Historical 21st Century Pop Artists

With Michael Jackson gone and Prince’s recent passing, some are wondering if the days of great pop music are now history. Who can live up to the prolific musical geniuses of the late 20th century? It remains to be seen but a few artists show promise.

justin timberlake

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Justin Timberlake: Smooth moves, smooth voice, original songs and videos.  Will Justin prove that he is the most iconic male pop artist post-MJ?

britney-spears

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Britney Spears: Britney is already an icon but if today’s “Queen of Pop” can commit to making music for the long haul, there is no stopping her.
 

lady-gaga

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Lady Gaga: This line from ‘Applause’ says it all, “Pop culture was in art, now art’s in pop culture, in me.”

bruno-mars

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Bruno Mars: Has long since been compared to musical giants of earlier periods. Being a skilled vocalist, performer, and musician, he defines the word “artist”.

Adam-Levine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Adam Levine: With his entrance as front man of Maroon 5, he made Southern California rock-pop look easy. He has the originality, personality, and love of the art to make a name for himself as a 21st century pop icon.

Which of today’s artists do you think will become the pop icons of tomorrow?

Honorable Mention: Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Rihanna

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Rap, Rock, and Violence

parental-advisory-explicit-contentDo rap and rock music really contribute to violence, misogyny, and other ills of society?

The notion that certain genres of music may be linked to societal problems has been a topic of debate for ages. Studies and surveys have been centered on the matter and various groups and people have spoken out against rap and rock music, in particular. Advocates of the music have defended it as a mode of expression and form of storytelling; a depiction of the artists’ lives.

The Lyrics

Rap and rock music’s lyrics, in addition to their music videos, are a main point of debate — many claim they promote violence and other undesirable behaviors and attitudes.

  • Rap

Rap has come under scrutiny for lyrics that have been described as overly violent, misogynistic, and homophobic. Life After Death, the third best-selling rap album of all time, and last album of deceased rapper Notorious B.I.G. illustrates such behaviors and attitudes. Its Grammy-nominated single “Hypnotize” contains the following lyrics:

Them niggas ride dicks, Frank White push the sticks
on the Lexus, LX, four and a half
Bulletproof glass tints if I want some ass
Gonna blast squeeze first ask questions last
That’s how most of these so-called gangsters pass
At last, a nigga rappin ’bout blunts and broads
Tits and bras, ménage à trois, sex in expensive cars
I still leave you on the pavement
Condo paid for, no car payment
At my arraignment, note for the plantiff
Your daughter’s tied up in a Brooklyn basement
Face it, not guilty

Such lyrics have pushed people like politician and activist C. Delores Tucker to dedicate their lives to getting them removed from the air. Tucker created petitions, picketed stores that sold such music, and bought stock in music companies so she could protest at meetings. Tucker said of rap lyrics, “You can’t listen to all that language and filth without it affecting you.”

  • Rock

Heavy metal has been the most criticized of the subgenres of rock music. It is said to glorify everything from killing, to suicide, to satanism. Judas Priest, an English heavy metal band, was sued in the early 1990s as the cause of one suicide and one attempted suicide. Two families of teenagers who shot themselves after listening to the Judas Priest song “Better By You, Better Than Me” claimed that subliminal messages in the lyrics influenced them to create a suicide pact. The actual lyrics include:

Tell her now I got to go
Guess you’ll have to tell her how I tried
To speak up thoughts I’ve held so inside
Out in the streets and down the shore
Tell her the world’s not much living for
It’s better by you better than me

Guess I’ll have to change my way of living
Don’t wanna really know the way I feel
Guess I’ll learn to fight and kill
They’ll find my blood upon her windowsill
It’s better by you better than me

The suit was eventually dismissed, but the case lives on as an example of the influence of music on behavior.

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Mainstream Music is Bad Music?

backstreet-boys

The Backstreet Boys

In case you haven’t noticed by now, I love music, the people behind the music, and the entire creative process. Much of my favorite music is of the more esoteric, lesser known variety, but some is more mainstream. That is, popular music — Daughtry, Mary J. Blige, My Chemical Romance, and even the group that put the pop in popular music — The Backstreet Boys. Nothing wrong with that, mainstream music is as good as any other. Or so I thought. According to many, most popular music is just not good. Not only is it not good, but it’s terrible, awful trash and anyone who listens to it has poor taste in music.

I can’t deny that some of the more mainstream music and, specifically, the music artists are replaceable. They are popular today, gone tomorrow, and won’t be missed by many once their 15 months of fame is over. But amongst the mass of music and artists out there, there are some not-so-hidden gems. The Backstreet Boys really are that great of a group, no matter how much they are mocked by the “Hate Every Boy Band” crowd. The Backstreet Boys carried an age and recreated a genre of music, constantly reinvented themselves, and are still producing hits.

brandy-norwood

Brandy Norwood

If many people like the music, how bad can it be? This is argumentum ad populum, of course — just because lots of people believe the music is good, doesn’t mean it is. However, it’s worth thinking about in this case. Many of these artists simply had lucky breaks, but some had to work to get where they are and prove themselves worthy on a large-scale. Some mainstream artists started out as the unknown, under-appreciated musician just hoping to get a chance to perform at the local coffeehouse.

One thing to wonder about those who make a habit of disliking mainstream music: what happens when their favorite artists become more popular? Does their music decline in quality as they gather more fans (possible)? If an artist is truly a stand-out, it’s probably only a matter of time before they become known on the grand stage.

Several popular artists produce great music that stands the test of time. I am not going to miss out on great music because the music is enjoyed by a wider audience.

What’s your view? Is most popular music bad?

See also: