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 Jun. 5 2011 at 11:13 am
If you agree with this article, try listening to Queen, the Beatles, Journey, Bryan Adams, Cyndi Lauper, Daryl Hall and John Oates, 'Til Tuesday, Heart, Cheap Trick, Steve Perry, the Bangles, and Martina McBride. They write REAL MUSIC!!!

on Jun. 5 2011 at 11:05 am
I believe whoever wrote this must be my twin!!! This is EXACTLY how I've always felt about recent music! I am a total Journey (with Steve Perry) fan because the music they write comes from the heart and is sung from the soul. Long live classic rock and roll!!!

mirosoft said...
on Jun. 4 2011 at 3:51 pm
ok i will my name is emily.plz reply

on Jun. 3 2011 at 7:09 pm
im not anyone to tell u what to do, but (Green Day's "Boulevard Of Broken Dreams" for example,) you cant judge a song by what it says. you said u listened to the song and liked it, but when they said a bad word, u stopped listening to it. sure it might not be the careful full-hearted country songs that some people like, but just cuz u hear it, doesnt mean u have to say it or follow it.

on Jun. 3 2011 at 7:05 pm

lets not point fingers people...


this isnt English class...


stay on the topic at hand...

on Jun. 3 2011 at 7:02 pm
first of all, i dont think all of them are putting woman down. sure, some of those rappers out there are just in it for the money, dont really have any talent at all, and just dont care. but still, most raps and hip hop songs are very catchy and upbeat (which i like about them). but that doesnt necessarily mean i am a bad person, who just likes to cuss and party..(like jersey shore for instance XD). but in the all depends on a persons taste :)

on Jun. 3 2011 at 6:59 pm
I also agree with this post, sure u do never know wut u might find, something old with a catchy beat...why not? but i particularly like the genre of music these days..most  of them are fun, upbeat, and catchy rhythems. just dont limit yourself to JUST that. still, u gotta try new things sometime!

on Jun. 3 2011 at 6:40 pm
I prefer country music because the song lyrics are real and usually true

on Jun. 3 2011 at 1:22 am
i like when you said anything unique is considered wierd....people dont know how to appreciate anything these days, everyone is blind .....hail Svarti!

TLB2011 said...
on Jun. 1 2011 at 10:11 pm
Finally, someone intelligent and unbiased

Spencer said...
on May. 31 2011 at 11:21 pm
I disagree with this article. Its not the fact that i dont like old music. i just much prefer to listen to rap and hip hop. Its not that the music of today is no longer music. it has evoled into something different than it once one. During the time that oldies were being made, there were many people who felt that those were not real music, and yet we sit here today acting the same way.

on May. 31 2011 at 7:10 pm
xEmmiiix BRONZE, East Meadow, New York
2 articles 0 photos 35 comments
i hate how everyones always making fun of me for listening to rock and metal because its not wht they listen to. i h8 that. It annoys me when they make fun of me for listining tto rock and metal and its like ur listining to songs about sex drugs and self destruction and im listining to songs tht are saying be yourself, find ur personal strength, ur not alone, u can always make it through the toughest battles. So i get made fun for listining to music with a positive annoying.

on May. 31 2011 at 6:31 pm
OMG! I know right! I have like three or four posts way down at the bottom and I completely agree with you more than anything. My posts are just like yours. Check them out!!! :)

on May. 31 2011 at 5:21 pm
BeatleMania16, A, Delaware
0 articles 0 photos 12 comments
i CANNOT tell you how much i agree!! i'm in seventh grade and i love stevie wonder, the beatles, queen, beethoven, bach, ravel, faure....etc. and yet i encounter tons of people who revere the latest rihanna hit (honestly, i cannot stand that woman's music.....). the music most people listen to today is just so vapid of actual feeling or emotion. it ruins the entire idea of "new pop"...of course, like you said, not all pop is evil. just listen to the beatles...!

Dancingjuice said...
on May. 31 2011 at 12:37 pm
Well if you're going to criticize someone about grammar , forgot to put a period on the end of one of your sentences.Don't try to correct someone and, you don't know either.

kpell said...
on May. 30 2011 at 12:10 am
I agree with this so much! I don't particularly like listening to the radio at all because what they play (I'm pretty sure Kiss FM has nonstop stream of rap and pop). I occasionaly catch a Mumford & Sons, MGMT, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, Adele, or Matt Nathenson but that's about it. The reason I don't listen to most of it is becaues it's shallow. I know this isn't for everyone but I like what I listen to to have deeper meanings & I usually don't take a song as surface value. I like to get inpiration from it and it's hard when everything seems to be about going out every night and getting trashed. I also think many of these artist don't deserve play time. There are so many bands/singers that work so hard to deliver good music to their fans that get no recognition at all. Good people to look up to would also be nice. I don't understand how people can be looking up to people like Ke$ha, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga etc when there are people like Andrew McMahon (from Jack's Mannequin or Something Corporate if anyone is familiar) who battled and survived cancer at 21 and then continued to write about it. I just think it's more powerful than soul less pop, rap, or what ever else seems to be popular.

Marxy said...
on May. 27 2011 at 9:02 pm
OK, I'm sorry I don't have such a deep appreciation of independent music, but as you said in your article music is made to appeal to a broad audience, I don't particularly like rap music but I am a closet pop fan, music is of coarse made to target specific audiences. However it is not fair to generalize today's popular music as it is still extremely varied, saying pop and rap are the only forms of appreciated music would not be looking deep into the twisted world of pop culture. For example on youtube the most viewed video (Justin Bieber's Baby) is one of the most disliked songs of all time, or Rebecca Black's Friday, all vastly disliked yet all universally "popular." Although I agree the music quality of today has been compromised I don't find it a valid argument to generalize and use the word "popular" so vaguely when it obviously has many meanings in today's culture.

on May. 27 2011 at 4:43 pm
Kayla1115 BRONZE, Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania
4 articles 0 photos 17 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Life is short, it's not a dress rehershal."

First of all she's not pointing out fingers.  She is simply explaining in her own detail of how pop and rap and other genres have completely change!  She's right, though and at the same time keeping it real for the viewers reading this.

Christina said...
on May. 27 2011 at 1:19 pm
Totally agree.

on May. 27 2011 at 12:19 pm
dont get all upset now i have the right to what i think and if you don tlike it then dont say anything. i love music but truly someone it i do live with out but there is not a good radio station that plays good rock and other types of music. theres 2 for pop and 1 for rap. the rest is oldies(which i like). or jazz which puts me to sleep. so if you understand that i dont have much of a chose then you wouldnt get to upset.