Artist or entertainer?

The Arts team debates the merits of mainstream music

Popular Music Fan

I have a confession — I like One Direction.

What might be worse, I also love Ke$ha.

But before the tomatoes are flung, hear me out.

I strongly believe that music is able to affect a person and completely change their mood. All I need is the first 10 seconds of Two Door Cinema Club’s “Undercover Martyn,” a song from the biggest British-Irish indie group right now, to slap a smile on my face.

Even though the band has been criticized for not being “purist,” people are listening because they want something upbeat and uncomplicated.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with liking a song just because it’s catchy. The mainstream music of today is mainstream for a reason — it’s what people listen to every day. The latest Justin Timberlake tune are what surrounds us in society, whether it’s on TV, in the mall or on the ipods of our friends.

A common criticism of mainstream music is that it makes listeners dumber, but a multi-faceted meaning doesn’t need to be derived from every piece of music that hits the radio waves.

When musicians go about becoming the “alternative” music option, it becomes less and less about what people want to listen to, and more about making a political stand and proving a point.

British band Oasis started off as an innovative response to new wave indie music, but their lyrical mastership became shrouded in personal drama.

On the other hand there’s Ke$ha. She admits her music is about “the haters.” The music doesn’t blow my mind, but she’s upfront about what she’s trying to do and why she’s trying to do it. It’s honest.

She isn’t trying to be a role model, and even though she writes her own lyrics, she isn’t trying to create a significant conversation with her music and connect with her fans on an intimate level.

The mainstream musicians of today, including Carrie Underwood and Bruno Mars, all sing about the themes that transcend any time period — heartache, finding new love and personal struggles. What these artists accomplish is keeping these things fresh and transforming the same way society does. As the age of maturity gets lower and lower and young adults are growing up faster and faster, so the music on the radio grows with it. Mainstream music does a good job of keeping up with the people that are listening to the music.

All of this isn’t to say that I don’t also appreciate music with significant undertones and impressive handiwork in the lyrics and instrumentation. While I might listen to a One Direction song every now and then, I’ll also listen to the Smiths and Emeli Sandé.

I believe that mainstream music definitely serves a purpose in today’s society — it’s what people want to be listening to, so they do.

-- Savoula Stylianou

Indie Music Lover

For a Top 40 hit, today’s songs have never seemed to pack such a soft punch.

For so long, the mainstream music industry has sustained an identity of being a mass commercialized product for the public to consume.

After listening to song after song on the American Top 40 with Ryan Seacrest, I noticed each tune contains typical instrumentals with bland lyrics playing over top. There’s a lack of diversity and there’s a lack of thought.

A prime example of a musician without a message is, of course, Justin Bieber, the current heartthrob of modern pop.

While these entertainers have found a formula for fame with a dash of money on the side, more diverse musicians aren’t recognized because they don’t follow the current fad. Whether it’s hip hop, rock or R&B, too many people tuning into their radio stations are looking for a simple, feel good tune.

The music industry looks like it’s lacking both the substance and attitude worth listening to. The focus on fashion before passion has taken over most of modern media.

Musicians like the Foo Fighters, Macklemore and Mumford and Sons have all kept the integrity of music alive with their passionate lyrics and unique sound. However, none of these artists have reached the iconic status of Led Zeppelin or The Stooges, who despite their sometimes overly controversial status, remained consistent with each album. For me, the lyrics should still be sincere and at the forefront of every song. A good set of lyrics is what gives a song substance, especially if the instrumentals are seemingly cut and paste.

Musicians today need to take notes not only from underground music, but look back at artists including Bob Dylan, Tupac, and Radiohead — all musicians who remolded music with something new and thought provoking.

Blaming Bieber is certainly an instance of a broken record on the turntables, but this commercialization of music isn’t directed at a single icon.

Ke$ha, who enters the hit list in small bursts, has yet to create a song that doesn’t sound the exact same from the last single she penned and her producers crafted, musically and lyrically.

There are promising artists among the Top 40 charts, but they are often overtaken by those that sell rather than those who have something unique to offer. Listeners need to search for themselves. While it’s great to have a happy moment, many popular artists stop at the “Lets party tonight,” and the “I want you, baby,” lyrics, and dwell no further.

With a whole lot of effort from up and coming musicians and the ears of many listeners eagerly tuning in, the time for more worthy music has come.

-- Alex Downham

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