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 290 comments. Post your own now!

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
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
Bear1231 said...
Oct. 14, 2009 at 9:27 pm
I completely agree. I listen to metal (e.g. Metallica), rock (e.g. Guns 'N' Roses), and quite a few others. I know there are good rap songs. Like the Run DMC version of Walk This Way. But now most rap is just said by people who are said to be cool, but really they are just putting out a bad image of what they truly are. I know people will always disagree with what I say but none-the-less this is exactly what I think. I listened to my dad's music and I've never known better.
beanzalib said...
Oct. 14, 2009 at 7:36 pm
I totally agree. I was looking through my mom's old cd collection once when i was bored and i found jewel. i was curious, so i broowed (stole) my sisters cd/dvd player, started listening and loved it. I also like country for the same resoin, the song are good. Some one once told me, all country music is about the same thing, so i told her pop is about the same thing, but- all to the same beat. She had to agree.
SickImage said...
Oct. 14, 2009 at 9:47 am
I love this. I completly agree with you. I haven't listened to the radio (by choice) in years. Tell me what kind of music you like! or artists. I know some you would probably be interested in :]
PurpleMidnight said...
Oct. 11, 2009 at 4:54 pm
I totally agree with you. Most of rap,pop, and hip-hop is very explicit, sexual , and encourages drugs or violence. I am not saying there aren't any good artists out there, just what's popular now are songs that, as the author said, have now shell. The same with punk/hard rock. There not all depressing, talking about killing themselves or send teens into violent fits of rage and riots. Artists like Flyleaf, Fireflight, Underoath, and so many more are singing songs with meaning, real m... (more »)
writer24/7/365 said...
Sept. 22, 2009 at 8:04 pm
i agree with most of it. but alot of pop is fine.
writer24/7/365 replied...
Sept. 22, 2009 at 8:16 pm
no offense to anyone, but i hate rap.
pk456 replied...
Oct. 14, 2009 at 11:58 am
i agree, i dnt like rap that much ether but anything else i like
LaQuasia J. said...
Jul. 24, 2009 at 9:03 pm
not everybody just listens to rap and pop . im black and while most people might think i just listen to rap , hip hop and that stuff that is inappropraite , i listen ti whatever i like and i dont care . and neither does all my friends . it has a lot to do with the person you just cant blame it on television. MTV doesnt make you watch it , its the viewers choice.
pk456 replied...
Oct. 14, 2009 at 12:01 pm
that is soo true
doverdrama said...
Jul. 17, 2009 at 6:18 pm
i agree that some artists are shallow, but I still keep in mind that there are good artists in rap and hip-hop. check out Jay-Z, or Jamie Fox. They arent moguls that are seeking to make billions, like P-Diddy, Puff Daddy or whatever his name is today. they make good music, put on good shows, and sell some merchandise. the complete package.
wally said...
Apr. 24, 2009 at 2:27 pm
I agree with the writers point of view. There are many genres of music. Teenagers need to explore them. They will find some new sounds they will enjoy.
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