John Mellencamp – Pop Singer

This song was off of the 1989 album Big Daddy. The two radio songs that got me to buy the album were Jackie Brown and this one.

In this song John didn’t want to be a pop or rock star. He didn’t want to do what the stars had to do to have hits. He wanted to be taken seriously and real. He had been through all of that when a manager renamed him to “Johnny Cougar” but he did remake his career by releasing more roots music and

This song peaked at #15 in the Billboard 100 and #1 in Canada in 1989.

John Mellencamp: “Everybody wanted to be a rock star in the ’80s,” he said. “Everybody but me.”

From Songfacts

“The most crucial thing for me is that I want it to be real.”

That’s what Mellencamp told Creem magazine in 1987. Two years later, he released a song about it. In “Pop Singer,” he explains that the music is what is important to him, and that he has no use for the gladhanding, trend-following or fan interaction that is expected of Pop Stars.

Mellencamp wasn’t always so “real” – his manager had him use the stage name “Johnny Cougar,” which took him years to reverse. He soon took control of his career, however, and did things on his terms. Any part of the job that isn’t related to making or performing music is something Mellencamp avoids. He will begrudgingly do promotion, but refuses corporate music traditions like radio station concerts and meet-and-greets. This stance didn’t endear him to industry types, but many fans found his candor refreshing and appreciated his authenticity and devotion to his craft.

When he wrote this song, Mellencamp was going through a divorce with his second wife, Victoria Granucci. “I was questioning the importance of music,” he told Rolling Stone. “Everybody was having to kiss everybody’s ass. If you want to be on MTV, then come here and do this. All these backroom deals were getting made. I was like, ‘I don’t want any part of this.'”

Mellencamp articulated his position in this song in his 2018 DVD Plain Spoken, where he explained that what he was after was a creative life away from his hometown of Seymour, Indiana. Had he become a painter, he would have been just as fulfilled, but when his demo got him a management deal, he was drawn toward music.

This song runs just 2:46, which is appropriate, as hit pop songs tend to be short, in part so radio stations can play more of them.

Pop Singer

Never wanted to be no pop singer,
Never wanted to write no pop songs.
Never had no weird hair to get my songs over.
Never wanted to hang out after the show.
Pop singer (writing) of pop songs.

Never wanted to have my picture taken.
Now, who would want to look into these eyes?
Just want to make it real – good, bad or indifferent.
That’s the way that I live and that’s the way that I’ll die (As a)
Pop singer (of) pop songs.

Pop singer, writing of pop song.

Never wanted to be no pop singer,
Never want to write no pop songs.
Never wanted to have a manager over for dinner.
Never wanted to hang out after the show.

Pop singer, writing pop songs.
Never wanted to be no pop singer, of pop songs.
A pop singer.
Never wanted to write no pop songs.

Author: badfinger20 (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

33 thoughts on “John Mellencamp – Pop Singer”

  1. Great song and album. By the time “Big Daddy” came out, I already had become a John Mellencamp fan and bought it “blindly.” Though I believe I had heard “Pop Singer” on the radio before. The album that fully sealed the deal with Mellencamp was “Lonesome Jubilee.” It remains one of my favorites to this day. I also own most of Mellencamp’s other albums.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He was just so down to earth in his writing. It’s hard not to like it. To me it started with the Uh Huh album and he was great after that.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I also have his earlier albums “John Cougar” (1979), “Nothin’ Matters and What If It Did” (1980) and American Fool” (1982). Haven’t listened to them in a long time. From these albums, I used to like “American Fool” the best. That’s the one with “Hurts So Good” and “Jack and Diane.”

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Wow I got it right! I need to listen to it again…well I…no she had that album but I listened to it alot. I did like it.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. A great song . I loved ‘Jackie Brown’ too. To me, the album was good but a big letdown from his previous two…but that was just a testimony as to how good those had been. ‘Big Daddy’ was still a very good album … and in the era of Milli Vanilli and that ‘Dangerous’ Michael Jackson, a refreshing reality check.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. even back in Canada (where as you mention, this one was a #1 hit) they seemed to be ignored by radio by 2000s… it was always those two American kids trying best they can, or the song about faded red homes…

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Yeah, I like this one, but I’m a John Cougar/ Cougar-Mellencamp/ Mellencamp fan going all the way back to Ain’t Even Done With The Night and I Need A Lover. He’s great in concert; I’ve seen him twice, but he’s a @$$%@#@. Back in the day my husband and I were on the “Fox Crew” with 104.5. We put up the giant inflatable Foxzilla at every classic rock orientated concert at Starwood. John Mellencamp was the only artist that complained about it and made us take it down. Sting didn’t even do that.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You are bringing back memories…I remember that Fox well in different places… now back to the point. What on earth could the thing have harmed? I agree it would seem Sting would be the picky one.
      I saw him at Starwood also in the early 90s….

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I have problems with my phone also seeing videos.
      I didn’t know that either…I love his music but he doesn’t seem like the easiest guy in the world to get along with…

      Like

      1. That is what I mean…everytime you see he is with someone else or pissing someone off.

        Like

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