Is pop music getting worse? You might expect a 60-something guitar virtuoso, songwriter’s songwriter, and English folk-rock O.G. to be the sort of person who’d say so. You’d be wrong. In 2003, Richard Thompson released an album called 1000 Years of Pop Music, which is pretty much what it sounds like: A repertoire of Western vernacular, from the 13th century “Sumer Is Icumen In” through Abba, with stops in Henry Purcell, Lennon/McCartney, and Hoagy Carmichael. Your mileage may vary, but I think the best track is his rendition of Britney Spears’s 2000 hit.
“Oops!... I Did It Again” was actually written by Max Martin, the Swedish genius behind “I Want It That Way” and “Since U Been Gone” and “Blank Space” and about two dozen other songs you guiltily sing along with when you’re driving alone. In other words: disposable pop confections. Or maybe not. As Thompson’s rendition shows, these are meticulously constructed songs—compositions that can withstand removal from fresh-faced pop stars to grizzled old folkies.