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. 28 2015 at 8:08 am
AltheaRaine BRONZE, Fayette, Maine
2 articles 1 photo 10 comments

Favorite Quote:
Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.
-1st Corinthians 13:13

I LOVE THIS!! It's so true, and about time someone spoke up! Thank you!

on Nov. 14 2013 at 7:49 pm
afloridagirl PLATINUM, Port Orange, Florida
22 articles 0 photos 15 comments

Favorite Quote:
Maybe the Journey isn't so much about becoming anything but unbecoming everything that isn't really you

This is so true and that's why I can't find a good type of music to listen to. And the rap and stuff it seems that they're trying to see who can say the most cuse words in a song. It's just stupid if you ask me.

on Nov. 13 2013 at 12:53 pm
thats cool i also listen to rock and three days grace is awesome <3

fxckafag said...
on Aug. 13 2013 at 7:52 pm
well said!

jlsnchz BRONZE said...
on Jul. 5 2013 at 1:34 am
jlsnchz BRONZE, Cleveland, Tennessee
3 articles 0 photos 10 comments
Yes music has gotten dirtier, nastier. I always listen to lyrics on any song, and some do offend me. However music is not really something I relate too or connect with. It can make me feel more relaxed though. 

C.Tessa SILVER said...
on Jun. 13 2013 at 12:42 pm
C.Tessa SILVER, Los Angeles, California
9 articles 0 photos 22 comments

Favorite Quote:
Doubt whom you will, but never yourself.
Christian Nestell Bovee

2 Timothy 1:7

This is true. I remember before artists would sing songs that meant something now they care if there song is popular. There are only a few artists that still sing with a song that has meaning.

Niquel said...
on Jun. 13 2013 at 12:09 pm
Wow, this is a really great editorial. I agree entirely. I, personally, listen to rock music. I love the style, and a lot of the songs are about life and the lyrics mean something special to me. I agree, some rock bands are not that way such as Nickleback, or My Darkest Days--which focus on sex and drugs. But I adore song like Afterglow by Nine Lashes, and Last to Know by Three Days Grace. They mean something to me and they help me get through hard times. Thanks for an amazing editorial.

Metalforever said...
on Jun. 5 2013 at 10:50 pm
The world will be forever lost when it comes to music until they find metal and rock,true music with quality,substance and heart.

on Feb. 25 2013 at 6:58 pm
DifferentTeen PLATINUM, Seaford, Delaware
32 articles 2 photos 332 comments

Favorite Quote:
"There’s no such thing as true love, just spurts of insanity—falling over and over again, thinking that won’t happen to me"

I for one am in love with this article. I agree one-hundred percent, I feel this way about not only music but other trends people tend to fall into. With the recent song called "Thrift shop", sure it’s hilarious but it has no depth, no real meaning. Have artists really run out of meaningful things to produce good quality music about? It is rare for me to be emotionally attached to a song categorized as "pop" because I often find it not only degrading to myself as a woman, but also just plain stupid. There are a few nice ones that I like, and I do enjoy some real rap. Not the kind that talks about having a ton of money, or getting girls, or being “so hardcore”. I like the ones that show their struggle, how they managed to come up from the ashes and make themselves into something bigger and better than they were seemingly destined to be. But for the majority, I like rock, oldies, and alternative; things of that sort. Some of my favorite artists include Panic! At The Disco, Paper Lions, The Beatles, and The Carpenters. Great job on your article, you’re great at expressing your thoughts!

on Feb. 25 2013 at 6:10 pm
PirateCountry DIAMOND, Muncie, Indiana
91 articles 18 photos 330 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I don't know half of you half as well as I should like and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve."

I completely agree. Music is just not music anymore. It's used to gain popularity and money. But if people like us speak out, we may be able to changed that!

on Feb. 25 2013 at 11:56 am
EsmeFiaFranz GOLD, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
14 articles 5 photos 4 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Every life is story. Make yours a best seller"

I understand what you mean here, but I don't agree. Modern Rap today really has very little meaning and can therefore come across shallow. I used to listen to rap because when I was younger it was consider not mainstream and I loved it, but now all I hear is how this guy wants to have sex with these girls, getting high, drinking and being a "gangster". I'm sorry, but I don't see anything to decode. Rappers like Lil' Wayne don't rap about anything meaningful. But the reason is that his image is to be projected over the teenage society where alcohol, drugs, and sex are a big conterversal topic. Suposedly he is telling us to be  a rebel, not conform, but everything he states in his lyrics about how to rebel is basically telling us to conform. He radiates the image of a kid who grew up in the hood and loves his new wealth, power, attention, and all the things that have little meaning in life.

on Feb. 25 2013 at 11:44 am
EsmeFiaFranz GOLD, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
14 articles 5 photos 4 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Every life is story. Make yours a best seller"

I love this! You did an awesome job with this. I listen to what's considered "Modern Rock" or Punk because I'm sick of hearing the same 20 songs played all day without any true meaning. Our antenna in our car broke so we only get the Pop stations like Kiss Fm and 98.1 Wkdd(Akron's greatest hit's) when I was younger I felt like a lot of the music had meaning. That it wasn't just some girl repeating the same five lines with some techno attributes in the background. I will never fully understand why someone would like to listen to "Music" like that. In my opion that isn't what music is supossed to be. I can't even listen to rap anymore without getting extremely upset and feeling like the rapper has no respect for anyone or anything. 

on Feb. 18 2013 at 4:08 pm
bruisedmemories ELITE, Birdsboro, Pennsylvania
109 articles 10 photos 62 comments

Favorite Quote:
"When you're young, you can fly, but we trip on clouds 'cause we get too high" -The Band Perry (Song: Don't Let Me Be Lonely)
"Cause no matter what, you'll never be alone" -Lady Antebellum (Song: Compass)

Totally agree & can relate. I really like genres other than just rap and pop and I hate when the people around me refuse to listen to that song just because it's a different genre. Thank you for putting this problem out in the open! Very good job!

on Jan. 31 2013 at 4:35 pm
This is a great article, but I would like to politely address the oppositon. I have been a dancer of all styles for 9 years and some of my favorite classes are jazz and hip hop. Mainstream music is perfect for these classes, with their upbeat tempo and high energy pieces that even if we don't agree with the words we can still enjoy the beat. But,I do completly agree with you in the sense that the lyrics can be highly offensive.

AriShine GOLD said...
on Jun. 30 2012 at 12:14 pm
AriShine GOLD, Norcross, Georgia
13 articles 0 photos 131 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Whatever you are, be a good one." -Abraham Lincoln

YES! I often find myself sucked into the pop craze, unfortunately. But I totally agree; there is too much emphasis on image instead of the actual music. Where did the passion go? Also, great job on presenting your argument. Applause!

on Mar. 29 2012 at 11:25 am
Valerie Sanchez, NonyaBizniz, Texas
0 articles 0 photos 7 comments
Pffft- I agree completely. People need to stop conforming to what society agrees to as 'perfect' and loosen up! #Non-Conforming

KatsK DIAMOND said...
on Feb. 19 2012 at 5:19 pm
KatsK DIAMOND, Saint Paul, Minnesota
57 articles 0 photos 303 comments

Favorite Quote:
Being inexhaustible, life and nature are a constant stimulus for a creative mind.
~Hans Hofmann
You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.
~Ray Bradbury

I agree-- and she's a nonconformist, as she doesn't do things to be popular, and she writes non-racy songs with real emotion . . . I love Adele (she's a really cool and funny person as well, not just a musician)!

on Jan. 28 2012 at 10:39 pm
FeelLikeDancin BRONZE, St.Louis, Missouri
1 article 0 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
Life is full of surprises and and serendipity. Being open to unexpected turns in the road is an important part of success. If you try to plan every step, you may miss those wonderful twists and turns. Just find your next adventure-do it well, enjoy it-and then, not now, think about what comes next.

i totally agree. even though i listen to some popular music and find myself singing along i think that most of it is meaningless. I've started listening to other types of music and i enjoy it much more even though some of my friends wouldn't even have the slightest idea of who my favorite band is or what they sing.

on Jan. 28 2012 at 6:13 pm
I agree completely. You should do another with your thoughts on rock and screamo

on Jan. 28 2012 at 7:19 am
maizyiscrazy GOLD, Washington, District Of Columbia
10 articles 53 photos 262 comments

Favorite Quote:
I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe in miracles. ~Audrey Hepburn

okay, sorry, but dating IS NOT an "explicit topic"