Written by Bloody-Disgusting music contributor Sammy Key
Music is kind of like Four Loko. There are a bunch of different flavors and teenagers love it. It also shares the tendency to evoke this sort of statement out of people; “It was better back in the day though, when I first had it,” (you know, before they took out all the caffeine). It’s true, these days it seems like music, or at least popular music, has lost its edge entirely. Gone are the days of sneaking records with “Parental Advisory/Explicit Content” plastered across the cover into your room and the days of mindlessly singing along to the latest saccharine sweet single while your mom drives you home from school are in full swing. Where is all the door slamming? Where are all the secret shows? It used to be that songs on the radio carried some sort of message, but now all I hear are lyrics about whips, b*tches, peacocks and all other sorts of bizarre metaphors for genitalia. And that’s if there are even words at all! Half of that sh*t is all “wobble” these days (whatever that is). Rebellion seems to have fizzled out, and in its place a taste for countless remixes, “womps”, and repetitive, dirty lyrics has grown. But no one bats an eyelash. It just seems like the passion, the demand for excellence has died. It’s like the teen masses have lost their will to act out, at least when it comes to music. These days, we sure as hell aren’t your stepping stone. But we’re not likely to make a hit single out of that sentiment either.
Unfortunately, as a teenager with both impeccable taste (har-har) and a certain affection for breaking the rules, I have begun to doubt that the endless array of sh*t that has crossed my path recently with the moniker “music” attached to it is even art at all. And with album sales dropping every year, record companies promoting musicians that sound like robots, and this bizarre, highly questionable “dubstep renaissance” taking youth culture by storm, sometimes it’s all a girl can do not to vomit. Sort of like the feeling you might get after the last (or even the first) sip of that aforementioned devil liquid. Yet kids still keep listening to it. Just like they keep drinking Four Loko. It’s sh*t, and they gulp it right down. So what’s the deal? What happened to the relationship between teens and (good) music?
I say kids got lazy. Somewhere over the past few years, the idea that music is easy poisoned the well of new artists so to speak, and not only did that spoil a lot of new pop music, but also the group of kids listening to it. Of course, you can always blame “the man”. Big record companies seem to have a penchant for peddling crap, and it’s logical to point the finger at the industry when it comes to the question of why this music has become so popular.
“It’s more of a f*cking factory at this point,” says Corey Taylor of Slipknot and Stone Sour. “They keep cranking out these mediocre f*ck heads , shoving them into the studio for ten seconds and then they basically autocorrect everything.” He adds, “I think this generation that’s growing up really enjoying this pop music is gonna be the same as the people who grew up really liking Rick Astley. It’s passing fancy, as far as music goes.”
Which is hopefully the case. When asked about this generation of teenagers and their music, Taylor speculates on what’s to come. “I think you’re always gonna have half the generation that’s lazy. But I think it makes the other half work that much harder… I think because technology is so badly ruining music, it just breeds a generation that’s going to be completely 180 from that. I think we’re gonna have a lot more home grown rock n roll coming out soon. I’m hoping.”
Those are pretty optimistic words from a guy who describes himself as a “cynical f*ck” in that same interview. But Taylor is a man with many years of making music under his belt, and if anyone knows about music and its effect on teenagers, it’s him.
“When I was growing up in the 80s, a lot of that pop sh*t was just like, “What IS this?”” Taylor laughs. “And then I found my music in the thrash scene, in the hardcore punk scene, so I had that background and that made me want to make the sort of music I make today. So I think that half of the generation is going to come to the surface in the next five years.”
The thing is, he might be right. After I analyzed a survey I conducted amongst teenagers in my area and online, I’m beginning to see the possibility for change. 85% of those surveyed claimed the statement “I love music. I don’t know what I would do if music wasn’t a part of my life.” most accurately describes their relationship with music. In that same survey, 47% of participants said music became a big part of their life in middle school, closely followed by 32% who claim elementary school was the start of their relationship with music. Which is good news! That means that all those little youngsters still eating paste in class might have the potential to be the founding fathers of the next generation’s big, musical “f*ck you!” Additionally, when asked to list what genres of music they listened to most, survey participants used the words “punk” “hardcore” “rock” and “pop” (including in the term “pop punk”) most frequently, with the words “indie” “metal” “alternative” and “rap” receiving a high number of tallies as well.” Admittedly, there were a lot less instances of the word “dubstep” than I originally anticipated. Even more surprising was the number of respondents who claimed to consider music a form of rebellion or as a tool they used to purposely piss off their parents. Although only a meager thirteen participants responded this way, it was about eleven more people than I expected to hear that from. I assumed that sort of teenage moxie had dried up long ago (even I had found other ways to get myself grounded during high school). Until a friend of mine, Annika (18), responded to my state of surprise by saying, “Music aids you toward whatever rebellion you want. When I’m one person, I’m listening to different music than when I am another. It [music] encourages you to fight,”
Hmmm. She drives a pretty strong and poignant point. Even though I’ve never really argued with my parents over what I’m listening to, I couldn’t count on ten hands the number of times I have turned to music to get me pissed off enough to confront someone, to encourage me to do something difficult, or to empower me to say “F*ck it!” and take that first clandestine step out the front door at 2 AM. That’s magic, kids. And it doesn’t matter if you get that feeling from Deez Nuts or Lil Kim. It’s still prompting action. It’s still making kids want to rebel. So maybe it’s not about overt rebellion. Maybe the key to music’s relationship to teens and rebellion is a little more subtle.
“You know, rage can be a positive thing,” states Taylor. “Feeling something like that can really not only empower you, but it can also [help] you let go of sh*t. If it’s too bleak, then what’s the f*cking point?” That’s a good question. And it’s an idea that not only challenges the commonly held vision of rage and rebellion, but also my own vision of what my generation is doing in relationship to music these days. I wanted to write this article because I thought I could feel the rebellion waning amongst my fellow youth. I wanted to know why it disappeared, and where it had gotten off to. What I found was that I may not have had it quite right. Rebellion isn’t going anywhere. Sure, it seems to be hidden between hit singles and bullsh*t Grammy awards (I mean come on, Chris Brown actually WON something). But it’s there. It’s under the fingernails of every kid who uses their laptop to download music illegally; it’s in the headphones of every kid who’s listening to their sh*t so loud that they can’t hear their mother yelling from downstairs. It’s even in my 12-year-old sister’s eyes as she asks facetiously, “Do you mind if I turn this One Direction song up?” Of course I do. But at least she’s pissing someone off.
Banner Photo Credit: GuttaWorld
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