SEIKA GHAVIDEL (GRADE 11)
In our society, people are judged on a numerous amount of things: physical appearances, fashion sense, academic performance, etc. But when did there exist a line between ‘bad’ and ‘good’ music? Of course what is ‘bad’ and ‘good’ is completely subjective, but most adolescents agree that what is considered ‘bad’ is any and all mainstream or pop music, while ‘good’ music tends to lean towards rap, hip-hop, or R&B. This, however, oversimplifies the phenomenon as a whole, and when looked at closer, the roots of these judgements become clearer.
Mainstream music tends to almost always be pop. Pop music is bright, catchy, and lends itself to be the melody that is stuck in your head during class. Popular artists such as Taylor Swift, Adele, Justin Bieber, and Katy Perry are all widespreadly associated with the term pop. This specific genre of music is written with the intent of being consumed by the masses. Of course, part of what makes something ‘cool’ is the exclusiveness of it all. Therefore, when millions of people around the world are listening to the same Ariana Grande single, it becomes almost shameful to admit to singing along to it in the shower. Additionally, many argue that pop music is essentially void of any meaningful lyrics and is a recycling of the same sounds. Others argue that music does not always need to be making a statement or be completely original to be ‘good.’ Both arguments are valid, but taking a step back, another important observation to make is that most pop artists tend to be white. This isn’t necessarily problematic, but rather something to take note of.
On the other side of the of the spectrum is what is considered ‘good’ music, which lends itself to most often times be rap, hip-hop, or r&b. Some of the most famous artists associated with these genres are Drake, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Kehlani, and Chance the Rapper. The reality of it however, is that these genres are widely popular among millions of people around the world, yet unlike pop have still managed to retain their ‘cool’ factor. This raises the questions of why and how? Some say that rap music specifically almost always has a message or purpose, contrary to most pop. This appealing aspect in itself makes rap ‘good’ music as opposed to the latter. Others would say that the separation between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ music is merely chance and the way things played out. This, however, is not the case.
The genres that have rose to popularity and that are known to be ‘cool’ have been genres that originated with black artists and culture. What is ‘cool’ music is in reality music appropriated from black artists and styles. Taking a broader look, this occurrence can be seen everywhere. It is not a new concept that black culture has become the new ‘it’ thing to do. The new way to do your hair. The new way to wear your clothes. The new way to talk. The new way to listen to music. The new way to identify. This however is not acceptable. Culture is not simply a trend, a mere fad that will pass after one decides it isn’t ‘cool’ enough.
It is not to say one cannot listen to some Childish Gambino without being insensitive, but rather they should recognize that rap, as well as other similar genres, was a genre born out of struggle. And, as Amandla Stenberg put it, if our society appreciated and loved black people even half as much as we do black culture, we’d all be much better off.
Photo credit: The Odyssey