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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!

acousticalex This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 10, 2010 at 3:31 pm
And that's fine.
acousticalex This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 10, 2010 at 3:30 pm
*sigh* The problem with modern pop music isn't that it's about sex , drugs, and run-ins with the cops; these are all real-life situations that have had "real" songs written about them in the past, and, in my opinion, make for great inspiration. The problem is that the top artists preach superficiality and Level One thinking, if not the advertising of the cliche. Top 40 music is, for the most part, watered-down garbage, and it doesn't matter who wrote it. If Taylor Swift... (more »)
TheAmazingJoysie replied...
Dec. 28, 2010 at 10:36 am
Stina said...
Dec. 19, 2009 at 7:40 am
Brilliant! Know exactly what you are saying because I am a muscian myself studying in a classical music school. I am not saying all teenagers should start listening to classical music, but it really is amazing! I used to listen to pop and rock music when I was 13... but now classical music has opened up another totally unparalleled world for me :) But I think people should simply listen to the music that brings them joy, not because the music is popular or gives them a certain image. Music is on... (more »)
Melonn said...
Nov. 27, 2009 at 6:39 pm
anyone listen to korean pop? 2pm 2pm 2pm!!! best everrrr!! i want jay back :) 2ne1 big bang! ANYONE? :) reply because i think that i may be the only one who does hmmm anyone? :P
Pearce replied...
Jan. 10, 2010 at 1:29 am
I listen to Japanese? Do I count?
Melonn replied...
Jan. 10, 2010 at 7:23 pm
ya totally! i listen to some1
do you know utada? or winds? or big bang? :)
Pearce replied...
Jan. 18, 2010 at 10:33 am
Simple and CLean for the world!
Kira replied...
Feb. 1, 2010 at 2:01 pm
I listen to 2 PM. :D And I love them too, but I don't see what it has to do with the article
Melonn replied...
Feb. 7, 2010 at 4:59 pm
i kno it has nothing to do with it but its like music and the picture is of an asian (im not racist) lol are you korean? cuz i am like the only american i know that listens to kpop soo ya also do you supprt jay?
Kira replied...
Feb. 12, 2010 at 8:33 pm
I'm white as white gets. And I definitely support Jae. <3 Love him!~
Melonn replied...
Feb. 13, 2010 at 3:01 pm
ahh!!! i want JAY PARK BACK!
Miss_Bliss said...
Nov. 27, 2009 at 4:17 pm
Now I'm curious--what do you listen to? I'd love to hear what you think good music is (anyone who thinks like that about mainstream music probably has good taste in music).
Miss_Bliss said...
Nov. 27, 2009 at 4:14 pm
Right on! Though some mainstream music is okay, I REALLLLLY don't like the majority of it... May classic rock live forever!
TheAmazingJoysie replied...
Dec. 28, 2010 at 10:38 am
Annabelle7614 said...
Nov. 5, 2009 at 7:32 pm
I agree that current music is very degrading to women and minorities, and some african american rappers seem to have something against white people. I do hate when people stereotype rap music though, because not all rap has cuss words and is degrading. There are very good songs that have clean versions, so there is really no reason to freak out. If you like a good beat and don't like swearing, listen to the clean versions.
Candy said...
Nov. 5, 2009 at 4:56 pm
THANK YOU! I agree completely 100%. Whatever happened to music that comes from your heart? Now, it's really all about what the media & record labels tell you to do.
jmc.13 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Nov. 5, 2009 at 1:25 pm
Yes, I agree also. Not only does pretty much all pop and most rap just plain suck, but there is just such good music out there to be enjoying. I am the only one out of all my friends that listens to music I enjoy. People will admit they hate the music they listen to, but they won't change. Because everyone else is listening to it, thats what they hear at parties, so it's what everyone listens to.
Impractically.Yours said...
Nov. 5, 2009 at 11:56 am
I agree completely and think that big problems come by with people such as Chris Brown, Enimen (Not too sure is that is spelled correctly), The Pussycat Dolls, Jay-Z, Britney Spears, and Katy Perry, not only do I absolutely detest those types of artist, but I say that if you refuse to buy their music, you will then make them switch to popular demand which COULD be appropriate, meaningful songs. Most people like songs for their beats and ease to sing along with, but they don't bother listeni... (more »)
sheeroxs said...
Nov. 3, 2009 at 8:39 pm
hear hear! couldn't be more true! i for one used to listen to mainstream songs alot, then i moved on to broadway and oldies, and there is such a difference! now when i turn on z100 i cant stand it.... it makes my ears ring
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