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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 277 comments. Post your own now!

Valerie S. said...
Mar. 29, 2012 at 11:25 am
Pffft- I agree completely. People need to stop conforming to what society agrees to as 'perfect' and loosen up! #Non-Conforming
FeelLikeDancin said...
Jan. 28, 2012 at 10:39 pm
i totally agree. even though i listen to some popular music and find myself singing along i think that most of it is meaningless. I've started listening to other types of music and i enjoy it much more even though some of my friends wouldn't even have the slightest idea of who my favorite band is or what they sing.
Cut-out-ur-eyes said...
Jan. 28, 2012 at 6:13 pm
I agree completely. You should do another with your thoughts on rock and screamo
EveryDayInspired said...
Jan. 6, 2012 at 7:32 pm
I completely agree with you. Music has given me nothing to look forward to because of how much it influences people. What's worse that influence is passed down through many generations and cycle continues to repeat itself over and over again. This puts my thoughts about the music I listen to and other people's music together. This goes to show how different people are; you can almost tell the kind of person they are by the music they listen to.
dintandmint This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 6, 2012 at 9:41 am
I agree wholeheartedly with this article. The pressures of the media (needing to be popular) is influencing everything, including music. I am a sucker for lyrical prowess, lyrics being such a raw and meaningful form of self-expression. And have in spite of some efforts (you can"t judge, if you haven't looked at a subject in a previously unbiased manner) I was unable to find very much modern music that doesn't cater to other people and popularity, and rather is truly an art form, where one is ex... (more »)
exoskeletaI said...
Dec. 15, 2011 at 7:50 am
If there's anything here that infuriates me, it's the fact that one would say that rap is shallow. Pop too, for the record has deeper meaning to it... People don't take the time to decode it, which is why the main author claims that it's shallow. Rap is a very infulential type of music. No, I'm not going to do "mad drugs, yo" and such, but I will find both meanings in rap. One should actually try to appreciate something before they criticize it. I strongly disagree with this article.
maizyiscrazy replied...
Jan. 28, 2012 at 7:18 am
I agree partly with this person, and partly with the author
Dec. 4, 2011 at 7:11 pm

Definately! :)


RunningFree said...
Nov. 23, 2011 at 6:15 pm

Wow, you basically put all of my thoughts on music into that.  There is not one thing in this opinion paper that I disagree with.

I am personally a music freak and often analyze what has happened to our society along the lines of music (and culture alike).  When we have Phy. Ed., and no other iPods are available, my classmates are "forced" to listen to mine.  Then they all complain about how they don't know any of my music and how it is so werid (I mostly listen to alter... (more »)

celare said...
Nov. 23, 2011 at 3:44 pm

I completely agree with what you are saying. I have not even looked at the chart music for almost a year, because I am all too aware the songs are all identical to one-another with an irritatingly empty message.

I know where you're coming from with the view of most people conforming to like what is most frequently played on radio stations or MTV. Two years ago, I fell in love with Ed Sheeran, and have followed his career since, yet then he was relatively unheard of in my area. I introd... (more »)

imaginer said...
Nov. 23, 2011 at 1:54 pm
I completely agree with you! I think especially at school peer pressure influences kids to only listen to pop and rap. I personally hate rap, and I love some of the "old" artists. And when I do listen to pop music, I just focus on the tunes, because the lyrics and artists are so messed up.
Akane-Ree said...
Nov. 23, 2011 at 9:41 am
I actaully know a lot of people who like classic rock such as the beatles <3 and there's some good music right now in the world, such as *paramore* and sara barielles. I for one am very into bluegrass music, especially crooked still.
MaxRide said...
Nov. 1, 2011 at 8:24 am
everyone thinks it is weird because I listen to Japanese music while I am white, and i want to speak japanese!  You shouldnt judge me from the language of my music!  I agree!
MaxRide replied...
Nov. 1, 2011 at 8:29 am

but is it bad if i like EMINEM, SOLJA BOY, and LIL WAYNE as well as CHRISTIAN MUSIC, JOURNEY, and VAN HALEN? 

is it bad to llike rap too?

Thinker replied...
Nov. 23, 2011 at 5:16 am

It isn't necessarily, because maybe thats just the music you like.  In my opinion, it is more about the negative emphasis on music artists.  some songs might be racy or inappropriate. i try not to listen to those, but sometimes theyre just catchy and i cant help listening-as a band member i pay more attention to the backround.

I have a friend(white) who sings/listens to japenese music all the time.  i think its a little strange how she know more japanese music than the t... (more »)

Metalforever replied...
Jun. 5, 2013 at 10:50 pm
The world will be forever lost when it comes to music until they find metal and rock,true music with quality,substance and heart.
MaxRide said...
Nov. 1, 2011 at 8:18 am
i love to sing, so i completely understand what you are saying.  All of today's music is mostly about sex, drugs, dating, or other explicit topics.  music needs to have more of a meaning to people instead of that.  Music is a way to express your feelings, and do what you love.  Personally, I like some of Eminem's songs, but i think we need more TRUE music in kid's ipods.
maizyiscrazy replied...
Jan. 28, 2012 at 7:19 am
okay, sorry, but dating IS NOT an "explicit topic"
Breece6 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Nov. 1, 2011 at 7:21 am
I am a three-year percussionist and in my high school's marching band, so I have a pretty fair idea about music.  The problem here is that for all the musically uneducated people who listen to popular songs, all they see is the glamor tagged on.  However if you actually listen to the instrumental you'll realize there are a lot of unique, difficult and interesting parts beneath it.  Artists like the black eyed peas and other popular rap groups generally have a lot of glamor, just l... (more »)
ayeshamuzaffar This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 18, 2011 at 4:43 am
Cool. I really liked your article (:
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