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!

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 »)
Kaila.Dar2 replied...
May 22, 2011 at 5:06 pm
oops Ke$ha
TLB2011 replied...
May 22, 2011 at 8:42 pm
That is just one example. You can't generalize all pop music because of her.
MissLoveaboo replied...
May 23, 2011 at 4:44 pm
Actually it was two examples, I believe I mentioned Rebecca Black, who has her lyrics written for her. WHeres the originality in that?
TLB2011 replied...
May 23, 2011 at 10:04 pm

People do not even like her. The reason "friday" had so many views is because people wanted laugh at it. If you look on youtube you will that about 95% of viewers dislike it.


MissLoveaboo replied...
May 24, 2011 at 9:03 pm
It doesn't matter she is still modern music, and she is considered pop which stands for popular.
TLB2011 replied...
May 25, 2011 at 12:16 pm
You are a bias idiot. You are the perfect example of what is wrong with this article and all who like it. All of think that somebody who doesnt agree with you is stupid (I know what pop stands for). Als, though pop technically stands for popular it does not necassarily make every artist and/or song popular with public, such as Rebecca Black. Furthermore, your comment makes no sense. How can you judge pop music based on someone people do not like. Finally, every artist we listen to today whe... (more »)
Nope.avi replied...
May 27, 2011 at 7:48 am

I think you meant to say"biased." Grammar is important when you are pointing out someone's flaws

Also, I have a feeling that if rock were still popular instead of pop and rap, you'd change your tune (no pun intended).

Dancingjuice replied...
May 31, 2011 at 12:37 pm
Well if you're going to criticize someone about grammar , forgot to put a period on the end of one of your sentences.Don't try to correct someone and, you don't know either.
C.CRoxMehLifeeee:) replied...
Jun. 3, 2011 at 7:05 pm

lets not point fingers people...


this isnt English class...


stay on the topic at hand...

skoppy355 replied...
Jun. 22, 2011 at 10:19 am
MissLoveaboo I'm sorry but you are extremely biased.  You can't, as TLB2011 said, generalize pop music based on Ke$ha (who actually has some meaningful songs if you listen to the ones that aren't on the radio) and Rebecca Black.  It's not fair to talented artists like Kelly Clarkson and Lady GaGa (yes people, she is talented) for people to automatically assume that they have no talent simply because their music falls under the same category based on technicalities.
beatlegirl101 replied...
Jun. 25, 2011 at 2:51 pm
"Rock fans are just bitter rock no longer rules the industry." Um, no. I am a huge rock fan, but I do not resent ALL modern music. Yes, I tend to listen to classic rock more, but just because I listen to "Hey Jude" doesn't mean I despise "E.T". I  like Katy Perry, I like Taylor Swift, I like Carrie Underwood, I like Shakira, I like Selena Gomez. Have I proved your statement wrong now?
Avrice said...
May 20, 2011 at 6:00 pm
Well I'm a fan of avril Lavigne not because of her music but because of her life. So the only blemish on her record in a divorce. I love her music. If you listned to some of them you'd probobly like it. unless your a metal head. Whic is okl too. I like a little metallica sometimes. But people like diffrent music so. It shouldn't matter
lioncat88 said...
May 18, 2011 at 6:00 pm
YES!!! This is what I keep thinking everytime I hear rap music. I don't listen to it and I never will, but it's annoying to hear. Anyone can rap, and its not like you have to have any special talent to do so. And you're absolutely right, its not about showing emotion in the songs anymore, its about fame and money. Justin Bieber, for example. Not ONCE have I heard a song of his on the pop music channel (which I have recently stopped listening to in favor of the Today's Country channel) or on the ... (more »)
C.CRoxMehLifeeeee:) replied...
Jun. 3, 2011 at 7:09 pm
im not anyone to tell u what to do, but (Green Day's "Boulevard Of Broken Dreams" for example,) you cant judge a song by what it says. you said u listened to the song and liked it, but when they said a bad word, u stopped listening to it. sure it might not be the careful full-hearted country songs that some people like, but just cuz u hear it, doesnt mean u have to say it or follow it.
rockmusic said...
May 18, 2011 at 5:46 pm
i kno the same feeling see i listen to hard rock but every1 else listen to pop or rap and they critize me because of that and i HATE it thanks for posting this article i kno how u feel
cowcrazy said...
May 18, 2011 at 5:14 pm
This is great! This is exactly how I feel music today is. I'm glad I'm not the only one who realizes we're all being brainwashed. Need an example: PRETTY GIRL ROCK! It's all about a girl who knows how 'hot' she is and she wants everyone to know that too.
Gabby J. said...
May 17, 2011 at 6:04 pm
Its like you read peoples minds! I literaly had this discousion with several of my friends yesterday! The music today is poisoning the world we live in. Even some kids take the good song and turn the uplifting lyrics in totaly inapropriate terms. I'm glad someone is going againts the flow! Congradulations!
GummyBears123 replied...
May 17, 2011 at 7:37 pm
I agree. Even the parodys of these songs can be worse that the song itself and it's just terrible!!! Somebody HELP! Save our music industry!!!
amtap said...
May 17, 2011 at 4:13 pm
Someone gets it
amtap said...
May 17, 2011 at 4:13 pm



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