Pop Music. A musical medley or a cacophony of noise? Anne Harris puts saxophones in their proper place.


Top 40 lovers – and those trapped on long car trips with them – may have noticed a strange addition to the usual 808-multilayered-Autotune-y blend: saxophones.

The sax made a mainstream comeback in a big way this summer: Lady Gaga’s ‘Edge of Glory’ and Katy Perry’s ‘Last Friday Night’ both had saxophone solos stuck in the middle of otherwise bog-standard tracks. And before you say ‘but it wasn’t your mother’s saxophone music!’ actually, it was.  Kenny G did the solo for Perry, and the late Clarence Clemons of the E Street Band contributed to Gaga’s tune. These 80’s icons gave both songs a throwback edge, but ultimately, am I a fan of sax solos in non-jazz circumstances?

It takes some consideration. Saxophones certainly have a place in rock music; Clemons rocked more with The Boss than his minor collaboration with Mama Monster may have indicated. Disco has also always had a soft spot for the dramatic. When drunkenly wailing out ‘Voulez Vous’ at pub karaoke, how would you know when to do the ‘uh huh!’s without the brass flourish? And what would lite rock be without some smooth backing from the instrumental equivalent of candlelight and cheap Pinot Noir?

As for pop, I have yet to be convinced. How do you dance to the solos without looking like a flailing git, anyway? Perhaps I’ll have to learn since a few new releases seem to be following the Perry/Gaga formula. ‘In the Dark’ (Dev) and ‘Mr. Saxobeat’ (Alexandra Stan) are both making waves in the charts, and both are riddled with sax-y beats. For now, here’s hoping its coincidence.


Anne Harris

Photo Credit – Crouchy69