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. 22 2011 at 10:13 am
introducingshelby GOLD, San Diego, California
15 articles 1 photo 139 comments

Favorite Quote:
"People change so you can learn to let go, things go wrong so you can appreciate them when they go right, and things fall apart so better things can fall together."
-Marilyn Monroe

The last paragraph is my favorite.. I understand what you're saying.. about all popular music nowdays and how it's gone downhill.

on Jun. 22 2011 at 10:10 am
skoppy355 BRONZE, Arlington Heights, Illinois
1 article 0 photos 21 comments

Favorite Quote:
Life's like an hourglass glued to the table- from Breathe (2 am) by Anna Nalick

i agree with u spencer!

on Jun. 22 2011 at 10:09 am
skoppy355 BRONZE, Arlington Heights, Illinois
1 article 0 photos 21 comments

Favorite Quote:
Life's like an hourglass glued to the table- from Breathe (2 am) by Anna Nalick

i agree with ur artists here... just saw florence live this weekend!

on Jun. 22 2011 at 10:02 am
skoppy355 BRONZE, Arlington Heights, Illinois
1 article 0 photos 21 comments

Favorite Quote:
Life's like an hourglass glued to the table- from Breathe (2 am) by Anna Nalick

I agree with a lot of what you're saying here.  However, you sort of have to look at what these artists do as well.  Many artists that have the kind of music you're speaking against are extremely admirable people (Lady GaGa and Justin Timberlake, for example, are actually great role models for kids when it comes down to it and, no matter what their lyrics may say, can actually sing).  Yes, they may have their names and faces everywhere, but the fact remains that they themselves deserve to be admired.  I think you probably see this though, overall good piece.

on Jun. 22 2011 at 12:41 am
MayhemMadness, Lakeland, Florida
0 articles 0 photos 33 comments

Favorite Quote:
" Your not ready to live, If your not ready to die."

I agree with Stingray 18. 

on Jun. 13 2011 at 7:37 pm
Yes, don't forget them either!!! You can't even list them all!!!!

Selene said...
on Jun. 13 2011 at 6:40 pm
I totally agree! Country isn't just a lot of random words and meaningless lyrics with a couple dozen curse words every verse, it actually tells a sincere and relatable story.

on Jun. 13 2011 at 12:53 pm
Don't forget Simon and Garfunkel, Donavan and Styx!

hazel Teo said...
on Jun. 12 2011 at 1:31 pm
does anyone know when exactly this article was published?

on Jun. 11 2011 at 2:14 pm
Stingray18 BRONZE, Yorktown, New York
2 articles 0 photos 7 comments
I respect your point of view and agree with most of what you said. I wish everyone can walk around with open eyes to the subject like you can. Some music nowadays is very catchy, but with explicit content, such as Lady GaGa or Ke$ha. However, not all music is like that, though I'm sure you are well aware of that as well. I truly enjoyed reading this and agree with it. keep writing.

khana said...
on Jun. 10 2011 at 2:33 pm
I agree with you! though i do like some of it, it can get boring and dull, i prefer stuff like foo fighters, florence and the machines, def lepard, adele (her original stuff), etc.

Anna16 said...
on Jun. 9 2011 at 3:35 am

Me and my friend just love Yarden Tsur music

we are #1 fans because she's unique musician and got so many fans in short time.

love her !!!!

on Jun. 8 2011 at 3:58 pm
Very True :)

on Jun. 6 2011 at 8:43 pm

i would so agree. yes, there are some good songs, but its nearly impossible to find them in the mess of bad stuff.

another thing that annoys me is how many artists come and go. on top 40 stations, there will be someone with ONE song that everyone loves. every other one they have? "its not popular, so who cares?"

not that i'm saying we should all switch to gospel music, tho. find a variety. those who say country is amazing? heckuva lotta purty girls and drinking and gambling in those.


on Jun. 6 2011 at 5:12 pm
i def agree with this article. love knowing i'm not the only one who thinks this. i would take david bowie, queen, and journey over kesha and soulja boy any day.

on Jun. 6 2011 at 5:06 pm
i hear ya!! and i totally agree!

giantdoses4u said...
on Jun. 6 2011 at 8:55 am

Agreed, most pop and rap music is artless and gives the idea that inappropriate behavior is the way to act. On the other side, people don't want to focus on the actual delimas of the real world, they don't want to hear things that might get them depressed or remind them that they have problems. Pop and rap, even r'n'b focus thier music on being carefree and hardcore partying. Who wants to face real life if they have the option?? My taste in music is all over the place, but my main interest is rock (and other associated music to this genre), classical, and r'n'b. Not all pop artist are all "money and image". Focus a little on Lady Gaga. She wasn't getting much positive attention at first because she was odd (i see her as unique), her style was wrong. She didn't change at all in the last 2 years she's been performing. I've seen videos of her concerts and i can't say i've seen anyone else who puts so much into a show. People won't convert music after being into the same thing for most of thier life. We have to be respectful of others music and not be quick to judge them by what they listen to.

P.S i was in a small catholic school for the past 3 years where everyone only listened to pop and rap. i was an outcast for my taste in music (and other pretentious things, like where i shopped and who i talked to). So i grew an ear for thier type of music, but it wasn't horrible because it was just fun chill-out music and it was easier to let go and just go with the beat for a while.

microsoft said...
on Jun. 5 2011 at 4:47 pm
me to cause  they might even be the date when u were borin i was boring at; 7 1103

microsoft said...
on Jun. 5 2011 at 4:43 pm
yea ur right country music i9z mostly true

on Jun. 5 2011 at 11:17 am
I think that if you REALLY tried listening to older music, you would find that it is amazing and see how paper-thin today's music is. I'm not telling you that some of today's music isn't good, but there's a lot of it that really isn't from someone's heart. Just try it. Please! I think you's love Duran Duran and Journey!!!