Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Modern Music’s Lack of Influence on Society

The real reason why music is becoming less meaningful.

There have been certain events in history that have made such a great impact on society. Because of these events, songwriters have been inspired to express about such things in their music. One of the most monumental examples was in the 1960s, during the social movement in America. Songwriters were inspired to write protest songs, about the civil rights movement and race relations, the Vietnam War, the generation gap, and the women’s movement. This in turn stirred people into action, as they became more involved in their community. Personally, I could just imagine what it was like to live during the 1960s, and having a chance to witness social movements that were inspired by the most influential artists around––such artists as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, the Who, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead, Sly & the Family Stone, the Doors, David Bowie, and Pink Floyd.

Yet, throughout the years, times have changed and so has music. Today’s popular music tends to focus more on catchy beats rather than meaning. It seems that people tend to enjoy music that focuses more on “clubbing” rather than on current events that affect the country, on a social level. Now I know there are certain songs that discuss how society, in general, is changing, like in the Black Eyed Peas song, “Where Is the Love?” But there are a very limited amount of songs that discuss current events in America, and why these things should matter to people. Mostly alternative and punk bands do this, but it would be nice if more R&B and rap artists would do so as well.

The only exception wasn’t until the year 2000. During that time, former President George W. Bush had been voted into office and soon afterwards on September 11, 2001, terrorists had attacked America. Soon after that, artists from all genres of music had banded together in protest against the Bush administration, the 9/11 attackers, and the war in Iraq. In 2004, rapper Jadakiss wrote a song, titled “Why,” that went so far as to accuse Bush of directly being involved in the 9/11 attacks. In the song's lyrics he asks, “Why did Bush knock down the Towers?” which is in reference to the World Trade Center that was in New York. This song was eventually banned on some radio stations and some of the controversial lyrics had been censored. When asked why he wrote this song, he stated, “I wanted to make a song that could appeal to a broader [group]-and not only the hood. I wanted to make something that would touch people at home in white America.”

Though some artists of this generation have been involved in creating protest music and anti-war songs, certain artists have felt their efforts are falling on deaf ears. It has failed to cause radical changes on society, when compared to the influential music of the 1960s.

But on a positive note, this proves that in a time of such devastating events, artists can come together to create unique music, that can influence society. However, some might wonder, why should such a devastating disaster, such as the 9/11 events, have to happen before artists realize that they should produce songs that are actually meaningful, and can in fact inspire people to get more involved in social issues.

In all fairness, we can’t blame all of this on artists alone for producing less meaningful music. A lot of it has to do with people just not being interested in these topics. It just seems as if some don’t care, or aren't even aware, of social issues affecting the country, much less the world. Back then people cared more about freedom of expression and equal rights. People now want to avoid controversial subjects and want to turn a blind eye, thinking that eventually the problem will be fixed on its own, and all they want to do is just party. They tell themselves, “I want to dance and get drunk to forget about my troubles. The bad things in life are depressing, so I don’t wanna think about that.” So artists give the people the music they want to listen to, because that’s what sells; it’s like everyone wins. However, celebrities in the entertainment industry, whether in music or movies, do have a moral responsibility and the strong potential to influence people, but some try to escape from this responsibility, focusing more on the light-hearted side of life and less on serious and controversial issues. But in life you can always turn a negative situation into something positive, which can influence people. It all depends on a person’s outlook on the matter.

In a commentary written by Tony Sclafani, titled “Hello Obama, goodbye meaningful music,” he stated that “unemployment is hitting record highs, the banking system is in shambles . . . what we need now are mainstream artists brave enough to be outspoken as they were during the previous administration’s reign [of George W. Bush].”

So, which up-and-coming artists will become a powerful influence for the next generation? Uh, so far it seems like Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. Hopefully these won’t be the only two options out there, but just maybe more artists will step up to the plate and actually turn music around, to once again become the powerful influence that it was before.

Written by: Bridget Campos

Originally posted on March 8, 2009

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