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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 273 comments. Post your own now!

JaguaariLilly said...
May 22, 2010 at 5:12 pm
prime example of this: ke$ha. god, shes so annoying.  her music sucks, and has nothing to offer. yet, people love "tic tok" which is terrible.  she reminds me of rat from the comic strip "pearls before swine".  both are obssessed with beer =P
ReadingFanatic replied...
Jun. 13, 2010 at 10:12 am

Pearls Before Swine Rocks!

And in the majority, Ke$ha stinks!

Artst123 replied...
Jun. 13, 2010 at 4:20 pm
Yeah, like half her songs are all about getting drunk. it's so bad
♥♫music4ever25♥♫ replied...
Jul. 27, 2010 at 8:23 pm
its true! and a more aweful part of it is that her music is so inaporptiate for so many ages! it comes on the radio all the time and my 6 yr old sister can hear it anywhere! (sorry for my spelling)
lildutchgurl This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
May 22, 2010 at 1:57 pm
YES! I love 80's music, because its just so much more emotion-filled and each piece is so unique, and I do think we need to get away from money and image. There are a few really good modern bands though, like MGMT. Its also good to have balance in the music you listen to, and some rap and pop is nice to listen to.
Emphy said...
May 22, 2010 at 1:53 pm
I agree with you, but even though some songs are quite... interesting, there can be good songs by the same artist.  I don't normally listen to rap, but if I like the song, I'll listen to it.
MairGwyn replied...
Aug. 18, 2010 at 7:05 pm
like Eminem Xp
Emphy replied...
Aug. 19, 2010 at 9:08 am
Exactly XDDDDD
whispersofthenight said...
May 22, 2010 at 1:36 pm
I totally agree with you! I really wish people would start making better music... Of course there's good pop and rap, but a lot of it is just trash, in my opinion. 
lalalalalala said...
May 22, 2010 at 6:53 am
Nice. But why try to sway views? It's a free country. I'm a big fan of alternative music like Ani DiFranco myself, but I also like 'BedRock' by Young Money. I'm pretty diverse. Okay article. I agree with how all rap is now is about pretty girls, money, and self image. 
ZombieL said...
May 12, 2010 at 1:45 pm
I absolutely agree with your points. I haven't been able to stand "popular" music for years because of how it's evolved to hollow lyrics all about money, sex and fame. Underground music all the way!
Kkrazy This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 30, 2010 at 8:24 pm
FINALY! someone who actually cares about the song not the barbie that performs it! not saying all pop is bad, there are some good songs... but the artists really need to get over themselves! i write music and i really loved this post! keep writing!
Saltyeyes replied...
May 11, 2010 at 8:32 pm
Shawn Harris is God.
jjjjayyy replied...
May 11, 2010 at 8:48 pm
I'm sorry about the last comment. My cousin posted it -______- anyways, I disagree with the part where she looks down on Rap/Pop. Don't get me wrong, I am not a big fan of either genre. More than likely you'd catch me listening to bands like Necrophagist or artist that half the people on this discussion boad havent even heard of. anyways, I disagree because that isn't ALL artist write about. If you look into some artists today like Kid Cudi, for example, sing about deeper topics than sex and mon... (more »)
Kkrazy This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jun. 4, 2010 at 5:45 pm
Well, it is a point of view essay, so she is free to express her opinion, just as you have expressed yours. If she thinks the music is bad, and wants to write an essay about it, then that is her choice.
ue4y76hdft567 replied...
Jun. 9, 2010 at 10:45 am
There isn't such thing as BAD music though.
Zaria replied...
Apr. 17, 2011 at 2:35 pm
Quality is in the eyes of the beholder anyone?
Amphodite_11 said...
Apr. 30, 2010 at 5:34 pm
This article was really well written and you put what you felt out there without throwing mud at the other side. I listen to classical and Broadway music a lot, but I still enjoy hearing pop music every once in a while. There are some songs I just don't understand but they are still catchy in their own way (for example, tiK toK). I agree with you nearly 100%. 
Spazhottie247 said...
Apr. 30, 2010 at 4:28 pm
This is completely true. You did an amazing job stating the facts, and I just wanted to get it out there, NO SINGERS(only a select few) EVER MEAN WHAT THEY SING!!!! I know a fifth grader that writes like a pro, She has amazing talent in everything, and makes the entire thing herself. She is who should be the next big thing! Even I, The spaz who doesn't follow the crowd, sometimes think that when i write songs i should make it sound pop-Rap-ish. This girl, who is REALLY YOUNG, is my inspiration f... (more »)
Everhart said...
Apr. 30, 2010 at 8:36 am
*applause* Brilliant article. Brilliantly written, with brilliant points. Thank you for coming out and saying what others have been too afraid to! This is why I like Taylor Swift... While she is popular, she writes all of her songs and stays true to herself... We can only hope it stays this way.
HeronHero said...
Apr. 8, 2010 at 11:56 pm
This is really great I love how you say so much but do it so briefly you really get your message across. I love all kinds of different music so I'm glad you wrote this. Thanks and keep up the good work!
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