The Singer or the Song? Ken Stringfellow (Posies, R.E.M., Big Star) and Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #23 Discuss

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is PMP-The-Singer-Not-the-Song-with-Ken-Stringfellow-400-x-800.jpg

What’s your rela­tion­ship to music? Do you just embrace the pure sound, or do you care about who made that sound? One way of see­ing where you fall on this issue is whether you care more for sin­gles or to whole albums or careers by artists.

Ken Stringfel­low, who co-fronts The Posies and was a mem­ber of R.E.M. and Big Star, joins Mark Lin­sen­may­er, Eri­ca Spyres, and Bri­an Hirt to talk about what actu­al­ly grabs us about music, whether being a musi­cian your­self is a key fac­tor in whether you pay atten­tion to the con­text of a song, how music gets to your ears, singers vs. song­writ­ers, what we think about the notion of “genius,” and how this artist vs. song con­flict relates to how we take in oth­er media (e.g. favorite film direc­tors).

The ideas for this dis­cus­sion most­ly came from reflect­ing on our own expe­ri­ences and habits, but we did some warm-up research into:

Lis­ten to Mark inter­view Ken on Naked­ly Exam­ined Music, pre­sent­ing specif­i­cal­ly some of his solo, Posies, and Big Star songs. After that was record­ing, Ken sang some har­monies on a tune on Mark’s last album, Mark Lin­t’s Dry Folk.

Oth­er ref­er­ences: “Mid­night Con­fes­sions” by The Grass Roots, Lil Peep, Tom Wait­s’s most pop­u­lar album, Lou Reed is not a one-hit won­der, the scene in Slack­er with a fan get­ting Madon­na’s pubic hair, Damien Rice is still work­ing, the band Live reunit­ed, REM on Sesame Street (no, Ken is not on cam­era), Ken being “world music” by play­ing solo in for­eign coun­tries.

This episode includes bonus dis­cus­sion that you can only hear by sup­port­ing the pod­cast at This pod­cast is part of the Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life pod­cast net­work.

Pret­ty Much Pop: A Cul­ture Pod­cast is the first pod­cast curat­ed by Open Cul­ture. Browse all Pret­ty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.