Dialectic of Pop, 273–280


II. Aesthetic Relation


Given its tendency to glossolalia, in its use of language the hit obviously does not prioritise its referential function. But by no means does it renounce language’s power of communication. Quite on the contrary: the hit’s poetics of the hook obstinately stage—and set in motion—the transmitter of language, its recipient, and the relation between the two. This new feature once again separates the hit from the ideal of the modernist work as conceived by Adorno: a work which, in the context of the triumph of the standardised products of the cultural industry, refuses the for-others of communication.

A hit, on the contrary, materialises the antithesis of such retrenchment: it is the musical work for-others par excellence.

That may be the reason why a hit seems easier to define in terms of what it does to the listener than what it is. The aesthetic apex of pop, the form in which its ideal of popularity is crystallized, the hit is not just heard or listened to, it targets the listener in a certain way—it exists for the listener.…