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Keeping Music Real This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

Music is a powerful thing. It evokes feelings and has the power to bring people together. Music is also a way for people to express themselves and share ideas, whether through poetic lyrics or throbbing anthems. But today, artists are not known for their music, but for how extravagant their outfits are and how many times their wealthy relatives can get them out of jail. And thus music is lost.

Pop and rap music has evolved into a shallow, image-obsessed industry that conforms to what the public wants to hear and see, eliminating the focus on the actual music. Mainstream music is no longer composed of emotion, but instead themes of money, sex, and fame. Pop and rap performers are notorious for their run-ins with police, their latest diet, or their most recent affair. Photos and rumors fly while the music is ignored.
Not all musical groups or soloists begin like this. Many of these artists are original and talented, but they may feel the stress of being underappreciated and turn to the money side for support. Often their songs are written by experts who know what is appealing to a certain age group, and the musicians’ faces are plastered on as many magazine covers as possible. Soon their supposedly new and improved songs can be heard blasting out of car windows. But these songs are empty shells, devoid of creativity and the original thirst of the artist to make an impact or convey a message.

Countless pop and rap songs today fit into a very slim mold – not just the music, but those who perform it. Some female musicians struggle with eating disorders because of the increased attention of the media and the public on their looks instead of their musical talent. Most popular songs follow the same pattern – singable, with a catchy beat and a flashy band.

These songs teach listeners that what’s on the outside is important, and money matters. These messages are also shown through music videos containing sexual themes, as well as people wearing “grills” and other decorations meant to show their wealth. Many rap videos promote the “gangsta” image, encouraging people to act tough, embrace violence, and swear. These videos can propagate false views of African-Americans.

MTV is not helping. It has become increasingly racy and plays only what the public wants to hear. And unfortunately, the majority seems interested in either sickly sweet, generic pop or stereotypical, bleeped-out rap. Kids and teens everywhere are swimming in these songs, which are often degrading to women and minorities, and inappropriate.

This past summer at camp, almost all the girls in my bunk were obsessed with the same songs, which had been the case the previous year, and the year before that. These songs, including Avril Lavigne’s “Girlfriend,” were blasted in the bunk at all hours from campers’ iPods. Whenever I tried to play music I enjoyed, or introduce them to some decent songs (in my view), they would say that everyone except me liked their music. They had me there.

None of this is to say that all pop and rap music today fits this mold. Artists like Sublime and Jurassic 5 produce rap without the silly extras – just great rhythm and pulsing lyrics. A lot of high-quality pop music exists as well. Although some talented musicians thrive, the entire music industry has devolved into something that’s almost unrecognizable.

Music is no longer just for pleasure, but instead is a huge part of the economy. It is valued for its power to influence people everywhere. Not only does the music business make money from songs, but lots of useless products carry rap and pop stars’ names and faces.

Why do most teenagers exclusively listen to pop and rap music when so many other genres exist? Maybe it’s because everywhere we look, we are bombarded with the same music: on the radio, on TV, on the computer. At school, pop and rap are discussed religiously. Perhaps they have never listened to anything else. Or maybe peer pressure is part of it. Another reason some people listen to popular music is because it is easy listening, with no abnormalities, since anything unique is considered weird.
There is no solution to the “pop problem.” It’s called popular for a reason – many people enjoy it. People who like pop and rap music are the same as people who like rock and punk music – they are just fond of a particular genre of music. It’s not a heinous crime, and there’s no easy way to sway their views.

Still, many artists are ruined because of the increased focus on money and image. My suggestion is not to buy into music like this when you can explore something new. Expand your horizons. Dig up your parents’ old records and CDs. You never know what you might find.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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This article has 281 comments. Post your own now!

Writerzhand said...
Dec. 28, 2010 at 10:17 pm

I definitely agree 100%. Everything you hear on the radio and on commercials is the same- its all autotuned mechanical melodies with some lyrics meant to appeal to the average preteen girl. And I try to educate my friends on what real music is, such as when punk first started in the 70's to the real rap of the 80's and the beginnings of the grunge movement during the 90's (I'll give the 50's and 60's credit- essentially it's where music began- but I just really don't have that much of a feel ... (more »)

purple_ashes said...
Dec. 28, 2010 at 1:02 pm
And that's when I turn to Rock and Roll, where music is still meaningful and beautiful and great to listen to !
sunny replied...
Dec. 28, 2010 at 4:54 pm
I love music a lot.
TheAmazingJoysie said...
Dec. 28, 2010 at 10:28 am
this is very true and i very much feel the same way as i am sitting in class and the teacher is inaudible because of the monotonous drone of other stundents (all girls) areexclaiming that jls is the best ever and they're so going to the airport to see them and i'm like isn't that one of the reasons for festivals to see your favourite people , enjoy the culture and listen to awesome music BESIDES THEIR'S NOTHING WRONG WITH ROCK PUNK OR METAL AND POP IS GOOD BUT THE BEST POP IS FROM THE 60'S ONWAR... (more »)
song-writer26 said...
Dec. 28, 2010 at 10:09 am
This is AMAZING and very true
PeetaMellark said...
Dec. 28, 2010 at 8:03 am


Also, you really have a talent for writing. :)

Alyssa L. said...
Dec. 22, 2010 at 1:17 pm
wow this is amazing... u should continue to write. :)
squalur996 said...
Dec. 6, 2010 at 8:42 pm
excellent article !!!! Music is just too amazing to become so media engrossed.
Mayzie2010 said...
Dec. 6, 2010 at 7:59 pm

I completely agree! I mean, i've been singing for 5-10 years now. So music is really close to me. now music has been revamped an edited which makes it lose its purpose. Beautiful article though! keep writing!


DaydreamBeliever This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 23, 2010 at 10:19 pm
I agree 100%. One of my favourite things to do is go through my dad's old CDs and listen to them. 
cityskyline said...
Oct. 23, 2010 at 10:22 am
I cannot put into words how so incredibly right you are. Today, the music industry is just sick. They can match a pretty face to an auto-tuned concoction of 'baby, baby, baby, ooooohh i love you sooo baby i love you', and they'll make millions. Sick.
IamtheStargirl said...
Oct. 16, 2010 at 2:34 pm

 I listen to my dad's old ipod, so there's pretty much no "recent" or "popular" music on it.

I've found that it's a great way to get introduced to new music.

Kyle XY said...
Oct. 15, 2010 at 2:27 pm
So true. music has lost its touch nowadays. it's all about voice-over and synthicizing now, which shows that music has lost its art.
Luminescence said...
Oct. 1, 2010 at 4:10 pm
Hey, this is really true today. Going to softball games with my teammates last year, some of the songs they played in the car made me want to claw at my ears. I listen to a lot of music, including pop, country, electronica, rock, gothic rock, alternative, indie, classical, but some songs I absolutely hate. So shallow and meaningless, and every day we watch them being drilled into kids' heads almost from birth. I've seen fifth graders listening to rap; that's just sad.
kay.marie This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 9, 2010 at 4:31 pm
I love this article. You've addressed a major problem in the music industry. Personally, I would be classified as a goth kid but i listen to almost every type of music there is. From country to rap; techno to screamo. Everything appeals to me as long as the rythyms fun and i can relate to they lyrics. As long as i can FEEL the music. It's all about variety. Today pop and rap seem to be repeating and repeating the same old message, turning teens into mindless zombies. If people would ju... (more »)
tippytoetapper This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 18, 2010 at 10:12 pm
In a way I agree with you. People who will only listen to popular music because it is popular and refuse to even hear other music have no basis for their preference. But some of the appeal of the music is the artist itself. I know I listen to Lady Gaga partially because I enjoy her music, but also because she is simply fabulous :). I totally see where you're coming from, but a distinction must be made- are you listening to the music to hear good music, or to have fun? Oftentimes if you just want... (more »)
lilyxfiore said...
Aug. 18, 2010 at 4:18 pm
Finally! Someone who addresses the giant pink elephant towering over music today! This is very good, and I love how you adressed the two types of music suffering the most. All I can say is I'm glad my country gals and guys aren't in the same boat...yet.
Memalion said...
Aug. 18, 2010 at 9:42 am
I completely agree with everything you said. Although some pop music is okay, most of the lyrics just repeat themselves and don't say anything. they're so empty. I don't listen to much popular music, I stick to the songs teens don't know about.
optimisticpessimist said...
Jul. 27, 2010 at 8:07 pm
I agree with you whole heartedly. My friends always think my music is weird or strange. And when I try to introduce them new stuff they don't want to hear it. So I just stopped trying a while ago. Nice article. I'd love it if you guys would check out my work :)
xAllegria said...
Jul. 27, 2010 at 9:33 am
I think the whole "money is good, so is looking anorexic, so is raping every girl you find in the bar" started out as a sort of rebellion since up till now ideal messages show the opposite of this. But it's gone too far and the artists themselves don't know what they mean. It's better when they write their own songs- Avril was less popular when she did, maybe, but 'Girlfriend' definitely ruined a part of her reputation. Well, okay, I'm ranting, but basically I've found an article on this crazy w... (more »)
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