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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!

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 (:
Pumpkinscout said...
Sept. 12, 2011 at 6:48 pm
I agree! Good article, by the way. But seriously, do they really need to swear and sing about inappropriate stuff...really! I like the rhythm and the intsruments and all but man, those lyrics are icky sometimes! And all the swearing...ack
she-is-a-strange-duck said...
Aug. 27, 2011 at 6:31 pm
THANK YOU!!!! I was martyred at my camp this year for prefering Beethoven to Eminem, which ticked me off a little because really, it was none of their business what music I liked. And yet somehow they all complimented me on my piano-playing in the dining hall... funny how these things happen...
Laura_Oliver said...
Aug. 27, 2011 at 9:47 am
You honestly took the words out of my mouth. I'm really into classical music (and I'm not saying that just to sound like a nerd), which is much preferrable to synthesizers and computer programmable stuff that anybody can do. Did you know that it is possible to purchase autotune online (I want to get the sample to see what it does)? That means any fool can make 'good' pop-style music. But real, old-fashioned instruments take a lifetime to master, and overall they sound much more genuine. I have b... (more »)
Laura_Oliver replied...
Aug. 27, 2011 at 9:52 am
That's why I like Adele (like everybody else in the world), because you can actually hear guitars and drums and pianos and bells and other real instruments, not to mention she sounds great.
Katsview This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Feb. 19, 2012 at 5:19 pm
I agree-- and she's a nonconformist, as she doesn't do things to be popular, and she writes non-racy songs with real emotion . . . I love Adele (she's a really cool and funny person as well, not just a musician)!
Aderes18 said...
Aug. 5, 2011 at 11:17 pm

I agree a lot with you but a lot of times these artists sometimes have really good songs that no one's ever heard of. And sometimes they are not mass-produced. 

Good music is hard to find on the radio(where the majority of us teens get it) but you can find some good stuff on ITunes. Good music  is easy to find, you just have to look for it.

SecretSearcher This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 5, 2011 at 12:59 pm
I'm so glad there are other people out there who know the devious and dark secret side of the music industry. I also don't like the fact that many of today's artists may not be specifically musically talented, but are simply willing to do anything to get media's attention and therefore become popular and therefore sell their almost 100% auto-tuned music. It makes me sad just thinking about it! I personally love k-pop, j-pop, classical, punk, jazz, and christian rock, but even with all of these d... (more »)
Alon_Freevoice said...
Jul. 26, 2011 at 8:05 pm
Great article. This is so true. When I like something, I won't be surprised if it didn't get to be a single! :(((
Wildflower30 said...
Jul. 14, 2011 at 3:21 am
I agree! I agree!
Even though some not-so-great practices prevailed during the retros, it has increased manifold now. The music industry isn't an exciting place anymore. I know I wouldn't feel ecstatic there.
introducingshelby said...
Jun. 22, 2011 at 10:13 am
The last paragraph is my favorite.. I understand what you're saying.. about all popular music nowdays and how it's gone downhill.
skoppy355 said...
Jun. 22, 2011 at 10:02 am
I agree with a lot of what you're saying here.  However, you sort of have to look at what these artists do as well.  Many artists that have the kind of music you're speaking against are extremely admirable people (Lady GaGa and Justin Timberlake, for example, are actually great role models for kids when it comes down to it and, no matter what their lyrics may say, can actually sing).  Yes, they may have their names and faces everywhere, but the fact remains that they themselves de... (more »)
Lilliterra replied...
Aug. 5, 2011 at 7:51 pm
Lady gaga? I can hardly think of a worse role model for anyone.
skoppy355 replied...
Aug. 6, 2011 at 9:54 am
Do you know what she's done? How many countless people she's helped? She dedicates her life not only to her music but to raising awareness, not to mention the fact that she's designed products that ONE HUNDRED PERCENT of the proceeds go to her causes, like the people of Japan and finding a cure for AIDS.  So yes, there are far worse role models.
Lilliterra replied...
Aug. 6, 2011 at 8:49 pm
Hmmmm... she bleeds on stage, wears transparent plastic for clothing, and is the shallowest person in the world. I don't think she's a good role model.
skoppy355 replied...
Aug. 7, 2011 at 9:22 am
Her performances and appearances aren't what I'm judging her on, and I honestly don't see how you can.  As far as the shallow accusation, how can you possibly know that? Nothing- I repeat, nothing- that I have ever seen of her has ever given me that impression.  I've always seen that she's very funny, very personable, and very humble.  Im' not going to say that she's the very best role model anyone could have and that everyone should look up to her, but better her than Ke$ha or Br... (more »)
Lilliterra replied...
Aug. 7, 2011 at 4:37 pm

How can you NOT judge her by her performances? Especially when she DECLARES "this is who I am"! I've never heard of her doing or saying any thing "humble".

Nothing about her gives you the impression of shallow? Not even the giant dollar signs?

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