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 Jan. 10 2010 at 7:23 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

ya totally! i listen to some1

do you know utada? or winds? or big bang? :)

on Jan. 10 2010 at 3:31 pm
acousticalex BRONZE, Garland, Texas
4 articles 0 photos 41 comments

Favorite Quote:
"To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist. That is all." Oscar Wilde

And that's fine.

on Jan. 10 2010 at 3:30 pm
acousticalex BRONZE, Garland, Texas
4 articles 0 photos 41 comments

Favorite Quote:
"To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist. That is all." Oscar Wilde

*sigh* The problem with modern pop music isn't that it's about sex , drugs, and run-ins with the cops; these are all real-life situations that have had "real" songs written about them in the past, and, in my opinion, make for great inspiration. The problem is that the top artists preach superficiality and Level One thinking, if not the advertising of the cliche. Top 40 music is, for the most part, watered-down garbage, and it doesn't matter who wrote it. If Taylor Swift wrote garbage and it goes on the radio, it's still garbage. It's that the music with the most substance cannot be enjoyed by the average person. Avril Lavigne lyrics make sense to so many young girls because they're written to be handled easily by the intellectual capacity of young girls. Something more profound like Neutral Milk Hotel flies far above the head of the average listener, and thus is confined to the ears of the more mentally ambitious. The average person just wants something to dance to and do other inane things to.

Pearce said...
on Jan. 10 2010 at 1:29 am
Pearce, Corpus Christi, Texas
0 articles 0 photos 2 comments
I listen to Japanese? Do I count?

Stina said...
on Dec. 19 2009 at 7:40 am
Brilliant! Know exactly what you are saying because I am a muscian myself studying in a classical music school. I am not saying all teenagers should start listening to classical music, but it really is amazing! I used to listen to pop and rock music when I was 13... but now classical music has opened up another totally unparalleled world for me :) But I think people should simply listen to the music that brings them joy, not because the music is popular or gives them a certain image. Music is on earth to be enjoyed! And some music really can give you goosebumps... in a good way.

on Nov. 27 2009 at 6:39 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

anyone listen to korean pop? 2pm 2pm 2pm!!! best everrrr!! i want jay back :) 2ne1 big bang! ANYONE? :) reply because i think that i may be the only one who does hmmm anyone? :P

on Nov. 27 2009 at 4:17 pm
Miss_Bliss GOLD, Waban, Massachusetts
17 articles 0 photos 31 comments

Favorite Quote:
"If we did all the things we were capable of, we would literally astound ourselves."

-Thomas Edison

Now I'm curious--what do you listen to? I'd love to hear what you think good music is (anyone who thinks like that about mainstream music probably has good taste in music).

on Nov. 27 2009 at 4:14 pm
Miss_Bliss GOLD, Waban, Massachusetts
17 articles 0 photos 31 comments

Favorite Quote:
"If we did all the things we were capable of, we would literally astound ourselves."

-Thomas Edison

Right on! Though some mainstream music is okay, I REALLLLLY don't like the majority of it... May classic rock live forever!

on Nov. 5 2009 at 7:32 pm
Annabelle7614, Nunyabusiness, Georgia
0 articles 0 photos 98 comments

Favorite Quote:
This is my favorite personal quote.

I agree that current music is very degrading to women and minorities, and some african american rappers seem to have something against white people. I do hate when people stereotype rap music though, because not all rap has cuss words and is degrading. There are very good songs that have clean versions, so there is really no reason to freak out. If you like a good beat and don't like swearing, listen to the clean versions.

on Nov. 5 2009 at 4:56 pm
PearlX PLATINUM, Ypsilanti, Michigan
25 articles 20 photos 18 comments
THANK YOU! I agree completely 100%. Whatever happened to music that comes from your heart? Now, it's really all about what the media & record labels tell you to do.

jmc.13 said...
on Nov. 5 2009 at 1:25 pm
jmc.13, Dobbs Ferry, New York
0 articles 0 photos 58 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I'd rather regret what I did than what I didn't do."

Yes, I agree also. Not only does pretty much all pop and most rap just plain suck, but there is just such good music out there to be enjoying. I am the only one out of all my friends that listens to music I enjoy. People will admit they hate the music they listen to, but they won't change. Because everyone else is listening to it, thats what they hear at parties, so it's what everyone listens to.

on Nov. 5 2009 at 11:56 am
Impractically.Yours SILVER, Pasadena, California
8 articles 0 photos 16 comments

Favorite Quote:
The unspoken word doth no harm.

I agree completely and think that big problems come by with people such as Chris Brown, Enimen (Not too sure is that is spelled correctly), The Pussycat Dolls, Jay-Z, Britney Spears, and Katy Perry, not only do I absolutely detest those types of artist, but I say that if you refuse to buy their music, you will then make them switch to popular demand which COULD be appropriate, meaningful songs. Most people like songs for their beats and ease to sing along with, but they don't bother listening to the lyrics to understand what the song is really about.

This is a very real, true, and wonderful article, I applaud the author for writing this piece. Thank you for your part in keeping music real.

on Nov. 3 2009 at 8:39 pm
sheeroxs BRONZE, Ny, New York
3 articles 90 photos 10 comments
hear hear! couldn't be more true! i for one used to listen to mainstream songs alot, then i moved on to broadway and oldies, and there is such a difference! now when i turn on z100 i cant stand it.... it makes my ears ring

Bear1231 said...
on Oct. 14 2009 at 9:27 pm
I completely agree. I listen to metal (e.g. Metallica), rock (e.g. Guns 'N' Roses), and quite a few others. I know there are good rap songs. Like the Run DMC version of Walk This Way. But now most rap is just said by people who are said to be cool, but really they are just putting out a bad image of what they truly are. I know people will always disagree with what I say but none-the-less this is exactly what I think. I listened to my dad's music and I've never known better.

beanzalib said...
on Oct. 14 2009 at 7:36 pm
I totally agree. I was looking through my mom's old cd collection once when i was bored and i found jewel. i was curious, so i broowed (stole) my sisters cd/dvd player, started listening and loved it. I also like country for the same resoin, the song are good. Some one once told me, all country music is about the same thing, so i told her pop is about the same thing, but- all to the same beat. She had to agree.

pk456 said...
on Oct. 14 2009 at 12:01 pm
that is soo true

pk456 said...
on Oct. 14 2009 at 11:58 am
i agree, i dnt like rap that much ether but anything else i like

on Oct. 14 2009 at 9:47 am
SickImage SILVER, Klamath Falls, Oregon
9 articles 1 photo 74 comments

Favorite Quote:
The room was very quiet. I walked over to the TV set and turned it onto a dead channel-white noise at maximum decibels, a fine sound for sleeping, a powerful continuous hiss to drown out everything strange."

I love this. I completly agree with you. I haven't listened to the radio (by choice) in years. Tell me what kind of music you like! or artists. I know some you would probably be interested in :]

on Oct. 11 2009 at 4:54 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

I totally agree with you. Most of rap,pop, and hip-hop is very explicit, sexual , and encourages drugs or violence. I am not saying there aren't any good artists out there, just what's popular now are songs that, as the author said, have now shell. The same with punk/hard rock. There not all depressing, talking about killing themselves or send teens into violent fits of rage and riots. Artists like Flyleaf, Fireflight, Underoath, and so many more are singing songs with meaning, real meanings. Explore music, but pay serious attention to the lyrics

on Sep. 22 2009 at 8:16 pm
wordweaver96 PLATINUM, Winchester, Kentucky
37 articles 2 photos 255 comments

Favorite Quote:
" It is not our abilities but our choices that show who we truly are. "
Albus Dumbledore

See, we really DON'T have anything to fear but fear itself!

no offense to anyone, but i hate rap.