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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mars_xx said...
May 17, 2011 at 12:39 am
I completely agree with this.
GummyBears123 said...
May 15, 2011 at 11:17 pm

I know I keep posting comments, but I find this essay very inspirational. I just want to keep adding onto what I said last. I also think balance is okay with rap, but make sure to limit yourself to what you are exposing yourself to when you are hearing that kind of music on the radio.

Thanks! :)

GummyBears123 said...
May 15, 2011 at 1:44 pm
I am adding to my comment from before. I think this essay is very well-written and hopefully will turn out to be inspirational to put an end to the way music has changed into something horrible and unrecognizable.
GummyBears123 said...
May 14, 2011 at 10:37 pm
I agree completely. Rap is getting terrible with the language & theme. The artists really are ruining their lives with the kind of trouble they are getting into and what they are doing, and obviously thats what their songs are about. I think this should end. It is setting extremely bad examples for kids and teens.
ShaniceDoctor replied...
May 15, 2011 at 12:37 pm
I totally agree with you. In today's society the rappers and popmsingers have been very explisitit in the way they produce there music to their fabs my using inapropriate language. This is very unfortunate because teens are following these celebrities rude ways. This music industry has changed the way how people view celebrities and the true meaning of music. I truly hope that people will start to realize the meaninfg of music and the type of emotions expressed through music instead of the ... (more »)
BradyVOA said...
May 14, 2011 at 9:00 pm
I agree 112%. When will true artistry come back?
Aelita said...
May 14, 2011 at 11:51 am
In my opinion it's about balance.  It's okay to like some of that sort of music, but also to like other music that isn't like that.  If you want to see a music video that's actually really inspiring, watch Katy Perry's "Firework".  As for sensualtiy and cursing, I completely agreed.  I watched an episode of American Idol, recently with my mom, and we were shocked at how sensual the guest performers had gotten!  Especially Jordin Sparks, who really got an edge!  I st... (more »)
Carmel Curls said...
May 14, 2011 at 8:26 am
I thank you all for getting this horrible  new "its all about the money and power"music.MY older brotherlistens to this alot so every time my dad hears aswear word of degradeing music he takes my brthers iPod away. It kills  me to see young artists with a lot of potential to be wasteing it on dumb themes (in my opinion). I stil have all the classic artists on my iPod, such as Queen, The Beatles, Eagles, and more. I refuse to listen to the songs my brother likes on the radio... (more »)
CAPkid18 said...
May 14, 2011 at 7:17 am
Oh my god thank you! All everybody talks about these days is how the "artists" (as we atempt to call them) are so hot or their lastest arest and stuff like that. And then everyone looses the meaning of music. The only reason some people write these songs is for fame and fortune. Personally, I like songs and artists with messeges and good musical qualities like Paramore or Taylor Swift to name a few. Like IamtheStargirl I listen to my dad's ipod, and I couldn't beleive it! The songs actual... (more »)
ablackholeforabrain said...
May 12, 2011 at 4:44 pm
I find as though people only get itno the music biz to get fame not actually BE an artist. They say "Well i can just use auto tunes to make my voice sound better" they have someone else write a bad catchy song and BOOM! Theyre famous. There really isn't much of a thought process. Now I like some new music but very little.
starlight26 said...
May 10, 2011 at 4:06 pm
THANK!YOU!OH my goodness,what you just said is so true. I recently have switched to listening to the music that helps me to express mySelf in a positive way. I explored other genres like Paramore, and OneRepublic. Its so true how music is just not the same as it used to be. Now, its so hard to find a single decent Pop song with real meaning.Thanks for writing this :)
bieberrocks said...
May 10, 2011 at 1:07 pm
I disagree because All music is different. Every song that someone calls music, is music.
MusicalFreak00 replied...
May 15, 2011 at 11:07 am
I agree with all of you in a different way. I love the Beatles they are awesome. But everyone is different. Everyone expresses themselves in their own way. Whether it's sagging or having crazy hair, or wearing mismatched socks. You can't blame all the bad influences on the popstars or celebrities. Sometimes it comes from their friends, family, or their own parents! Everyone has their own way of being themselves.
Raleigh J. said...
May 9, 2011 at 4:44 pm

Please listen to my counter-agrument.

I disagree. Today's music is most definitely music. I believe that music goes through it's phases just as humans do, which you could find out through studying anthropology. :) Humans and their lifestyles change, and so does their music, in order to suit and reflect their society. (Maybe it's to say that the music and motive behind it isn't impure, so much as we are? That argument I could see eye to eye to.) Sure, some music does feed what th... (more »)

themo@music replied...
May 10, 2011 at 6:09 pm

I disagree completely!

Today's music is nothing

geekgrrl replied...
May 15, 2011 at 7:36 am
I agree with Raleigh. I know that there are a lot of "soulless artists" out there right now, and they do tend to be what people sway towards, but they are not all this terrible. You don't need to dig up your parents old albums to find good music, as you can "expand your horizons" just by flipping through music of the last five years. Saying that ALL new and popular music is could can be taken as a hipster-ish point of view,  though I'm sure you didn't mean for it to and I 100% understand yo... (more »)
KarmaHope said...
May 9, 2011 at 3:50 pm
Thank. You. You truly voiced my own opinions, only to a greater extent. I myself used to like the pop artists, including Lady Gaga and Ke$ha. However, Since then I have been introduced to the wonderful genre of punk-pop, such as the All- American Rejects and Boys Like Girls. They're much better. Thank you again. And again. And . . . do I need to go on?
manofpwn said...
May 9, 2011 at 2:13 pm

All I can say is THANK YOU. I think the same thing whenever I here any of these generics with there same bass and drum beat being blasted from the nearest speaker. My music teacher shares what I believe is the same view, and I must say I now agree with him 100%.

I myself listen to classic rock and video game music which, while repetitive, I find intresting, especially music from Zelda and Mother 3 (a Japanese only GBA game). If you ever get a chance, try to listen to a song from any of... (more »)

S-s-s-oph said...
May 9, 2011 at 1:42 pm
If there was a like button, I'd have pressed it. You have beautifully presented views that I whole-heartedly share and, judging from the many supportive comments prior to this one, a surprising amount of other people do too.
Pebbcat said...
May 9, 2011 at 12:59 pm

People always think that the past was a better time, and it stops them from seeing the good things that are happening now. There will ALWAYS be good music, it's wired into our brains to search for it. The beats and rhythms are a part of human nature older than language. Whether or not you like the TYPE of music popular now is irrelevant, listen to what you like and allow others to do the same.

I think music now has a much different focus than it has in the past. The current trend in mu... (more »)

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