You may be loving the Pop World Cup (we hope you are!). You may be thoroughly sick of it (in which case – sorry! But we’re more than halfway through now). But I hope you’d agree that the basic question it’s asking – how do you represent a country’s music? – is an interesting one. Certainly in the comments boxes this year we’ve seen a lot more people expressing outrage or delight at the choices the managers’ AREN’T making as much as those they are.

Which can get pretty confusing. Too little Latin pop! Too MUCH afropop! Too Eurovision! Trying to be American! Novelty nonsense! Only the North Koreans sit serenely above this fray because nobody had any idea what to expect of them anyway.

As I said in a comment box this morning, the PWC asks a player to balance three things: their own music tastes, the music of the country they represent, and the preferences of the crowd. The precise weighting of these is what makes it tricky. But the tactics the players use point to more general issues around ‘pop’ and ‘world’ music. So let’s look at some of the strategies we’ve been seeing!

Traditionalism: Selecting tracks that match up to people’s ideas about the ‘natural game’ or native music of the country – which probably means that aspect of the country’s pop which has already crossed over to achieve a level of Western fame. The enormous catch-all of genres that get referred to as “afropop”, for instance, comes under this heading. J-Pop from Japan, too, and Europop from European countries. A winning example of this in this PWC would be Algeria’s rai track in their first group game: everyone knew some rai would be forthcoming, it was, it didn’t disappoint.

Modernism: Tracks which represent local musics, but up-to-date ones which haven’t yet achieved that level of partial crossover. This is the kind of thing experts in a country’s music, and vocal fans, will tend to be clamouring for – whether it’s always wise to listen is another matter. When the strategy works, though, it can be very exciting – see for instance Cote D’Ivoire’s coupe-decale track in this PWC.

Atlanticism: Local acts performing in a US (or more rarely UK) style – locally produced rock, pop, hip-hop tracks with little or no specific local influence. Can often perform very well indeed but are also accused of a lack of imagination. In this PWC, Denmark’s Raveonettes and New Zealand’s Scribe got strong wins with this tactic.

Individualism: Shifting further from what the country does well to what the manager knows well, individualism is where the manager’s particular choice of formation dictates team selection: if you like and know indie, for instance, you might trust your judgement in spotting good indie from a country rather than going further afield. Purists carp at this but it can work very well in countries like Spain or Japan with wide ranging music scenes.

Pragmatism: Managers of countries with limited pop resources basically have to field whatever they can get – a backs-to-the-wall approach which can yield shock wins against sides who might be guilty of overthinking things: witness heart-warming victories for Honduras and Paraguay in this tournament.

Novelty: Or of course you can select something completely unexpected – Italy’s death robots in this PWC, for instance. This might or might not work but it usually makes for an entertaining commentary.

It’s really important to stress that there’s no RIGHT way to go about this – a lot of the comment box disputes have been from people expecting one of these approaches and being disappointed when they don’t get it, but the strategy the manager HAS chosen might be a winning one. Probably the best solution is to switch your tactics around from game to game, if you have the luxury of doing so.

Obviously, though, the choices in a frivolous thing like the Pop World Cup also mirror the expectations we have of ‘world music’ – how much expertise should people expect? How much qualifies you to judge? How to balance authenticity with the appeal of the familiar? I’d be really interested if people used the comments on this thread to talk about the things they like hearing and the expectations they have of these different musics (not least because it might save unfair managerial grief in the comments…)