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.

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This article has 291 comments.

on Apr. 30 2010 at 6:00 pm

Finally someone who appreciates good old fashioned music! Beatles, Floyd, Who, CSNY, In Asia, and Yes are where the real talent is, not like the crappieness in todays 'music' 




on Apr. 30 2010 at 5:34 pm
Gwenthegreat BRONZE, Fairfield, Connecticut
4 articles 1 photo 11 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Live like you will die tomorrow, and dream like you will live forever."

This article was really well written and you put what you felt out there without throwing mud at the other side. I listen to classical and Broadway music a lot, but I still enjoy hearing pop music every once in a while. There are some songs I just don't understand but they are still catchy in their own way (for example, tiK toK). I agree with you nearly 100%. 

on Apr. 30 2010 at 4:28 pm
DreamALittleDreamOfMe GOLD, Sea Cliff, New York
19 articles 11 photos 32 comments

Favorite Quote:
"HA!!!! wait, i don't get it...."

This is completely true. You did an amazing job stating the facts, and I just wanted to get it out there, NO SINGERS(only a select few) EVER MEAN WHAT THEY SING!!!! I know a fifth grader that writes like a pro, She has amazing talent in everything, and makes the entire thing herself. She is who should be the next big thing! Even I, The spaz who doesn't follow the crowd, sometimes think that when i write songs i should make it sound pop-Rap-ish. This girl, who is REALLY YOUNG, is my inspiration for  writing music. Abby, you do so much with this article. Please write more about music! 

Everhart said...
on Apr. 30 2010 at 8:36 am
Everhart, Boston, Massachusetts
0 articles 0 photos 29 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I am a fat girl, trapped in a normal girl's body."

*applause* Brilliant article. Brilliantly written, with brilliant points. Thank you for coming out and saying what others have been too afraid to! This is why I like Taylor Swift... While she is popular, she writes all of her songs and stays true to herself... We can only hope it stays this way.

on Apr. 8 2010 at 11:56 pm
AlexandraVasari PLATINUM, Fort Stewart, Georgia
28 articles 4 photos 174 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Writing songs is super intimate. It's a bit like getting naked"~ Gwen Stefani

This is really great I love how you say so much but do it so briefly you really get your message across. I love all kinds of different music so I'm glad you wrote this. Thanks and keep up the good work!

on Apr. 8 2010 at 6:08 pm
Thank you so much for writing this piece!!  It is good to know that there are others out there who think this "music" played nowadays is made just for money and not for expression and creation like it should!!  Thanks!

on Apr. 8 2010 at 4:08 pm
ChangedForever, WW, New Jersey
0 articles 0 photos 18 comments

Favorite Quote:
If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, you must be the one to write it.
-Toni Morrison

i definitely agree with you. i think it is ridiculous to play songs on the radio when they have to go through the the trouble of beeping half the chorus out anyway. great article, keep speaking out!

on Apr. 8 2010 at 6:30 am
S-Chique00 GOLD, Dundalk, Other
10 articles 0 photos 18 comments

Favorite Quote:
Rocky Balboa: You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't how hard you hit; it's about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done.

I think I have found a kindred spirit in this writer. Music, as I have proclaimed countless times, is a dish best served homemade, but the entire music industry has resorted to the cheap and easy 'ready-made' option. I myself am a fan of my parents' music tastes; they came from an era where music was a gift, and not another money-making scheme. I think we've resorted to a Dark Age in music, where talentless wannabes hog all the limelight due to their asthetic qualities, while genuinely talented artists remain unheard in their garages and bedrooms. I am curious; what are your personal preferences? I myself often feel alienated, as most of my friends like pop and r'n'b. I appreciate that one a rare occasion, rap does sometimes try to convey a positive message, but the majority of the time it is a mindless spiral of sex, drugs and derogatory views. Tween pop is no better. Thanks to the Disney movement, we have 'so-called' stars running around acting like they're God's gift to music, just because they starred in a Disney horror picture show. Disgraceful. I am persecuted because of what I listen to, but I'm never going to change, so I try not to let other people's views bother me.

on Mar. 17 2010 at 6:18 pm
FlyleafFreak DIAMOND, Loveland, Colorado
51 articles 0 photos 203 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I have faith in fools;self confidence my friends call it"~Edger Allan Poe
"In this world of infinite insanity, your friends are the best psychiatrists you will ever have."~Me

Considering the fact that this is an opinion piece, you've displayed your opinions very well. The way i look at how people like music is like how people like food. If you don't like the taste of one thing and someone else does, that's the end of it. You can't make them like the same tastes you do because it just doesn't appeal to them. I personally really like alternative rock, punk, what's called "emo," and some screamo. So music is music, tastes are tastes.

ClashFan said...
on Mar. 17 2010 at 2:33 pm
I could not agree with you more! It's frustrating to see what the music industry has become. I work really hard to broaden my listening horizons and not focus on one genre. I love alternative music and punk rock but I also adore jazz and reggae as well as classic rock. I think many people don't want to take the time to explore or step outside the box. My best friend will go on and on about how much she loves music and it's the greatest thing ever, but she only listens to pop and cannot even tell me what the lyrics to her favorite Lil Wayne song really mean. That is the most frustrating of all.

on Feb. 23 2010 at 5:20 pm
a$hELYx3 BRONZE, Brandon, Florida
4 articles 0 photos 5 comments

Favorite Quote:
Happiness is found along the way not at the end of the road.

Music is Music , No matter if old music is better. Music is LIFE . get over it -

whatIthink said...
on Feb. 23 2010 at 3:44 pm
I really agree. and you're right that the popular rap can put out bad stereotypes about blacks. One of my friends one mentioned that she "doesn't lie black music"- she corrected herself that it wasn't the people but the rap that she didnt like- but i didnt say anything because she wasn't talking to me and i didnt know what to say!

my favorites are Genesis and U2, that write (wrote) their own songs and were their own people.

on Feb. 13 2010 at 3:01 pm
Melonn PLATINUM, Phoniex, Arizona
25 articles 3 photos 27 comments

Favorite Quote:
change your life

Democracy... while it lasts is more bloody than either aristocracy or monarchy. Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide.
John Ada

ahh!!! i want JAY PARK BACK!

Kira said...
on Feb. 12 2010 at 8:33 pm
I'm white as white gets. And I definitely support Jae. <3 Love him!~

on Feb. 7 2010 at 4:59 pm
Melonn PLATINUM, Phoniex, Arizona
25 articles 3 photos 27 comments

Favorite Quote:
change your life

Democracy... while it lasts is more bloody than either aristocracy or monarchy. Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide.
John Ada

i kno it has nothing to do with it but its like music and the picture is of an asian (im not racist) lol are you korean? cuz i am like the only american i know that listens to kpop soo ya also do you supprt jay?

on Feb. 1 2010 at 4:48 pm
swim4ever SILVER, Carol Stream, Illinois
9 articles 0 photos 60 comments

Favorite Quote:
"you can throw in the towel or you can use it to wipe the sweat off your face"
"no one ever drown in their own sweat"

personally i think that you focused on all the bad things a bout pop and rap music when they are many good points i personally love the song live like were dying and it sends a message to live life to the fullest how can that be a bad message i lovve lots of generes of music 60s 60s 80s pop rap country and alternative all of those generes have some of the qualities you mentioned lots of 70s music has sex and drug refrence i think you made a generalization for great music. i would also like to know what you think is "good" music.

on Feb. 1 2010 at 3:19 pm
Maddiewrites13 GOLD, Wolfeboro, New Hampshire
12 articles 0 photos 6 comments
I agree. A lot of music I find offensive, to both men and woman. Same with many shows.

Kira said...
on Feb. 1 2010 at 2:01 pm
I listen to 2 PM. :D And I love them too, but I don't see what it has to do with the article

maddie(: said...
on Feb. 1 2010 at 10:09 am
I think that music is a powerful thing. If I didn't have music I don't have a clue what I'd do without it. Music is amazing. If we didn't have music, life would be horrible!!!

Pearce said...
on Jan. 18 2010 at 10:33 am
Pearce, Corpus Christi, Texas
0 articles 0 photos 2 comments
Simple and CLean for the world!