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 291 comments. Post your own now!

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
C.CRoxMehLifeee:) replied...
Jun. 3, 2011 at 6:59 pm
I also agree with this post, sure u do never know wut u might find, something old with a catchy beat...why not? but i particularly like the genre of music these days..most  of them are fun, upbeat, and catchy rhythems. just dont limit yourself to JUST that. still, u gotta try new things sometime!
Jun. 5, 2011 at 11:17 am
I think that if you REALLY tried listening to older music, you would find that it is amazing and see how paper-thin today's music is. I'm not telling you that some of today's music isn't good, but there's a lot of it that really isn't from someone's heart. Just try it. Please! I think you's love Duran Duran and Journey!!!
C.CRoxMehLifeee:) replied...
Jun. 8, 2011 at 3:58 pm
Very True :)
skoppy355 replied...
Jun. 22, 2011 at 10:10 am
i agree with u spencer!
xEmmiiix said...
May 31, 2011 at 7:10 pm
i hate how everyones always making fun of me for listening to rock and metal because its not wht they listen to. i h8 that. It annoys me when they make fun of me for listining tto rock and metal and its like ur listining to songs about sex drugs and self destruction and im listining to songs tht are saying be yourself, find ur personal strength, ur not alone, u can always make it through the toughest battles. So i get made fun for listining to music with a positive annoying.
BeatleMania16 said...
May 31, 2011 at 5:21 pm
i CANNOT tell you how much i agree!! i'm in seventh grade and i love stevie wonder, the beatles, queen, beethoven, bach, ravel, faure....etc. and yet i encounter tons of people who revere the latest rihanna hit (honestly, i cannot stand that woman's music.....). the music most people listen to today is just so vapid of actual feeling or emotion. it ruins the entire idea of "new pop"...of course, like you said, not all pop is evil. just listen to the beatles...!
GummyBears123 replied...
May 31, 2011 at 6:31 pm
OMG! I know right! I have like three or four posts way down at the bottom and I completely agree with you more than anything. My posts are just like yours. Check them out!!! :)
kpell said...
May 30, 2011 at 12:10 am
I agree with this so much! I don't particularly like listening to the radio at all because what they play (I'm pretty sure Kiss FM has nonstop stream of rap and pop). I occasionaly catch a Mumford & Sons, MGMT, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, Adele, or Matt Nathenson but that's about it. The reason I don't listen to most of it is becaues it's shallow. I know this isn't for everyone but I like what I listen to to have deeper meanings & I usually don't take a song as surface value. I li... (more »)
Marxy said...
May 27, 2011 at 9:02 pm
OK, I'm sorry I don't have such a deep appreciation of independent music, but as you said in your article music is made to appeal to a broad audience, I don't particularly like rap music but I am a closet pop fan, music is of coarse made to target specific audiences. However it is not fair to generalize today's popular music as it is still extremely varied, saying pop and rap are the only forms of appreciated music would not be looking deep into the twisted world of pop culture. For example on y... (more »)
Christina said...
May 27, 2011 at 1:19 pm
Totally agree.
musicismylife215 said...
May 27, 2011 at 12:19 pm
dont get all upset now i have the right to what i think and if you don tlike it then dont say anything. i love music but truly someone it i do live with out but there is not a good radio station that plays good rock and other types of music. theres 2 for pop and 1 for rap. the rest is oldies(which i like). or jazz which puts me to sleep. so if you understand that i dont have much of a chose then you wouldnt get to upset.
musicismylife215 said...
May 25, 2011 at 2:13 pm
First off i would like to say thank you bc you have said the truth. I am one of those kids that loves the rap and pop and all that stuff but i listen to good music to old and new.Most rap is cuss word after cuss word and putting woman down. I love listning to my parents old cds and music. Its real it talks about how they feel and what they want to show to everyone its thier way of expressing them selves
Allis345 replied...
May 26, 2011 at 11:29 pm
Why is everyone so ready to put down rap, and pop because its popular. Sure SOME artist put down people in there music but so does almost every other genre out there. So lets not point fingers. Also as a consumer you control what stays and what goes if you dont like it dont listen or buy it and hope that it fades away, seeing how America is a supply and demand economy.
Kayla1115 replied...
May 27, 2011 at 4:43 pm
First of all she's not pointing out fingers.  She is simply explaining in her own detail of how pop and rap and other genres have completely change!  She's right, though and at the same time keeping it real for the viewers reading this.
C.CRoxMehLifeeee:) replied...
Jun. 3, 2011 at 7:02 pm
first of all, i dont think all of them are putting woman down. sure, some of those rappers out there are just in it for the money, dont really have any talent at all, and just dont care. but still, most raps and hip hop songs are very catchy and upbeat (which i like about them). but that doesnt necessarily mean i am a bad person, who just likes to cuss and party..(like jersey shore for instance XD). but in the all depends on a persons taste :)
Unity said...
May 22, 2011 at 11:50 am
Punk is where its at! you can find some of the most raw, real, emotional music in real punk music. I'm not talking about screamo or death metal or anything, like oldschool punk. Its just people expressing themselves however they want to and not caring about what anyone else thinks, that music has heart. Listen to 'Scream' by Black Flag for a good example of really emotional and not mainstream hardcore punk. Its good stuff.
Name. replied...
May 23, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Your saying all the new music is bad, wells its not all about what you guys think. You may not like it but other people think a diff.

I like the age of the songs.

microsoft replied...
Jun. 5, 2011 at 4:47 pm
me to cause  they might even be the date when u were borin i was boring at; 7 1103
TLB2011 said...
May 22, 2011 at 9:15 am
This article is completely bias. Rock fans are just bitter that rock no longer rules the industry. It would one thying if you were talking about all mainstream music but to just target pop and rap and glorify is totaly unfair. First of all, not every song has to have some deep emotional meaning. Music ids a form of enteratinment, so it is perfectly okay for a song to be just that. The person whomwrote this article has obviously never heard rap song: Empire State of Mind, Words I Never Said,... (more »)
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