Opinions: Pop Music - Our Audio Drive-Thru

Pop music is bad.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let me try to explain what I mean so that hordes of loyal Miley fans (who are called Smilers, for some reason) don’t come breaking down my innocent freshman dorm door.

Image via Miley Cyrus Facebook.

Image via Miley Cyrus Facebook.

These days, it’s hard to turn on the radio and not hear one of 40 songs. Now, these are not necessarily specific songs, but rather the 40 songs on heavy rotation on pop music stations in America. These songs may seem diverse, however there are definitely certain universal truths about these “Top 40” songs that are, for lack of a better word, undeniable. Yes, I said it, and we must absolutely hold these truths to be undeniable.

The truths of pop music are not complex. Simply, pop music has and always will be the most easily digestible form of music. Today’s Top 40 takes the form of songs about how old you are and what kind of time you’re having over painfully simple dance beats.

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Image via AT 40 Facebook.

Now I don’t want to sound like hipster scum, but today’s pop music carries a certain air of half-heartedness that is…undeniable. The artists know how to appeal to our American culture as a whole. This desire for mass appeal prevents most mainstream artists from
creating music that is truly unique or has any sort of deeper musical significance.

The McDonaldization of our society is a concept coined by sociologist George Ritzer. Even back in 1993 he realized that we, especially now in the 21st century, live in a culture focused on efficiency and fast-paced, easy access media and social interactions. Take the prime example of this, the namesake: McDonald’s. At McDonald’s you know what you’re getting when you step up to that sticky, brown counter. The people will be sassy because they hate their menial, low-skill jobs, the food will be out in four minutes and that same food will be greasy and cheap. At McDonald’s, the service provided is efficient, calculated and predictable. Furthermore, the employees are controlled by a set of easy tasks that ultimately dehumanize them.

Enter pop music.

Dance-pop’s qualities are exactly those of McDonald’s. To put it simply, the majority of Top 40 Radio consists of a sort of “Audio Drive-Thru.” You turn on your radio, flip to the pop station, and digest your daily musical Big Mac and side of audio fries. This basically means that when you listen to Top 40, you know what you will hear because it’s predictable. Additionally, the minimal effort it takes to lay down a relatively simple production and lyricism of dance-pop means that the production of it is all the more calculated and essentially just spit out of a machine for everyone and anyone to enjoy. There is a degree of laziness associated with this system of musical production that is indicative of American society. Considering that our country was built on the idea of hard work, this signals an unhappy decline in our universal moral fiber.

Image via McDonald's Facebook Don't you wish everything was as quick and easy as McDonalds?

Image via McDonald's Facebook.

While there is nothing wrong with listening to pop music (I indulge from time to time, myself), it’s important to realize how music and the American mindset go hand in hand. It happens in food, in movies, in television, in language, in music, in just about any medium of communication you can think of. We listen to pop music because it’s easily accessible, like our McDonald’s. While pop music isn’t necessarily “bad,” as musical taste is absolutely 100% subjective, it is definitely “bad for you.” Not unlike our McDonald’s, it’s quick and easy stuff. And boy, do we as Americans like our stuff quick and easy. Even though the masses will not change overnight we, as a society, should consider healthier options when it comes to our daily lives. Maybe if we take a break from our McFlurries and our Ke$ha we will find that a society based on instant gratification isn’t really the best option.

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Evan Martinez