Everyone knows that pop music is terrible. The modern treatment of music and rhythm is a stain upon the idea of music as a whole. All the computer-generated sounds? Learn to play a real instrument! The vulgar themes? Kids are listening to this stuff! And – god forbid – the twerking. This is unacceptable.
Where did the classics go? What happened to the brilliant music of the mid-to-late 1900s? What happened to the legends – the Elvises, the Michael Jacksons, the Rolling Stones? Think about what they had that’s gone from music today! The rise of the synthesizer… hang on, wait. But what about the messages they sent, about livin’ large and gettin’ girls – okay, not the best example either. Oh wait, of course! Their legendary dance moves! The moonwalking, the ‘moves like Jagger’… hm.
As it turns out, there’s more to modern music than it seems. Many detractors of the current pop scene say that it sets a bad example for the young people listening to it, citing the prominent sexual themes in hit songs and saying that stuff made on computers isn’t “real music”.1 While this belief is held by quite a few people around the world, the sad fact is, the music of the past isn’t necessarily much better than what they describe.
Of the best-selling hit songs in history, the vast majority have been related to themes that are similar to the values bashed in modern music – love and relationships. Some say that modern music takes it a bit far. But why is ‘I’m Too Sexy’ by Right Said Fred considered a musical masterpiece when ‘All About That Bass’ by Meghan Trainor is criticized for saying the same thing – a humorous take on self-confidence and pride?
Additionally, anyone who says that “real music” is made with instruments and not computers has apparently never listened to anything past the 1980s. The rise of the synthesizers brought about a complete revolution in music forever, changing the way people could make music. When the idea came around that machines could make melodies as effectively as real instruments, the creation of music was opened up to many more people who didn’t have experience with music but wanted to make it.2 With audio-making softwares today, anyone can create music, letting more people get involved – not just those who are technically proficient in an instrument.
The fact is, there is a bigger reason why so many people are unwilling to appreciate modern music. The current generation is one that heavily relies on autonomy and self-reliance. In other words, we all want to be ourselves and stand out. What’s the best way to stand out? Why, being countercultural, of course! Rejecting the ‘mainstream’ is a great way to make yourself seem more independent.3 For one thing, you look more cultured, since you’re seemingly more well-versed with the the past than people who simply enjoy the present. You also look more critical, since you look like you understand both modern and older stuff and can make analytical judgments about them, differentiating the better from the worse.
However, while being countercultural may help you integrate better with your social group, it might not be so beneficial in the long run. The idea of counterculturalism clashes with the idea of open-mindedness, since it trains you to automatically reject the new in favor of the old. In other words, instead of jumping aboard the bandwagon and dissing pop music because other people do too, why not try understanding how it was made? Try writing a melody as catchy as the riff in ‘Happy’, by Pharell. Grab a digital audio workstation and try to recreate the sound design of “Uptown Funk”, by Mark Ronson.4 Listen to some Eminem and see how fast you can rap in comparison. If you still don’t like pop music, that’s okay! But at least you understand it, without just following along the opinions of others.
Modern music isn’t for everyone, but it is for a lot more people than the number that repudiate it today. The important thing to remember is that while counterculturalism is good for helping you gain acceptance from others, it’s also helpful to keep an open mind, understanding things before you reject them. A lot of work is put into modern music, and giving it a try could be the first step to a lifetime of appreciation.
Unless it’s Justin Bieber. Man, screw that kid.
1 John Cage would disagree.
2 Including me!
3 Don’t worry – that doesn’t automatically make you a hipster.
4 Believe me, that funk pad in the chorus deceptively complicated.