#rpSpeaker Jens Balzer; photo credit: Roland Owsnitzki
If there’s going to be a re:publica on the topic of POP (and one that takes place on more levels of meaning than philosopher Hans Blumenberg ever thought possible), then there has to be a pop theorist onboard who can explain contemporary mass cultural phenomena. No one is as preordained to fill those shoes as Jens Balzer: The Berlin expert for “noises and sounds” is an author and columnist for the Zeit, Rolling Stone and Radio Eins, among others. He wrote for the pop culture magazine Spex, Literaturen and the Deutschlandradio, and was the deputy features editor at the Berliner Zeitung. Besides his journalistic activities, he also teaches pop theory and critique at the Berlin University of the Arts; supervises the Popsalon at the Deutsches Theater Berlin, has worked as a curator for the Volksbühne Berlin, among other places, and also DJs – Pop goes our heart, as Hugh Grant would sing!
The jacket blurb for Balzer’s monograph: ‘POP. A Panorama of the Present’(German) opens up a wide spectrum – and places itself right in our vicinity in doing so: From German chart topper Helene Fischer all the way to Sunn O))), from the unkempt beards of neo-folk to the queer pop of artist Antony Hegarty, from the cult of masculinity in Hip Hop to the ecstasy of minimal techno in Berghain: pop music is the most important contemporary art form. No other form of expression reacts so directly and quickly to the conditions of our time, no other style mirrors the tempo and rhythms of digitised culture so precisely.
Whether it’s as a concert-goer, dancing in a club or meeting with artists and bands – he sketches the various currents, characters, trends and constellations of the last ten years and creates a panorama of the current state of pop, one bursting with energy. Despite his reputation in German cultural journalism, and the dark and complex foreboding of a “Jens Balzer Challenge” (initiated by the blog Schleckysilberstein), there’s absolutely no need not be afraid of Jens Balzer’s highbrow aka his “Record reviews on the brink of insanity”. One thing shines through Balzer’s sociological, thesaurus-driven discussions of pop culture phenomena: it’s our life and times that he is describing. We can all look forward to his discourses, like “electric sheep dream about Céline Dion” or “hermaphroditic chipmunks on meth”, where he insists on a last leftover of pop dissidence and resistance, pushing the notion that there is a very real difference between good and bad pop. Something we can definitely get onboard with. Expect an exciting introduction into contemporary mass cultural phenomena. Clear the stage for pop.