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.

Join the Discussion

This article has 290 comments. Post your own now!

rosaliehale09 said...
Jun. 6, 2011 at 5:12 pm
i def agree with this article. love knowing i'm not the only one who thinks this. i would take david bowie, queen, and journey over kesha and soulja boy any day.
MaxRide replied...
Nov. 1, 2011 at 8:26 am
is it bad that i liek both christian music and eminem and solja boy?
rosaliehale09 replied...
Nov. 1, 2011 at 2:50 pm
of course it's not.
rosaliehale09 replied...
Nov. 1, 2011 at 2:52 pm
it just means you like variety. which i applaud you for. i just don't like soulja boi
giantdoses4u said...
Jun. 6, 2011 at 8:55 am

Agreed, most pop and rap music is artless and gives the idea that inappropriate behavior is the way to act. On the other side, people don't want to focus on the actual delimas of the real world, they don't want to hear things that might get them depressed or remind them that they have problems. Pop and rap, even r'n'b focus thier music on being carefree and hardcore partying. Who wants to face real life if they have the option?? My taste in music is all over the place, but my main interest is... (more »)

Jun. 5, 2011 at 11:13 am
If you agree with this article, try listening to Queen, the Beatles, Journey, Bryan Adams, Cyndi Lauper, Daryl Hall and John Oates, 'Til Tuesday, Heart, Cheap Trick, Steve Perry, the Bangles, and Martina McBride. They write REAL MUSIC!!!
rosaliehale09 replied...
Jun. 6, 2011 at 5:06 pm
i hear ya!! and i totally agree!
ExplodingPinapples replied...
Jun. 13, 2011 at 12:53 pm
Don't forget Simon and Garfunkel, Donavan and Styx!
Jun. 13, 2011 at 7:37 pm
Yes, don't forget them either!!! You can't even list them all!!!!
introducingshelby replied...
Jun. 22, 2011 at 10:14 am
Don't forget Blondie and The Cure  c:
Jun. 28, 2011 at 6:30 pm
Yes!!! you can't forget Blondie and The Cure either. Blondie had some awesome hits like "Call Me", "Heart Of Glass", and "Tide Is High". Anyone who dissagrees with this article should look them up and give it a try!!!! :)
introducingshelby replied...
Jun. 29, 2011 at 2:55 pm

Heart of Glass is my favorite.

You've got good taste c:

Jun. 29, 2011 at 6:38 pm
Why thank you! If "Heart Of Glass" is your favorite, then you've got great taste too!!!
Akane-Ree replied...
Nov. 23, 2011 at 9:45 am
O_O till teusday. Aimee Mann. I LOVE AIMEE MANN! SHE'S SUCH A GOOD SINGER!
Jun. 5, 2011 at 11:05 am
I believe whoever wrote this must be my twin!!! This is EXACTLY how I've always felt about recent music! I am a total Journey (with Steve Perry) fan because the music they write comes from the heart and is sung from the soul. Long live classic rock and roll!!!
mirosoft said...
Jun. 4, 2011 at 3:51 pm
ok i will my name is emily.plz reply
moonlightdances said...
Jun. 3, 2011 at 6:40 pm
I prefer country music because the song lyrics are real and usually true
microsoft replied...
Jun. 5, 2011 at 4:43 pm
yea ur right country music i9z mostly true
clitstomper34 said...
Jun. 3, 2011 at 1:22 am
i like when you said anything unique is considered wierd....people dont know how to appreciate anything these days, everyone is blind .....hail Svarti!
Spencer said...
May 31, 2011 at 11:21 pm
I disagree with this article. Its not the fact that i dont like old music. i just much prefer to listen to rap and hip hop. Its not that the music of today is no longer music. it has evoled into something different than it once one. During the time that oldies were being made, there were many people who felt that those were not real music, and yet we sit here today acting the same way.
TLB2011 replied...
Jun. 1, 2011 at 10:11 pm
Finally, someone intelligent and unbiased
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