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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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 »)
DENDJNJNDEK replied...
Feb. 16, 2011 at 5:31 pm



legend said...
Jul. 27, 2010 at 8:00 am

I'm a Chinese high school student.I'm glad to read this article and I agree.I don't like most of the pop songs either,except for the ones which were popular in 1990s. In my point of view,most of the tunes we can listen to just resemble each other so well that we can hardly distinguish them...In China,this is called "shan zhai(山寨)which refers to things that are copied from others' without any technic.I don't quite sure whether it's true in your countries but in China,plent... (more »)

RavenBird said...
Jul. 5, 2010 at 11:33 pm
I know! i actually wanted to write about this earlier but i didnt know how to  word it, to put my thoughts out. My best friend listens to all that soulless stuff, and.... i just can't anymore. It doesn't move me the way real music does. I'm not completely torn from popular music, because it's not all bad, but it makes me sad to see what some previously amazing bands have turned to. remember when the Black Eyed Peas used to be good? Well...
moonpetal said...
Jul. 5, 2010 at 6:20 pm
In a way I agree with all of you. But in a way I don't. I listen to the radio (other wise I would be like Lady who?) but you guys are taking it somewhat literaly, this is not music. Music is how people feel about things in their life. Yes Ke$ha gets some what anoying thats not the point. I think she is trying to get people to have fun. She wrote the song "tic tock" to exspress this. Yes she added stuff that wasn't needed but dosn't everyone? Also the only way you know about the bad stuff in medi... (more »)
HAWKEYESTATE4ever said...
Jul. 5, 2010 at 5:41 pm
The problem with today's music is that most things you can hear on the radio you can sit down with a guitar and play it immediately. The notes are repetitive and have no thought in them.
SUPERMANDwightHoward said...
Jun. 13, 2010 at 11:04 pm
I see how music is the way it is, however if you listen to it enough the beat is pretty great it is still usic it is just different from what our moral ethics are, this is not good and although I do listen to it it frustrates me how much they say. I mean Lady GaGa goes out and tells people not to have sex but every single one of songs has Guess whatt... sex why does music have to be so hippocritical. It is sorta the same in England, some of the music is just as bad as her... (more »)
ReadingFanatic said...
Jun. 13, 2010 at 10:10 am

I used to be one of those teens. Sucked in a world where  only the "good" songs were the top forty. I would hardly try new songs. But then, my friend got me a CD with different music.  I started listening to unknown, good music, and I liked it a lot better. For example: Last year: I only liked one or two songs at my friends recital

This year: I liked every song, and thought it was enjoyable.

Now the friend who showed me that all music is good, is becoming one of those ... (more »)

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
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