Superficial Music For A Superficial Society

“It is often said the music that is popular in a given culture helps define the current society.” Looking back in history, this statement rings true. Each decade of popular music has shadowed trends and events in corresponding history… but what about our current music culture? If someone were to describe our current society based on popular music, the images would be terrifying.

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Partying. Sex. Drugs. Alcohol. Heartbreak. These five concepts, tied in with bad language and racial slurs, make up the majority of all popular music today. It doesn’t matter if a song is original, creative, thought provoking, or meaningful. As long as it has a catchy beat and contains lyrics surrounding one of these five concepts, it’s sure to be a hit. So what are these popular songs teaching to our youth culture? To lack creativity? That drinking and getting high in little to no clothing is an acceptable weekend activity? That all love is hopeless? Whatever messages these popular songs are looking to spread, it’s working.

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Kids are growing up without censorship. When I was a kid, if an album had one song that contained profanity, the entire album would be offered in a “censored” version. And guess what? Our parents would buy us that censored album to prevent us from hearing that one bad word. In our current day in age, these censored albums may still exist; however, it really doesn’t make a difference. Why? Because of the Internet. Edited songs may be played on the radio, but when kids go home and search their favorite hits on YouTube, “edited” versions don’t exist. Every time kids go on mobile devices, computers, or turn on a television, they’re exposed to the reality of society. They see scandalous music videos, close to naked artists at award shows, drugged out celebrities in and out of jail, “role models” taking a turn for the worse… you get the point. No matter how hard parents try to shield their kids from these images, they truly can never succeed. Our society has become such an open one, with such little censorship, that kids really do see it all.

 

This lack of censorship has ultimately caused kids to grow up way quicker than they should. When I was a kid, I watched the Disney Channel, listened to boy bands, and spent the majority of my free time hanging outside with friends or making up games. Kids of our generation have become so obsessed with technology, social media, and superficial things, that they’re missing out on the true beauty of being a child. Sure, social media and smartphones are beneficial. Sure, they’re addicting and entertaining. But we appreciate these things as ADULTS. We still enjoyed our traditional childhood. We drew on the driveway with chalk, had lemonade stands, rode bikes, and played with dolls. We had favorite artists that we looked up to, and we waited patiently for them to release new albums so we could rush to the store and buy them. That reality seems nonexistent now, as all kids are glued to their mobile devices, watching promiscuous music videos or browsing pictures of popular stars in trashy outfits while listening to explicit chart toppers. Is this the representation of the world that we want our kids to see?

In order to have a positive influence on our youth generation, music needs to be stripped from its superficial backbone. Despite what some people might think, good music still exists. It’s just hard to recognize without the disreputable images preceding it. If society weren’t so obsessed with sex appeal or the “bizarre factor,” then genuine, creative, inspiring music would be able to shine through. I truly believe this, because I am one of the few who still listens to and believes in this good music.

 

It’s crazy to me that most of my favorite artists lack recognition, when they’re all a million times more reputable and talented than the pop sensations topping the charts. Once in a while, one of these talented artists will make their way onto the radio, or perhaps a top 10 list on iTunes. It’s at this point that kids will listen to and appreciate their music. It’s almost as if our current generation needs the rest of society to verify that something is good and acceptable before they can indulge themselves in it. This is extremely sad to me, because young people are missing out on such a unique, diverse, and creative group of musicians. These artists resemble Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, and U2. They sing about things that matter. They don’t care if their songs become hits or not, because at the end of the day, they’re sharing a message that they feel is important. If kids in our society could stay true to themselves just like these undiscovered artists, then we would live in a much more respectable society.

By: Catherine

Music as an Experience

How we listen to music has evolved over the years due to advancements in technology. The size of music players have decreased in size and increased in sound quality. What is coming next? We have already begun to integrate wireless music systems into our homes and cars. Music players are dissappearing into thin air and will continue to become more convenient to those who can afford the newest luxuries.

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The rapidly evolving online market space is influencing the way artists and recording companies market, distribute, and sell their music. In order to stay relevant, the business model is going to keep changing at a rapid rate along with the new technologies in order to provide consumers with an overall experience. Concerts are the ultimate experience of listing to music since it is live, but it is also the most expensive. The online music market now allows for the average consumer to stream concerts live online. The industry is no longer selling a physical disc, but rather a service. They are selling an experience. In order for a business model to succeed, the industry needs to find some “pull” and tend to customers needs. By pull I am highlighting the importance of paying attention to what customers value and draw them in versus pushing or forcing the direction in which the model “should” move. It is important to see what is popular but even more importantly, what is missing and could improve the current model. As technology advances, expectations of consumers increase. Companies are trying to stay relevant and meet these expectations by moving their marketing landscape online.

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Thanks to the many advancements in music technology and the world wide web, music can be used as a medium that can be shared among all cultures. In saying that, I mean that music from one culture can be appreciated and enjoyed from people from another culture. In my opinion, music could be used to bring everyone together.  As American social hegemony declines, American music won’t be as dominant throughout the world as it has been. This will allow opportunities for the music of other cultures to open up. Also, emerging markets are helping to recover the music industry’s sales.  Brazil, India and Mexico have seen market growth respectively of 24%, 42% and 17% since 2008. In 2012 revenues in India reached an all-time high while Latin America was the fastest growing region of the year. Globalization will have a positive effect on the music we have available to us and widen our variety in genres.

by: Melissa

Where Do We Go From Here?

It is undeniable that popular musicians affect the youth of our culture.  Musicians in our culture are put on a pedestal, with nearly every aspect of their life in the spotlight.  We don’t just see them performing, we see them leaving their houses, we see them getting arrested, we even know when they are feeling under the weather.  So how do you think this “sex sells” trend is affecting our youth?  As aforementioned, children and teenagers look up to these artists.  When they see their role model up on stage in underwear or see-through dresses, what do you think they want to do?

Children are very malleable, they can mold easily to their surroundings. So when they are constantly surrounded by promiscuity and nudity, they are going to be inspired to behave similarly.  Children are growing up faster now than ever because of the world they live in.  When I was growing up, I played with Barbie dolls and footballs and listened to Leann Rimes.  I had a great and very innocent childhood.  Things are so different now.  Children are playing with iPads and watching YouTube videos of these musicians wearing little to literally nothing.  When I was growing up, “tweens” referred to children aged 10-12.  Nowadays, children are seen as a massive and very valuable consumer market.  “Tweens” now refers to kids as young as 6 years old.  Our culture is encouraging youth to grow up quicker than ever, and the results of this can be seen through the young artists of today that are very mature for their age and aren’t afraid to show it.  As a culture, we are teaching young girls to take it all off for attention, and teaching young boys to expect this from girls.  Sounds like a dangerous combination if you ask me.

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So where do we go from here?  How do we un-do what we’ve done to the minds of our youth?  Artists like Miley Cyrus and Britney Spears have gained such a following from their promiscuous behavior that I don’t see those artists going anywhere, but maybe we don’t need them to.  I believe it would be extremely beneficial to focus our efforts on supporting artists that can be positive role models for our youth.  Artists like Adele, Sara Bareilles, Jennifer Hudson, and Alicia Keys.  Why aren’t these musicians performing on awards shows so we can talk about them for weeks rather than Miley’s foam finger?  Why is Miley worth $150 million and Sara Bareilles worth $12 million?  You’d be lying if you said you didn’t think it had anything to do with attention given because of nudity and performances booked because of this attention.  Who says we can’t get back to the classy days of The Supremes? We all need to work together to make sure that more positive role models have their voices heard, otherwise, our kids will never be kids.  After all, who would you rather have yours look up to?

By: Emily

It’s All Downhill From Here

MTV: The television channel introduced in 1981 that would change music forever. No longer would music solely be about the music. Before we’d focus on riffs, chords, lyrics, or voices; now, an entirely new segment of music had been introduced: videos. Could MTV potentially be to blame for the shift in music over the years? Possibly. Is it safe to say that music became more about image than depth after its introduction? No doubt. Does that mean that creative, thought provoking music completely disappeared? Of course not.

The 1980s pushed boundaries. It was in this decade that music slowly started to conform into the industry we see today. After the introduction of MTV, videos became more of a necessity in order for artists to gain popularity (especially with the youth population). Take Michael Jackson for example. He was already an extremely popular, talented musician heading into the decade; however, his music video for “Thriller” transformed his legacy forever. With arguably one of the most popular music videos of all time (which turned a song into a 14 minute long horror film), his career skyrocketed. Would the song have received as much attention if the video hadn’t accompanied it? It’s hard to say for sure—but I’m going to say probably not.

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You can’t talk about music videos in the 80’s without mentioning Madonna. Videos such as “Like A Prayer” or “Like A Virgin” are why many people refer to the decade with a superficial attitude. Most of Madonna’s songs and videos centered on sex appeal, which ultimately helped skyrocket her to the top of the charts. She is a prime example of a star whose appearance aided her success. Sure, her music was good. Sure, she had talent. But that doesn’t make up for the fact that sex sells, and she was selling a lot of it.

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The launch of videos often resulted in superficial music; however, this doesn’t mean that all 80’s music lacked luster. The decade was known for its timeless rock groups (Bon Jovi, Guns N’ Roses, ACDC, Journey, U2, R.E.M., the Rolling Stones, etc.), but surprisingly, it was also a strong period for the development of protest music and the socially conscious hip hop movement.

Let me begin with “Straight To Hell” by The Clash, which protested against social injustices and addressed economic issues, matters pertaining to the Vietnam War, and racism. The Clash has been said to be one of the “most important socially conscious bands of all time.”

Then there was “Sunday Bloody Sunday” by U2. Not only does this song directly address the Bloody Sunday massacre that took place in Northern Ireland in 1972, but it also serves as a message of hope urging people to solve their problems together and refrain from using violence. Bono and the rest of U2 still remain one of the most socially conscious bands to this day.

Boogie Down Productions served as a leader in the socially conscious hip hop movement during this time period. Their song “Stop the Violence” campaigned against violence within the hip hop community.

To me, the 80’s accurately set the tone for decades to come in the future. It was a decade with a mix of superficial music videos and meaningful protest songs, but guess what got the most attention? That’s right, the videos. It was at this time in history that popular music started to shift into a downwards spiral.

Let’s move on to the 90’s (the music that I grew up with). Personally, when I think of this decade, I immediately think of the artists that I listened to as a kid: Backstreet Boys, N’SYNC, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera…. This music was the epitome of pop culture during this time, as boy bands and female solo artists completely dominated the decade. As a kid, I never focused on the content of the songs at all. I never paid attention to the words, or what message they were sharing. To be honest, I just enjoyed what sounded good and what music videos looked good. It’s this mindset that has carried through to our current youth generation. Sure, I love listening to Dave Matthews, Pearl Jam, and the Foo Fighters now that I’m older… but as a kid I didn’t even know they existed.

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The 90’s were arguably ruled by a mixture of pop sensations and powerful singers (Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, and Whitney Houston). In order to find solid protest songs, you have to dig deep. One band that comes to mind is Rage Against the Machine. This group was known for their political music, and they were even spotted performing at Occupy Wall Street a few years ago.

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One singer/songwriter of this decade who has been socially conscious for MANY years is none other than Bruce Springsteen. As one of the most popular artists of all time, it’s refreshing to see that he’s stuck to his roots. He’s never been afraid to sing about personal experiences or issues that he felt needed addressing. He also continued (and still does) to set affordable ticket prices for his shows in order for all fans to have the chance to attend. His song “The Ghost of Tom Joad” was one of the standout protest songs of the decade. In this track, he gives social activism and the great depression a modern setting, linking the past with the present. It’s artists like Bruce who keep the spirit of social activism alive in an era centered on young pop sensations.

As years go on, it seems as though rich, political music becomes harder to find. While many assume that it’s simply disappeared, it hasn’t. Political music continues to be written and recorded, it’s simply the industry that’s changed. Creative, meaningful songs that SHOULD be heard are often hidden under a pile of pop anthems. More often than not, these pop songs come from young, attractive stars who sing lyrics written by other musicians. In order for our music culture to go back in time, we need to start paying attention to the artists who aren’t getting the attention. It’s these songwriters who truly have the best message to share.

 

By: Catherine

Shake Your Pirate Booty

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The biggest posing threat to the recording companies is illegal pirating of music. According to the Institute for Policy Innovation, as a result of music piracy, the U.S. economy loses 71,060 jobs and $12.5 billion in total output annually. The current business model no longer favors recording companies. We are currently living in a digital world. The one problem the advancements in technology creates is that sharing music is easy as a click of a button. The “sharing” of music consists mostly of piracy and poses a threat to recording companies as well as artists themselves. Since peer-to-peer (p2p) file-sharing site Napster emerged in 1999, music sales in the U.S. have dropped 53 percent, from $14.6 billion to $7.0 billion in 2011. Also, from 2004 through 2009 alone, approximately 30 billion songs were illegally downloaded on file-sharing networks.

Pirating will always exist but recording companies have found ways to make it more difficult to do and is becoming less appealing. By creating a challenge in illegally downloading music, pirating will become less favored over the efficient and userfriendly streaming of music. Even though streaming does not provide you with ownership, it provides you with a selection of songs targeted to your liking, it is quick, and guarunteed better quality than illegal downloads. 

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Another issue is that old purchased CD’s are being thrown away instead of recycled. Majority of the CD’s being wasted are not albums but instead blank CD’s we use to burn songs onto. It is so easy to share songs with your friends with these blank CD’s. Every month approximately 100,000 pounds of CDs become obsolete. Some more sustainable alternatives to blank CD’s would be to purchase mp3 players, share files online, and purchase items such as auxiliary cords or bluetooth car features that connect to mp3 players to your car’s stereo system. Other resourceful options would be to increase CD life with proper use and cleaning as well as recycling unwanted CD’s. Recycling saves energy and raw materials.

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By: Melissa

The Naked Generation

I don’t think there’s any denying that nudity, or close to it, has become a trend amongst popular musicians of our generation.  Sure, there are plenty of musicians that do not fall into this trend, and their success may be just as great.  However, in order to get the headlines these days, artists should bring little to their performances besides their best-lotioned skin.  It’s a sad turn that musicians have taken, and to me it is nothing more than a distraction from their real talent.  Some of them, of course, have little to no talent at all, which is why they have taken to this fad.  Others, I believe, have taken this turn simply because sex sells.

While it is interesting that relatively new artists such as Ke$ha and Lady Gaga consistently present themselves as scandalous, I think it is more important to look at artists that have been around for a while.  The trend I look to point out is that they have gotten progressively more promiscuous with time, as the hyper-sexualization of our culture continues.

Britney Spears:

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Miley Cyrus:

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Rihanna:
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Selena Gomez:

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It would take days to list all of the artists that have turned to this scandalous “sex sells” strategy.  What speaks the most to our culture, in my opinion, is that it works.  When Miley Cyrus came out with her extremely scandalous VMA performance and her soon after music video, people were outraged.  Parents ranted about how she was a bad role model.  Young people ranted about how her body isn’t “good enough” for that type of exposure.  What these people didn’t realize, is that they were doing exactly what Miley wanted them to do.  By talking about her, they were only making her more famous.  The video that everyone was so angry about now has over 300 MILLION views on YouTube! Feminists were outraged by Robin Thicke’s scandalous Blurred Lines video- which I can’t even post here because of the explicit nudity- and that has over 218 million views.  Sex sells- whether we like it or not.

The only hope for our generation of popular musicians lies in the musicians that do not feel the need to conform to this.  Sure, most of them show a little skin once in a while, but they recognize that it is not necessary.  One performance that was refreshing to see was Katy Perry’s performance of her hit Roar at this year’s Video Music Awards.  The video presents women in a way that they usually are not.  Perry carries the image of a fighter- not just literally, but figuratively.  Finally, something for young girls to look up to, rather than a naked girl dancing for record sales or YouTube views.

Another type of artist that provides hope is the one that relies solely on talent to sell records- what a concept!  Artists such as Adele and Sara Bareilles are a breath of fresh air to any consumer who seems to be drowning in bras and underwear worn as full outfits.  The difference in the image that is portrayed, as well as the content of the music, is amazing.

So musicians are doing this because it works.  Plain and simple.  The next question I seek to answer is how this affects youth- not just females, but males as well.  By perpetuating this norm of nudity, girls are taught that this is normal and boys are taught that this is what girls should conform to.  It is destructive, without a doubt, and the only way to change it is by refusing to buy into it.

By: Emily

You Stream, I Stream, We All Stream for Music

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There has already been seen such a tremendous change over the years in the ways we access music. Music distribution has technologically advanced from vinyl records, to 8-tracks, to audiocassettes, to compact discs, to digital downloads. Digital recordings of music have become easily accessible to everyone. With more technologies being invented, the music industry will continue to change over time.

There have been several behavioral shifts in consumer attitudes and the digital transformation of the marketplace creates challenges for recording companies. I live in a generation who grew up buying CD’s and now listen to music through the headphones of their smart phones and mp3 players. These digital music players have continued to amaze me as they increase in storage yet shrink in size, like the .34’’x1.14’’x1.24’’ iPod Shuffle with a total weight of .44 of an ounce. The future designs of music players will increase in quality and in storage with the ability to decrease in size. Current technology is geared to improve convenience for consumers and is popularly accessed using one hand. For teens living in this generation, instant gratification holds great importance. Living in a digital era, teens are used to and expect immediate results. The societal “norm” is that teens are continuously connected to the world through the use of their smart phones. The smart technology phone has revolutionized every teenager’s world. A smart phone is a hybrid technology. It is a radio, telephone, basic computer, clock, camera, and many more, all converged into one technology. It allows the users whole life to be mobile. Their world can travel with them day-in and day-out right in their pocket. However, aside from the convenience of this technology, it has created a cyber realm that combines all the users apps into one place and has created a user-dependency.

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Accessing music versus owning music are two different kinds of business models that are both being used by consumers today. These two concepts are on opposite ends of the spectrum. With physical medias, revenue always followed. Recording Companies produced, sold, and distributed a physical format that was immediately bought and compensated for. It is more complicated when it comes to digital forms, whether music is streamed online or purchased and downloaded legally. Providers like Pandora and Spotify offer free access to free music through streaming and are funded mostly by advertisements. They also offer advertisement-free subscriptions for a set fee. Streaming is the process of accessing music online and allows consumers to listen to songs right from the provider but does not supply ownership. Digital downloads for ownership are purchased mainly from the top sales leader iTunes followed by Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. Online music stores and music providers both pay royalty fees to the recording companies whom produce the music.The one posing threat to the companies is illegal pirating of music.

 

By: Melissa