the first problem might be the assumption that a three-minute song has to have modest artistic goals, simply because it lasts only three minutes. Tell that to Hugo Wolf! Tell it to Webern. Tell it to Schubert.
So then why do pop songs have to be long? Why should we assume that they have to be judged by the standards of classical music?
Look at the end of Schubert's "Erlkönig," the two sharp, devastating chords in the piano that bring the song to a close, and aren't like anything else in it. The song is just a few minutes long, but isn't this ending one of the most chilling moments in all classical music?
I'd also cite the start of the development section in the first movement of Webern's Symphony, Op. 21, the long Es and Gs in the clarinets. The whole movement must be shorter than many pop songs, and still those Es and Gs stake out unmistakable new territory, in the most profound and calm way. Or, for a pop example, how about Bob Dylan shouting, "How does it feel?" at the start of each chorus in "Like a Rolling Stone"?
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