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 291 comments. Post your own now!

S-Chique00 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 8, 2010 at 6:30 am
I think I have found a kindred spirit in this writer. Music, as I have proclaimed countless times, is a dish best served homemade, but the entire music industry has resorted to the cheap and easy 'ready-made' option. I myself am a fan of my parents' music tastes; they came from an era where music was a gift, and not another money-making scheme. I think we've resorted to a Dark Age in music, where talentless wannabes hog all the limelight due to their asthetic qualities, while genuinely talented ... (more »)
FloydRollinstonesYes replied...
Apr. 30, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Finally someone who appreciates good old fashioned music! Beatles, Floyd, Who, CSNY, In Asia, and Yes are where the real talent is, not like the crappieness in todays 'music' 




IKINE replied...
Apr. 30, 2010 at 6:02 pm
you too? Cool~!!~I saw Yes in concert...great but steve howe is getting old...
FlyleafFreak said...
Mar. 17, 2010 at 6:18 pm
Considering the fact that this is an opinion piece, you've displayed your opinions very well. The way i look at how people like music is like how people like food. If you don't like the taste of one thing and someone else does, that's the end of it. You can't make them like the same tastes you do because it just doesn't appeal to them. I personally really like alternative rock, punk, what's called "emo," and some screamo. So music is music, tastes are tastes.
ClashFan said...
Mar. 17, 2010 at 2:33 pm
I could not agree with you more! It's frustrating to see what the music industry has become. I work really hard to broaden my listening horizons and not focus on one genre. I love alternative music and punk rock but I also adore jazz and reggae as well as classic rock. I think many people don't want to take the time to explore or step outside the box. My best friend will go on and on about how much she loves music and it's the greatest thing ever, but she only listens to pop and c... (more »)
a$hELYx3 said...
Feb. 23, 2010 at 5:20 pm
Music is Music , No matter if old music is better. Music is LIFE . get over it -
whatIthink said...
Feb. 23, 2010 at 3:44 pm
I really agree. and you're right that the popular rap can put out bad stereotypes about blacks. One of my friends one mentioned that she "doesn't lie black music"- she corrected herself that it wasn't the people but the rap that she didnt like- but i didnt say anything because she wasn't talking to me and i didnt know what to say!
my favorites are Genesis and U2, that write (wrote) their own songs and were their own people.
swim4ever said...
Feb. 1, 2010 at 4:48 pm
personally i think that you focused on all the bad things a bout pop and rap music when they are many good points i personally love the song live like were dying and it sends a message to live life to the fullest how can that be a bad message i lovve lots of generes of music 60s 60s 80s pop rap country and alternative all of those generes have some of the qualities you mentioned lots of 70s music has sex and drug refrence i think you made a generalization for great music. i would also like to ... (more »)
Maddiewrites13 said...
Feb. 1, 2010 at 3:19 pm
I agree. A lot of music I find offensive, to both men and woman. Same with many shows.
maddie(: said...
Feb. 1, 2010 at 10:09 am
I think that music is a powerful thing. If I didn't have music I don't have a clue what I'd do without it. Music is amazing. If we didn't have music, life would be horrible!!!
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?
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