Keeping Music Real | Teen Ink

Keeping Music Real MAG

By Abby Holtzman, Newton, MA

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.

Similar Articles


This article has 291 comments.

on Jul. 5 2010 at 6:20 pm
alaskatrailmutt, Jefferson, Maryland
0 articles 0 photos 352 comments
In a way I agree with all of you. But in a way I don't. I listen to the radio (other wise I would be like Lady who?) but you guys are taking it somewhat literaly, this is not music. Music is how people feel about things in their life. Yes Ke$ha gets some what anoying thats not the point. I think she is trying to get people to have fun. She wrote the song "tic tock" to exspress this. Yes she added stuff that wasn't needed but dosn't everyone? Also the only way you know about the bad stuff in media is because you make the dessision to read it.Some of it is false also. I am personally a rock a fan but still most people listen to what they relate to.If 95% of people relate to pop hey at least their being themselfs. The girls at your camp sound like self centerd jerks mostly.I went to camp and the same happens to me. I liked more importintly (why we come here) the way you wrote the artical. The personal experince you gave helped your view.Wish you didn't bash on "Girlfriend" though.i love Avril she rocks!She did get affected by media though big time.  :( sad. I liked the old her and songs kie"sk8r boi".Anyway thats just me.I liked how you touched the issue.You said what deffinatly needed to be said.Good job.

on Jul. 5 2010 at 5:41 pm
HAWKEYESTATE4ever, Clive, Iowa
0 articles 0 photos 9 comments

Favorite Quote:
"We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give." -William Shakespeare

The problem with today's music is that most things you can hear on the radio you can sit down with a guitar and play it immediately. The notes are repetitive and have no thought in them.

We-R-3 BRONZE said...
on Jun. 13 2010 at 11:04 pm
We-R-3 BRONZE, Orlando, Florida
1 article 0 photos 344 comments

Favorite Quote:
A picture is worth a thousand words, however it takes a real artist to turn words into pictures.

Have you heard about the new Lebron Iphone, you have to set it on vibrate because it doesn't have any rings

I see how music is the way it is, however if you listen to it enough the beat is pretty great it is still usic it is just different from what our moral ethics are, this is not good and although I do listen to it it frustrates me how much they say. I mean Lady GaGa goes out and tells people not to have sex but every single one of songs has Guess whatt... sex why does music have to be so hippocritical. It is sorta the same in England, some of the music is just as bad as here but there pop is a lot cleaner than ours and even when a sexual concept comes up it is very subtle and not outright disgusting, I listen to Muse and Radiohead and they are awesome, a lot of there songs are popular here, the don't lace there songs with drugs and crime and alcohol or sex. There are even christian rappers, that unlike Toby mac actually sound like real rap (Lecrae, Trip Lee). I also agree with jjjjjjjjjjjjayyy that this person is only seeing this from her own POV. My point of veiw varies because I will listen to anything from classical to metal (excluding country) I hate country music. But yeah what she is saying is true, and frankly WE decide what is popular WE can change pop music, WE can choose to keep awesome rhythms and beats and give up the meaningless foul words. us the teens that decide what is hot and whats not, the ones that beer and alcohol companies pay billions to advertise to us in music. US  

on Jun. 13 2010 at 4:20 pm
Artst123 SILVER, Burlington, Massachusetts
5 articles 3 photos 60 comments

Favorite Quote:
When life gives you lemons, throw them back and tell life to make its own lemonade.
When life gives you melons, you know something is wrong

"I write to create
In the world’s massive novel
A page of my own"

-By Emily M., NW Washington, DC

Yeah, like half her songs are all about getting drunk. it's so bad

on Jun. 13 2010 at 10:12 am
ReadingFanatic SILVER, St. Louis, Missouri
6 articles 0 photos 14 comments

Favorite Quote:
“Nobody important? Blimey, that’s amazing. Do you know, in nine hundred years of time and space I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t important before.”

Pearls Before Swine Rocks!

And in the majority, Ke$ha stinks!

on Jun. 13 2010 at 10:10 am
ReadingFanatic SILVER, St. Louis, Missouri
6 articles 0 photos 14 comments

Favorite Quote:
“Nobody important? Blimey, that’s amazing. Do you know, in nine hundred years of time and space I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t important before.”

I used to be one of those teens. Sucked in a world where  only the "good" songs were the top forty. I would hardly try new songs. But then, my friend got me a CD with different music.  I started listening to unknown, good music, and I liked it a lot better. For example: Last year: I only liked one or two songs at my friends recital

This year: I liked every song, and thought it was enjoyable.

Now the friend who showed me that all music is good, is becoming one of those that only like the top 40 and refuse to listen to hearly anything else


on Jun. 9 2010 at 10:45 am
There isn't such thing as BAD music though.

on Jun. 4 2010 at 5:45 pm
thisisascreenname BRONZE, Sugarloaf, California
4 articles 0 photos 32 comments
Well, it is a point of view essay, so she is free to express her opinion, just as you have expressed yours. If she thinks the music is bad, and wants to write an essay about it, then that is her choice.

on May. 22 2010 at 5:12 pm
JaguaariLilly BRONZE, Santa Rosa, California
1 article 1 photo 12 comments

Favorite Quote:
“Somehow we survive; we don’t even try - we don’t like who we are; but we pretend anyway. Because we’re human as such… we long for someone to touch, a little death to escape, a shallow grave with a face.” - "Anyone" by Moving Units

prime example of this: ke$ha. god, shes so annoying.  her music sucks, and has nothing to offer. yet, people love "tic tok" which is terrible.  she reminds me of rat from the comic strip "pearls before swine".  both are obssessed with beer =P

on May. 22 2010 at 1:57 pm
lildutchgurl BRONZE, Hillsborough, California
3 articles 2 photos 58 comments
YES! I love 80's music, because its just so much more emotion-filled and each piece is so unique, and I do think we need to get away from money and image. There are a few really good modern bands though, like MGMT. Its also good to have balance in the music you listen to, and some rap and pop is nice to listen to.

Emphy SILVER said...
on May. 22 2010 at 1:53 pm
Emphy SILVER, Dublin, Ohio
7 articles 1 photo 4 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land amongst stars." ~Brian Littrell
"You laugh at me because I'm different, I laugh at you because you're all the same."~ Jonathan Davis

I agree with you, but even though some songs are quite... interesting, there can be good songs by the same artist.  I don't normally listen to rap, but if I like the song, I'll listen to it.

on May. 22 2010 at 1:36 pm
whispersofthenight GOLD, Tallahassee, Florida
10 articles 2 photos 35 comments

Favorite Quote:
I am an artist; I paint with words.

I totally agree with you! I really wish people would start making better music... Of course there's good pop and rap, but a lot of it is just trash, in my opinion. 

on May. 22 2010 at 9:17 am
Authorgal98 GOLD, Frankort, Illinois
17 articles 0 photos 195 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Let your mind sart a journey through a strange new world..."

Finally, someone has some sense! Thank you for this article, it's exactly how I feel. By the way, we don't listen to people sing, we listen to computers. Ever heard Lady GaGa live?

lalalalalala said...
on May. 22 2010 at 6:53 am
Nice. But why try to sway views? It's a free country. I'm a big fan of alternative music like Ani DiFranco myself, but I also like 'BedRock' by Young Money. I'm pretty diverse. Okay article. I agree with how all rap is now is about pretty girls, money, and self image. 

ZombieL said...
on May. 12 2010 at 1:45 pm
I absolutely agree with your points. I haven't been able to stand "popular" music for years because of how it's evolved to hollow lyrics all about money, sex and fame. Underground music all the way!

Growlithe said...
on May. 11 2010 at 8:51 pm
I agree, dont write a damn page about how crappy someone elses music taste is, when yours probably isn't much better in someone elses eyes. Music is Music. Don't critique it

jjjjayyy said...
on May. 11 2010 at 8:48 pm
I'm sorry about the last comment. My cousin posted it -______- anyways, I disagree with the part where she looks down on Rap/Pop. Don't get me wrong, I am not a big fan of either genre. More than likely you'd catch me listening to bands like Necrophagist or artist that half the people on this discussion boad havent even heard of. anyways, I disagree because that isn't ALL artist write about. If you look into some artists today like Kid Cudi, for example, sing about deeper topics than sex and money. Like in his song Soundtrack 2 My Life, he talks about how his fathers death was very hard for him. That's just one example, but my point is, you should generalize/judge any genre. There are people out there who can make a connection to those songs, even if it is about a subject involving contrabands, listeners CAN connect with the lyrics. I honestly dislike this article for a multitude of reasons. I see her point, and to a certain extent I agree, but I don't think she is seeing this from any perspective other than her own. I could go on for days, however I understand that little Lincoln Park and Maroon 5 yuppies will be all over me disagreeing if I continue. Just to shorten it: Not all people connect to musical the same as you. Don't judge their music taste, because if they like it, or connect with it; then why hate on it? people probably dislike your music taste as well, but you don't see them writing essays about it.

Saltyeyes said...
on May. 11 2010 at 8:32 pm
Shawn Harris is God.

on Apr. 30 2010 at 8:24 pm
thisisascreenname BRONZE, Sugarloaf, California
4 articles 0 photos 32 comments
FINALY! someone who actually cares about the song not the barbie that performs it! not saying all pop is bad, there are some good songs... but the artists really need to get over themselves! i write music and i really loved this post! keep writing!

IKINE said...
on Apr. 30 2010 at 6:02 pm
you too? Cool~!!~I saw Yes in concert...great but steve howe is getting old...