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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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 »)

4444j4444s replied...
May 9, 2011 at 1:42 pm

you know, maybe that's why my favorite symphonic metal artists are european...

your point about the past not being better is right. in former communist countries the old folk like to talk about "the good old days" under communism. the ones with sense tell those that will listen that people just don't remember what it was like. same case here.

free_bird21 said...
May 9, 2011 at 9:08 am
this article speaks out justfully towards the future trainwreck wannabes of the music industry nowadays. i like it, and i'm glad it's out there for the world to see, i myself prefer classic rock rather than lady gaga, who's not that original anyway, and even classical music from the 1700's! this article reflects smart, wise, and independent thinking, and i'm glad this defies popular opinion and stands out from the crowd.  or THAT crowd, meaning pop and rap, rather than the teenink... (more »)
DylanBaugher said...
May 5, 2011 at 3:10 pm
its a sad sight seeing music being murdered by "muscicians" like Lady Gago and Justin Bieber. When didnt people stop demanding high quilty musc? when did we stop wonting our songs to teach us something, to make a point and send a message. is this  "the day music died"?
The_Pen_is_Mightier said...
Apr. 17, 2011 at 8:40 pm
I applaud your beautifully written ode to my pet peeves.
Zaria said...
Apr. 17, 2011 at 2:10 pm
I love this article. People think someone is unique because they wear extravagant outfits like lady gaga and they ignore the fact that you've heard the exact same lyrics and music, just arranged differently. I haven't really listened to my parents music because I like more modern  music, but I listen to bands that write their own songs and realize that it actually means something. We can listen to the same stuff or we can get an entirely new song every time on an album. How about we try lis... (more »)
WindDancer replied...
Apr. 17, 2011 at 3:28 pm

So true! And it's annoying when people call you close-minded or something for liking Lady Gaga- it's simply because I dislike her stye of music and her lyrics. Just because something has a loud and catchy beat does not mean I'm going to ignore the degrading or shallow lyrics.

I like this article as well.

dorcha-aingeal said...
Apr. 17, 2011 at 10:48 am
I agree. i i did an article for my school on this subject. Thank you for spreding this important message. I love your work.
ladybug95 said...
Apr. 17, 2011 at 10:00 am
Amen to that. The other week i went through all of my parents old CDs.  the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, Tracy Chapmen, James Taylor just to name a few. That music doesnt even compare to the music of today
Critic_Everything said...
Apr. 17, 2011 at 8:34 am
I agree! Music is not judged by talent anymore... The voice does not partake in the reviews - it is now replaced by souless computers...
lingbing6 said...
Apr. 4, 2011 at 7:10 pm
I agree completly 100 percent people have taken something that requiers imagineation and turned it into every other word being a swear
writtenfire14 said...
Mar. 26, 2011 at 10:26 pm

I don't completely agree with this...

i do agree with the fact that today's music industry is focused way too much on images people have and gossip. I do not, however, think that this is teaching kids, teenagers, well, just listeners in general that what the outside is important. people learn nothing from pop music, or really most music. Music is just something to listen to.

Zaria replied...
Apr. 17, 2011 at 2:13 pm
Some people actually absorb the music and it affects their emotions and their morals etc. music isn't just something to listen to. the more you hear it the more it is engraved in your mind and you character
writtenfire14 replied...
Apr. 17, 2011 at 2:24 pm no one is going to go be automatically angry just because they listen to some angry-sounding music. i'm not going to deny that some people's characters seem to reflect their characters, but they choose to listen to the music after their personality becomes like that.

and just to clarify: i didn't mean that music means nothing. i just mean that no one attempts to learn anything from music, therefore they don't.

Zaria replied...
Apr. 17, 2011 at 3:09 pm
there was a science study done where rats listened to angry songs or classical songs for 24 hours to see how it affects them. They couldn't finsh the experiment because the rats listening to angry music ended up killing each other before they could
WindDancer replied...
Apr. 17, 2011 at 3:30 pm

I definitely think people learn from music. We learn to empathize. When someone is sad and sings a song about it, we can then understand their pain.

Throughout all of history, music of many forms has played a major part in society. It's pretty obvious by now that music does have SERIOUS worth.

smith said...
Mar. 26, 2011 at 9:20 pm
this was magnificent and i totally agree with you. children are not focusing on good music that can teach you something in the real world. their got carry away with popularities and rap music. i love listening to oldies and soft music and i can relate to that. 
soccer_star4GOD said...
Mar. 26, 2011 at 5:17 pm

I totally agree! If anyone is interested in some good, wholesome music, check out tobyMac if you like hip hop/rock, Skillet is you like rock, jason castro, casting crowns, and mandisa. :)

keep on writing! :D

jacobmhkim said...
Mar. 26, 2011 at 1:53 pm
It's true that music these days usually are terrible but you have this false notion that pop music has been like this only recently. Every since the 60's popular music has been more about image and money than the music itself. My problem with popular music is that usually they have no real emotion in it. An artist ceases to be an artist when the songs are deprived of emotion and thoughts.
ilovewriting95 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 26, 2011 at 11:16 am
Great job, that was very well written and you made many good points. I completely agree with your article about how music has changed. Thanks for sharing your view on this topic, more people should read this. :)
Barbara Reelmuziq said...
Mar. 18, 2011 at 10:25 am

I manage a hip hop artist who fits into the positive music category.  His name is Christian Bindah and this guy has some true talent he specializes in "Music with a Message" He has the courage to bring a positive message with his music.
About the artists who are signed you are exactly right they are molded into what the industry wants them to be.  Christian has been told to change his style because he was told by labels he was "too deep to be signed" WHAT??  They actually... (more »)

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