Music. I am a huge lover of music, ranging from classical to Top 40 to individual artists you can’t even categorize. I’m also a fan of psychology, and every once in a while, I can merge my two passions together.
What I’m interested in is knowing what we are singing about today and how it’s different from 20, 30 even 50 years ago, especially in disseminating tragedy and current events.
Music as a whole has been around for ages and transcends all barriers. You don’t have to be rich or poor to appreciate music. Heck, you don’t have to even speak the same language, or any language at all! Lead singer Jónsi of Sigur Rós sings in Hopelandic, a made up language mixed with English and Icelandic. You can even take Psy and his famous song Gangnam Style, a song mostly sung in Korean.
In fact, Felix Mendelssohn who was one of the most gifted composers of the 19th century went as far to say that music didn’t even need language to convey its’ message.
“Music cannot be expressed in words, not because it is vague but it is more precise than words” –Felix Mendelssohn
Despite the knowledge that music can transcend all barriers, music has always had a purpose in the particular society it is created in. Traditionally, music has played an important role in society by relaying news, passing on tradition, and touching upon society’s ‘hot topics’.
Increasingly in the past couple hundred years, music started being created mostly for pleasure and entertainment. However, music still plays a societal function by engaging us to think about new ideas, current trends, current obsessions and yes- even current events.
I feel that how a musical artist portrays current events says a lot about how society as a whole feels about a topic. A song isn’t going to become a radio favourite unless there’s an audience wanting to listen to it. Taking a look at what Top 40 artists are singing about today, what does that reflect about our current society? What musical record are we leaving for future generations?
Here is a sample of our Top 40 songs;
1. One More Night- by Maroon 5
2. Blow Me One Last Kiss- by Pink
3. As Long As You Love Me- by Justin Beiber
To be honest I can’t remember the last time I heard a Top 40 song about a tragic event, or event a current event.
I feel that unfortunately, our ability to disseminate tragedy through music has greatly decreased. Instead of music engaging us with current events, it’s about current people. Instead of reporting on what reality is, music artists report on what society wants reality to be.
In today’s current society, it’s acceptable for an 8-year-old girl to sing about promiscuity and clubbing. In fact, it’s applauded by masses! Content is no longer important- if you have a good beat; your work is done for you!
Here’s what I’m talking about. Sophia Grace Brownlee sings ‘Super Bass’ by Nicki Minaj. The video has gathered more than 39,000,00 views and Sophia was invited on Ellen to meet Nicki Minaj and sing with her.
What This Means
To be honest I’m not quite sure. I just find that it’s interesting that a song like ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ by U2 or ‘Bye Bye Miss American Pie’ by Don Mclean can be such great hits about tragic events. Music impacts us on an emotional level, and it’s my belief that music can help us grieve and move on.
I would just like to say that country music is an exception to this observation. Country music has always been very perceptive and open, but hardly any songs on Top 40 are true country songs.
So if we aren’t singing about tragic events (such as 9/11 for example), are we truly going to be able to speak about them openly and move on? I hope we can, but what do you think?