teens chasing after some chica. After a later stint as a busboy at JLo's esteemed LA eatery Madre, he started blogging under the absurd pseudonym of J'ason D'luv. That's when I encountered him online. After many sparring sessions on Twitter, I finally deigned to meet Robbie in New York last summer. We were supposed to go rowing in Central Park (surprisingly vanilla), but he got me drunk on multiple Aperol spritzers before we left his apartment. I would have drowned in that lake, so we just trolled our way through the park, talking loudly about highly inappropriate things, and had tea at Bergdorf's.  There we flirted with a smashed, but excitable Donatella Versace lookalike. Best day ever, really."

Robbie: "Scandalously, a bulk of this is actually true."

Richard: "I checked back and the first email I exchanged with Robbie was in 2007. I’d been in touch with Steve for a while and pretty soon we roped in Mr Chart Rigger. I’d definitely been reading the blog for a while and couldn’t get over how offensive one person could actually be — and on this basis realised that we had to be friends. So, in the way of the Internet, sometimes it makes the world very small, and pretty soon I was emailing with Steve and Robbie regularly, usually about artists we loved who had let us down in some way — morally, artistically or surgically. Thrillingly, Robbie is even more spiteful offline than he is on the blog."

Bradley: "I don't remember the first exact interaction, but I know we first started talking in the (very shady) comment sections on Chart Rigger and Xolondon (and probably forums too?) back when I had only just begun my own site. I want to say we first started actually talking around 2010, and I believe it was about the Pet Shop Boys (!), and you sent me a bunch of Cicero (!!!) jams. Love it."

Robbie: "I won't embarrass Brad too much here, but I'll just say he got in touch with me when he was 18 and just starting out as a writer in 2007, and I've been a fan ever since."

With Bradley Stern (Little Boots concert — Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 2013)

Mike Sturm: "I think we met through a Yahoo group that was all about pop music, especially about SAW/PWL, Almighty, Metro, among other stuff. I had a small website about SAW back then and I think our common interest in PWL and the likes got us in contact. You were working for Instinct mag and were so nice and sent me a few copies of your SAW article."

Robbie: "We did meet on an online group — it was Lee Woods' PopDance forum on MSN, which I spun Chart Rigger off of and lured some of you over from!"

Adem: "Oh god, Doll, I find it hard enough remembering what happened a year ago these days, but I do remember falling in love with Chart Rigger the minute that I got there. You are bloody funny, very clever and have one of the most admirable passions for '90s dance music. And seeing as I firmly believe that was the greatest decade dance music was the champion of, I'm sure there was a Real McCoy reference that got me there."

Robbie: "I recall it exactly: I had been reading Adem's blog, Adem With An E, for awhile, and I finally hit him up on e-mail when his dog, Scully, died. I'm a pet owner myself, and I sympathized. Ironically, given his dog's name, I was in the middle of re-watching all nine seasons of The X-Files on DVD...it was 2007."

Dan: "I imagine it probably had something to do with Paul or Steve, who were two of the first pop music bloggers I met back in 2006.  The more I think about it, I'm pretty sure it was Paul. I tried in vain to find the post in which he linked to my blog and gave it a whopping 71 hits that day. That was an all time record for me at the time and probably still is. But I'll always remember the time we met in real life — on the Santa Monica pier when I was on vacation with my family in 2009, and then two years later when I drove all the way to Dallas to see Kylie's Aphrodite tour. The lengths we go to for the divas."

Phil: "It was about eight years ago: a time when the Spice Girls still sang on actual CDs in actual record shops, MySpace was the thing and Mika was the 'next big thing'. Robbie, as J'ason D'Luv, used to comment on the UK top 20 every week and that's how I found his blog. I liked the cut of his jib. He's a dirdy birdy and doesn't hold back in the put-downs but what he loves he loves passionately. And in a sea of bland music blogs, at the time, which regurgitated each other, Chart Rigger stood out as something with a personality. I think a shared passion for the Pet Shop Boys probably started the love-in."

Jason: "I remember first interacting with you on Steve’s blog. Xolondon’s comments section was quite the place to stan and deliver back then. You were such a smart-ass! But your musical tastes and observations were dead on. I knew that we had to be friends at that point. That led me to your blog and then to getting to know you from there. I read each post and all the comments too. My daily staple of pop and attitude. Good times!"

John Hill: "I found the blog via Google, and got sucked into the comments section. There were a few blogs I followed at the time, but Chart Rigger somehow became the crème de la crème."

John Hamilton: "We met over the phone! I told you I liked your mix tapes and you begged me to tape you some Kylie. Wow, 20 years later — not much has changed!"

 Robbie & Stephen Sears (West Village, New York City, 2014)

Robbie: What do you think about when you look back on those early days of blogging about pop music?

Jessica: "It was a very different time! Only real music enthusiasts were blogging in those days, which meant we could talk about obscure artists and know we wouldn't be alienating readers — which was great. The small number of pop bloggers meant everyone knew each other. so it felt like a proper community. It's been nice to see many of the bloggers of that era go on to do cool jobs in music or the media."

Bradley: "Oy! Maybe I'm wearing rose colored glasses like Kelly Rowland, but I seem to remember comment sections filled with paragraphs of counterpoints and thoughtful analysis from pop nerds as on the PopJustice forums, as opposed to the trash comments we get these days by trolls and stans. ("MILEY SUX!!") Plenty of shade, too, but funny, nuanced shade! I also remember the MILLIONS of MP3 music blogs, which existed solely for the purpose of hosting illegal download links. Now, there's just Tumblr for that. I also definitely recall a sense more of a community — we all knew of each other vaguely, and I could at the very least tell you what their music taste is like!  — than today, which has basically just become a reductive competition for Buzzfeed-like sensational headlines and clickbait. It was also definitely more uncharted territory at the time. And one of the best parts about getting into blogs early was reading about music from overseas and far-off places that you weren't getting from Top 40 US radio. Viva la Lisa Scott-Lee!"

Paul: "It felt like much more of a community back then. You, along with a few others, were really supportive of my blog when I started it in 2006. We all seemed to comment on each other's posts, send each other emails, share tips, braid each other's hair, etc. It seemed a much smaller world back then — perhaps it was always this expansive, but I didn't notice! Certainly social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, changed the face of writing about music. It's all so 'cool' nowadays. I miss that you could embrace a song that you loved regardless of its perceived quality by others, without this sniffy disdain for your choices."

John Hamilton: "I remember a very loose, fun time, with a lot of late nights on MSN Messenger and LimeWire and YouTube and Blogger, smoking and laughing and blasting tunes and rolling into work the next day at, like, the very last minute before being late. A golden era!"

Robbie: "I can't believe there was a time when you and I were cranking out a Banterview a week, all done initially over messenger, then transcribed by me immediately after onto the site, formatted and published — and it was Yahoo, not MSN! God, I had ambition back then..."

"Another record store bites the dust." (Outside the closing Virgin Megstore — L.A., 2008)

Phil: "I started a music blog, Worrapolava, because I loved chatting about music. Instead of boring my friends with enthusiastic and nerdy conversations about The Human League, I could write it all down in a blog and someone, somewhere would a) find it interesting, b) find it funny, and c) would nod in agreement. Music blogs exploded alongside the availability of tracks as MP3 files. Music was coming out of your ears, free or otherwise. Blogs reflected this mad state of affairs by being quite mad themselves and pop music became exciting again, probably because record companies and the music press had lost their grip. And seemingly, for the first time, music had no home. It didn't matter where in the world it came from, the language was the same: Globe-ish. 

Stephen: "Like Madonna, I rarely look back, but I will say a few things: 1) I had the time and energy to write huge reviews that led Robbie to hire me as a writer for Instinct Magazine and Idolator.  2) We all cared about obsolete things like blogrolls and blog rankings. 3) I have never known someone with more metaphors for rectums than Robbie. Freud would say he had some trouble during his toilet training. 4) I also think about the excitement of constantly discovering new acts via blogs and forums."

Robbie: You know too much, Stephen. [Pulls out revolver...]

John Hill: "Chart Rigger inspired me to create my own blog in 2008. I actually tried to echo the sarcastic/raunchy tone at times, but it never fully rang true for my voice and I finally found my own footing as a blogger."

Jason: "I have always been a chart geek at heart. As a kid, I used to record (on cassettes!) Casey Kasem and the Top 40. Early on, I decided to focus my blog on pop and dance music, and that’s when it all came together for me. I loved making snarky comments about up-and-comers on the Hot 100, the UK chart and even the ARIA chart. I was kind of a Chart Rigger mini-me for a time — a hooker in training, if you will!  I then branched out to also include writing about concerts I’ve attended and reviewing new music from established acts as well as newcomers."

Bobby: "These days, before the baby is born, it's blogging about the new Ariana Grande single. And, in many cases, it's easier to simply tweet it. Finding a good blog about pop is awesome. I see a lot these days just copy and paste the one-sheet. That is fine. Back then it was a lot more opinionated and considered. Gosh, I sound like such an old Mary. Back then I do recall discovering blogs and it was like the line from the Little Mermaid, "Look at this trove, treasures untold...how many wonders can one cavern hold?" The cavern being the unbelievably amazing blog you've stumbled upon; write-ups about Brazil's number one girl band whose album was produced by the then-unknown Nadir Khayat. Glorious. Articles on failed trashy Australian disco pop stars from Neighbours who appeared alongside Kylie and Russell Crowe. Amazing! Gimme more! Now it's a tweet and Soundcloud, if that. So yeah, I think content-wise, just as the music industry has evolved itself around music blogs,  they themselves have re-articulated what they are about and how they present themselves."

Adem: "[I remember] the Blogger.com dashboard, and all of the nightmares it used to give me."

Mike Sturm: "The blogspot template made everything much easier. I did a news blog on my website before, but I had to type it all in HTML. It was fun to write about all the stuff that was going on while CDs were still relevant and digital files were mostly on illegal platforms back then."

Robbie: "Remember the day, back in March 2006, when Blogger ate everyone's site and temporarily locked us all out? Yeah — I complained about it in a post, and a couple of you, present here today, commented and told me to get a grip. Bitches..."

Dan: "Well, for me, blogging about pop music was never anything I did with a pre-determined agenda in mind. I blogged about things I loved, and pop music is one of those things that will always be near and dear to me. Pop music was never the sole topic of blogging for me, but it did manage to sneak in on just about any topic I blogged about. My blog was, and still is, is like that relative that has a movie quote for every situation in life; for me, there's a pop song that will do the same thing. I've always said that anyone can write a review, but it takes a really good writer to put a little bit of themselves into it. I've always enjoyed Robbie's Throwback posts and I've done a fair number of posts in that vein myself. Madge always said that music makes the people come together. For me, music has always been there for me, sound-tracking my life, and I started writing about it because I loved it and I knew that I would be able to find others out there that loved it just as much as me."

Richard: "Firstly, how little things change in terms of people being excited about great music. It’s still a visceral thrill to hear something that knocks your socks off. I just think the ways of hearing about it keep evolving. When I was young, it was Radio 1, and those moments when the breakfast DJ would play the new Madonna or Michael Jackson first at 8:10 a.m. I remember hearing ‘Erotica’ or ‘Black or White’ that way in the early '90s, vividly. Then when blogging really started, music was such an obvious topic for obsessives, whether it be particular artists or genres of music (electronic pop for instance). Before the iPhone, we just started reading our news online — it just happened to be written not by professionals, but by people who loved music and decided they had an opinion just as valid as a ‘proper’ music magazine. I read Xolondon for ages before I reached out to Steve, because we have pretty similar taste. So I remember always making a point of listening to everything he recommended. In many ways I began to listen to the radio less and the music that he and others shared via iTunes. There was this strange shift in deciding that I was going to make my own playlists and my own 'radio’ and consume music in a far more direct, specific way. And, zipping forward a few years, I don’t think the Spotify model has particularly changed that."

 With Richard Chapman (Covering Rihanna's 777 Tour — London, 2012)

Robbie: "How has your view of pop music in general changed over the past 10 years?"

Stephen: "The music business is shit now...we all know it. The music in that era of blogging in the mid-'00s was epic. In 2005 alone we had Madonna's Confessions, Goldfrapp's Supernature, Imogen Heap's Speak For Yourself and the goddess Rachel Stevens' masterwork, Come And Get It. God bless them! Blogging itself led to real-life friendships; I've since met most of those people. There's no doubt it altered my life in amazing ways. All of us feel that, I can bet."

Mike Wass: "I still live and breathe pop music and somehow leveraged the most tragic blog on the interwebs into a career in music journalism. However, I don't enjoy the way music is shared and written about as much as I did back then. I miss reading the opinions of real people that I know and interact with. Back then if there was, say, a new Kylie Minogue song, I knew which blogs to head to because I knew I would get a passionate evaluation from someone that really cared. Now I just picture an overworked intern writing 'this is everything' while silently weeping. I also miss having the time to write a detailed 5,000 word essay about an obscure Olivia Newton-John album from 1986."

John Hamilton: "I still love pop music, although sometimes I do feel like I've seen and heard it all twice! The occasional innovations still wow me — you know, like Miley's false teeth. As for 2005, I spent that summer blasting The Killers with my moon roof open."

Bradley: "I'm certainly more cynical now, for better or worse. Too many years of over-hyped expectations and seriously underwhelming records have led me to be a little less 'STOP YOUR ENTIRE LIFE' about every single pop release and way more dubious. I still think there's plenty of great pop music today, but I don't feel that kind of constant stan freakout I did back then. (Thanks a lot, Britney Jean!) But really, '05-'07 were truly glorious days and we didn't even know how lucky we had it: Kylie's X, Girls Aloud's Tangled Up, Rachel's Come & Get It, Britney's Blackout and Amy Winehouse's Back To Black all out around the same time. And most importantly, Dannii's CLUB DISCO. Iconic releases, all of them."

Jason: "I’m still very much into pop. Music is my life and is always on. Unfortch, pop has become an EDM wasteland of late. My blog really hit its stride in 2007, so I was championing folks like Blake Lewis, Beyonce (somewhat), Rihanna (this hooker has come a long way!), and always Madonna. It’s always about Madonna. Don’t fuck with her, or the FBI will hunt your ass down!"

John Hill: "My taste in music has always morphed through the years, and the last 10 are no different. I'm listening to more Country, and R&B is starting to appeal to me more again, but at my core I'm a pop boy. And if there was one artist that dominated my mind in 2005 through 2007, it was Robyn. No question there."

Bobby: "I am far more into it now than I was back then. In 2005, it was something of a distraction. Now music is far more important to me. It pays the bills! I've made so many friends through music, and that all started with blogging. I don't do it as mush as I used to. I do, however, read music blogs more than I did back then. [When I started] I kept on going on about the Swedish pop star Robyn, the short-lived solo career of Lene Nystrøm and the meta-band Pay-TV, who I miss every day. Has pop music changed? Yes. I don't think Icona Pop could've have had such a big hit with a song like 'I Love It' back in 2005. I think music around 2004 and 2005 was very distinct from other genres and beats. I think the likes of Lady Gaga and Beyonce have ultimately changed a lot of how radio playlists mainstream pop songs...for the better."

Jessica: "I'm still into pop music just as much, but in a different way, as I now work in the music industry. My opinions are influenced by my understanding of the industry — both of what goes on behind the scenes and what will and won't work in the charts. The content of my blog has moved in the same direction, which was a conscious decision in order to use my experience in the industry to help my career, and to differentiate This Must Be Pop from other pop blogs, since there is now much more competition. In 2005, some of the artists I loved were Girls Aloud, Alcazar and September."

Richard: "I think everyone’s taste changes as they grow older, but I still get ridiculously excited when a brilliant album or pop song from either a new or favourite artist comes along. I get nostalgic for the days when an album would arrive and you’d have to consume the whole thing, rather than cherry-pick songs — but then I can’t help thinking that’s just the same as buying a 7” single and not the artist's album. Everyone says that the music industry has changed irreversibly because of technology, but I think most people’s consumption of music remains broadly the same. As for 2005…Confessions On A Dancefloor, of course, was Madonna’s last solid album. "Push The Button" by Sugababes turned them into superstars. Rihanna appeared for the first time. Gwen Stefani was being amazing consistently. Kylie did ‘I Believe In You’, the best throwaway Greatest Hits bonus track in history. Girls Aloud turned out not to be dreary bimbos and produced 'Biology’. I recall being obsessed with The Killers unexpectedly — I adored ‘Somebody Told Me’."

Adem: "My views haven't changed at all! I just racked up way too many dollars on the credit card buying pop star posters for my new house, so the obsession isn't going anywhere. I still love what I think is bloody good pop music probably more than any other genre. 2005...for me it was all about Madonna, Girls Aloud, Rachel Stevens and 'Glenn Stephanie', who was riding off L.A.M.B. at the time. Bloody ripper of a year wasn't it?"

Dan: "The biggest change for me has been my daughter, who was three 10 years ago, and is now 13. I've influenced her musical tastesm and now, as a teenager, she's starting to influence mine. This is okay, because I've always been accused of having the musical taste of a 13-year-old girl. Ten years ago, it was MySpace stars. Now it's YouTube stars, and let me tell you, she is all over that. YouTube stars have changed what celebrity mean — it's created a post-superstar world, where a truly universal pop star like Madonna or George Michael will be extremely rare. Like many blogs, mine peaked in output 2007 and has trickled off since then. In 2014, I had only 76 posts. But I'm still stubborn and stick to it. Much like blogging, I'll probably never give up on pop music. If I survived the Hard Candy era, I figure I can survive about anything."

Paul: "There's this little switch in me that I can't seem to control that is much more turned off by the mainstream now. That's not to say I don't like a lot of current songs, because I do. I seem to champion the underdog more now than ever before. Plus because there were less people blogging in 2005 (seemingly), it didn't matter whether you wrote about Kylie, Maroon 5, The Feeling, Scissor Sisters, The Killers, Girls Aloud, BWO, Shayne Ward et al - they were all pop nirvana to me back then without being on every social media site and blog going. To a certain extent they still are pop nirvana, but I tend to seek out the artists that not many people are writing about. That said I've stuck with The Feeling from when they were up and coming to their loyal but much smaller audience of today (and they were the very first band I blogged about)." 

Phil: "To be honest, I hardly ever listen to much new music these days. I've lost touch, and that suits me fine. I got burned out by the firework artist: exploding with brilliance and then pffft. Gone. There's no longevity any more because music has become so disposable. I now make a point of having about 200 tracks or so on my phone which I listen to for a while and then change over: a mixture of new and old favourites, singles and albums. It gives me a chance to slow down and enjoy pop again. Is that part and parcel of getting older? But then again, in 2005 I was just as into the firework artist (Mylo) as I was the old timer (Bananarama, Drama). My favourite song that year was 'Avalon' by Juliet — a Stuart Price production. He also worked his magic with Madge on the brilliant Confessions that year. Sugababes' 'Push The Button' pushed mine. I liked a band called Kubb, a Xenomania act called Jem, Gwen Stefani's singles and an album called A Night On Earth by Crazy Penis (now known as Crazy P). Anyhoo, Robbie, you're no firework — and I'll hesitate to say old-timer. Just don't go pffft on us. Keep insulting Madge and loving SAW. I'll forgive you Take That."

Robbie: "I'll chime in and say that in 2005, I was very sporadically covering music for Instinct — I did get to interview Kelly Clarkson and Pussycat Dolls for Instinct that year — and blogging as a hobby. I've always had a passion for creating content. In '05 I obsessed on this site over The Killers and Gwen and Mariah's comeback and, tragically for a moment, Crazy Frog. Now I write about music full full time and still do Chart Rigger as a hobby. All of it together can be a bit draining at times, but I love pop, when it's good, as much as I ever did. I think fantastic music has the power to be life-saving."

With Mike Wass (New York City, 2013)

Robbie: Let's wrap this lengthy chat up by acknowledging the fact that a key, Swedepop-loving member of the pop blogosphere is not present with us today: Pop Poster Girl. Like all of us, this supposed onetime Ohio college student sprang up online in the mid-to-late '00s and became an active part of the pop blogging community, only to drop off the face of the world wide web in 2011, never to be heard from again. Or maybe she was just the JT Leroy of the Internet? Either way, my question is: Who killed Pop Poster Girl?

Bradley: "My guess is Mike [Wass], for no reason in particular. But really, judging by her last post back in 2011 about Florrie, I think she was just holding her breath for a debut album too long."

Mike Wass: "The plight of Pop Poster Girl keeps me up at night. Back in the day, the popular rumor was that she was a male music exec —gasp — posing as a teenage girl. If that was, in fact, the case, he has probably died of old age by now. If she was legit (we certainly shared enough emails about college life), I like to think PPG works in a music-related field and occasional bumps some early '00s Scandipop on her iPhone while thinking about the good old days. I miss her."

Stephen: "Eyeroll. I have been telling Roberta for YEARS that this bitch never existed. He's like, 'She was so sweet.'  SINCE WHEN IS CHART RIGGER NICE? Poster Girl was the fiction of another blogger (I have my theories) or someone who didn't want us to know who s/he really was. My dish on her is that, ages ago, she sent me some 'leaked' songs by a famous pop star. The tracks turned out to be #rebelheartstyle stolen and this pop star contacted me and asked me to keep them under wraps. One of those songs would end up, quite a bit later, as a single." 

Robbie: "I've got a better story. She and I used to email as well, and in 2007, she admitted she didn't know the Ace Of Base oeuvre. So I made her a CD mix of AOB jams and sent it to her. I had a name, which I won't reveal here, and an actual address for her. In the early days of Facebook, before it got overly-populated, I even found her on there and saw what she looked like. But who knows — maybe it really was a grand illusion and we were all being Posterfished?"

Dan: "The truth is out there, Scully." 

 With Dan Cullinan (Santa Monica Promenade, Los Angeles, 2009)

Jason: "I've always thought Pop Poster Girl met and fell in love with a Scandipop star and was whisked away to his ice palace in Sweden. Sort of the Princess Grace of Pop Blogitude. I loved PPG. She was my Scandipop connection. I was introduced to a lot new music through her blog, and she had a great perspective and excellent taste. I've always wondered what happened to her — I hope she’s fine, but her blog has been missed!"

John Hamilton: "Like Santa Claus, Pop Poster Girl will always live in our hearts... even when she's sloppy drunk at 3 a.m. in an alley behind a bar on Christmas Eve."

Jessica: "I don't know what happened to her, but I remember that she would never post any personally identifying information, even her name or age. I guess she was blogging secretly, perhaps not wanting family, friends or colleagues to find her blog. It's possible she was the creation of someone out there who we know under another name, but she did come across like a young girl in her personality. I'm inclined to believe she was a real person, just afraid of putting too much info online, as was common in those days before social networks made it normal to share every detail of our lives."

John Hill: "Every time a mention of Pop Poster Girl comes up, I get a little sad. I refuse to remove her from my RSS feed or my linked blogs on the off-chance she suddenly resurfaces, but I hope she found something to be just as passionate about as she was music."

Paul: "I miss PPG! She was lovely, wasn't she? I like to think she's Meghan Trainor and took all that pop knowledge to create the massive smash 'All About That Bass' (and then replicated the song EXACTLY with 'Lips Are Movin'). Good for her!"

Richard: "Pop Poster Girl ended up being cast in the final season of Lost, but took method acting a little seriously and never came back from Hawaii in 2011."

Bobby: "No idea what happened. Shame, actually, as her blog was fantastic. Seriously, I hope she's off riding some Brazilian, curing the world of its problems and dunking her teabags with Swedish royalty. Sadly, the demise of her blog is a theme you see throughout the pop blogosphere: So many have vanished through the years. Not to say that pop blogs are the Detroit City of music sites. But rather perhaps the New Orleans. Lady Gaga was perhaps Katrina, and her torrential wind flattened so much in its path. Many pop blogs became (or rather their writers felt they were) redundant, as what they wrote about was now absolutely mainstream. What was previously queer, flamboyant, undercurrent and mainly European by design found itself receiving incredible heavy rotation in the States and soaring up the charts. It's just a theory though. If PPG ever returned from riding her stallions in Nebraska, I know the pop blog community would totally rejoice and welcome her back. There is a connection between all us in some way or another. We've all whored ourselves on Mike Wass' mattress of pop that was Pop Trash Addicts, especially thanks to his pop panel; perused the exquisite taste of Xolondon; celebrated along with MuuMuse whenever he gets the Britney exclusive on another excellent lost Japanese bonus track Miss.Spears criminally maligned on a import album; undressed the spunks that Paul at MyPenisPop/TheZapping would break in on his blog(s). And then there's you over on Chart Rigger, which turns ten, making us all feel incredibly old. Golden Girls Old. Jurassic Park Old. So here's to you, Robbie. Congratulations. Now, lets do botox shots in WeHo before the pension runs out."

Adem: "My god, what if she has been killed? I am genuinely worried now. Should we start a hashtag?"


Thus ends this particular Round Table Of Pop. I didn't know how this write-up would turn out when I initially had the idea of getting all of these diehard music lovers together. I certainly didn't think this would turn out as long as it did. But who knows — maybe, if anything, you or future generations or alien races that one day descend upon us can dissect this discussion and make something of what it was like to be a pop music blogger in the decade that was 2005 through 2015. As with many things in life, I have a feeling most of the 15 of us were too busy doing it at the time to fully realize what it was we were actually doing.

It makes me think of that line, the final line, from The Boys In The Band:

"As my father said to me when he died in my arms, 'I don't understand any of it. I never did'."

To everyone who has ever taken the time to read a post here, comment (whether positive or shady), email me about something I wrote, add me to their mailing list, throw a job my way because of the site, follow Chart Rigger on Twitter or Instagram or Facebook, recognize me out and about and come up to say hello, link to me or consider this a community, I heartily say thank you. 

Maybe it's time for a redesign around these parts. I've stubbornly held onto the same Blogger template for 10 whole years, simply because I love the color blue. And maybe it's also about time to hang up the ridiculous monicker of "J'ason D'luv"...or retire from this gig altogether?

For now, I'll just pull out one more quote — this one, appropriately, from my favorite pop single of 2013:

"Yesterday is history. Tomorrow's a mystery."

Thanks again for everything.

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