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Keeping Music Real This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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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 270 comments. Post your own now!

CutieGrl97 said...
Feb. 24, 2009 at 4:44 pm
i agree -w- her
 
Jordon said...
Feb. 23, 2009 at 6:25 pm
Totally agree with you here! I hate the way artists 'go with the time' music is all about expressing yourself and to be honest, in todays music industry most bands and soloists couldn't care less about expressing themsleves and letting people know how they feel, they are so intrigued into the money and fame side of things. I personally, listen to a very wide range of music and in my opinion, there is a lot more music by not as famous bands and artists that have a lot more soul and feeli... (more »)
 
Authorgal98 replied...
May 22, 2010 at 9:17 am
Finally, someone has some sense! Thank you for this article, it's exactly how I feel. By the way, we don't listen to people sing, we listen to computers. Ever heard Lady GaGa live?
 
Amyyy said...
Feb. 14, 2009 at 2:32 am
Hey!!! As a matter of fact, i love the song "Girlfriend" by Avril Lavigne! Just because you don't like someone's music doesn't mean you should force them to listen to yours! even if you are fed up with some pop artists, try listenin' to good stuff like Good Charlotte, Tokio Hotel, or Rihanna. There are popular bands and artists that don't sing about money, sex, or drugs at all! And they dress and act the way they want-they don't let people tell them what to do or wear. And that... (more »)
 
carol1597 said...
Feb. 7, 2009 at 5:46 pm
who are you to critisize music today...
music deserves to be appreciated no matter who it is by o what it is about...?
 
Growlithe replied...
May 11, 2010 at 8:51 pm
I agree, dont write a damn page about how crappy someone elses music taste is, when yours probably isn't much better in someone elses eyes. Music is Music. Don't critique it
 
mandy-moo said...
Jan. 21, 2009 at 9:07 pm
I totally agreed with you 100%. I don't think that the themes you mentioned should be what artists sing about. I really like Taylor Swift because she writes her own songs and uses her emotions about she has felt about a guy or how it felt when all her ditched her in middle school. That is real music and I never really have liked the popular music. I find it annoying. I had noticed how music wasn't about emotion anymore, but your article opened my eyes to what horrible things the music business r... (more »)
 
ChaoticChelsea said...
Dec. 10, 2008 at 12:41 am
Wow. You are definantly preaching to the choir on this one. I used to be a bubble gum, 'Hey, Hey, You, You, I don't like your girlfriend" freak. I was introduced to genres such as Techno, Heavy Metal, and Indie; I was in love. I agree with your opinion, though then again people like what they like. Continue writing.
 
jessi-bearr said...
Aug. 12, 2008 at 7:42 pm
i think you are right, personally i listen to punk rock or pop-rock which has alot more emotion and heart than any pop or rap songs. i deffintly wont buy into a bunch of b.s artists and b.s songs.
 
L.T.A replied...
Jul. 27, 2010 at 12:08 pm
i agree but don't think that means we should just write off all pop and rap songs as being bad.
 
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