Friday, February 11, 2011

POS: Reflections of Popular Culture in Music



"As the music is, so are the people of the country." Turkish Proverb

Type your response to the following prompt as a Word document and be sure to proofread and edit before you paste and post. You will be assessed using the Short Essay Response Rubric.


Check either Billboard or Rolling Stone for the current list of America's top 50 songs. Choose at least 3 songs; avoid any songs you are very familiar with. Listen/study the lyrics to the selected songs.


Consider the subject matter, content and point of view of today's top songs and identify lines which contain poetic merit. What do these songs, as a whole, say about our modern American culture? In particular, what do these songs say about your generation as the greatest consumers of music media? How are gender roles represented in popular music? How is success measured?

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Daniel Sugar-D

The songs I chose were “Waiting for the End” (Linkin Park, A Thousand Suns), “Sick of You” (Cake Showroom of Compassion), and “No Love” (Eminem ft. ‘Lil Wayne. “Waiting for the End” is about holding onto you hopes and dreams, as demonstrated by Chester Bennington’s line “I’m Holding onto what I haven’t got”, which he repeats throughout and ends the song with. Linkin Park writes mostly to relate to young people, and this song does just that. However, it lacks the features typical of their songs; instead of venting teenage angst, it speaks to the character of someone waiting for something they have wanted for a long time.
“Sick of You” by the band Cake, deals with relationships gone wrong. Front man John McCrea sums it up with:
It's about how when you hate things, the circle of hate starts rather broadly. You hate the President or a big movie star, someone you'll probably never meet. Gradually though, the circle tightens and the objects of hate get closer and closer to the hater. Now it's your uncle or your mother, now it's your close friend, and finally it's you…
This basically is a song that reflects our hateful society, in that we hate everything and everyone until we just cannot hate anyone more. It can be related to by just about anyone who feels angst towards America.
“No Love”, a part of Eminem’s new album Recovery and featuring ‘Lil Wayne, deals with the theme of bullying and the failure of a relationship. “You get no love. And I don’t need you no more, don’t wanna see you no more”. It also gets into the anger that builds up in victims of bullying “…try to kick me while I’m down, I’ll break your leg”. It really speaks to the bullying problem in schools and can be related to by anyone who has either been a bully or a bully victim.

Anonymous said...

Juliana Ahern

After looking through the Billboards top 100 songs in America, the three songs I chose were “The Cave” by Mumford & Sons, “F****** Perfect” by Pink, and “Firework” by Katy Perry.

In “The Cave”, the artist has an interesting way of writing the lyrics by placing two verses that are completely opposite in meaning next to each other. For example, in the first verse the artist describes the sun rising as someone walks “away from all the fears and faults left behind”. The line symbolises something positive occurring. However, in the verse following the same person has “no food to eat” and is feeling “shame in defeat”. But the overall message of the song is to always keep hope inside oneself no matter how difficult a situation is.

In “F****** Perfect”, Pink merely expresses that everyone is perfect in their own way and to never think otherwise. She also lets the listeners know that she’s felt imperfect because of “critics” judging her. “Firework” is similar to “F****** Perfect. In the song, Katy Perry expresses that everyone is unique by using a large amount of similes. She also states that no one should feel useless or like “a waste of space” which is along the lines of Pink’s opinion.

Like most songs, the artists have a message in their song that they want to share with their listeners. Mumford & Sons’ “The Cave”, Pink’s “F****** Perfect”, and Katy Perry’s “Firework” all have similar messages they want to share with America. All the songs are positive and inspirational. Americans probably like these songs so much because they enjoy the inspirational lyrics to get them through the day.

Allie Capprini said...

These are the top 3 songs based on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart:

The number one song this week is Black and Yellow by Wiz Khalifa. This is a song about a car but it is also known for being the theme song of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were just in the Super Bowl. That may be why this song has jumped from number four to number one this week. This song is written by Khalif who grew up in Pittsburgh and he portrays a car that is painted his town colors, showing his love for where he came from. This love for where you come from is commonly represented in rap music. This may show our countries nationalism and love for our regions.

The number two song this week is Grenade by Bruno Mars. This song is about a boy singing to a girl he really likes and will do anything for, but she doesn’t have the same feeling in return. Grenade is portraying the normal relationship complications that people have these days.

The number three song this week is Firework by Katy Perry. This song is about self-confidence and having good self-esteem. It is an encouraging song that lifts the spirits of many people. In the hard economic times that our country is suffering through everyone could use a good optimistic song to lighten their spirits. All three of these songs are also on the top of the pop charts as well which shows what type of music our country mainly listens to right now.

Taylor S. said...

Taylor Saltmarsh- D

Music most definitely changes from generation to generation. Older people hear the music we listen to today, and think its garbage, and younger people think the “oldies” are boring. Why do tastes in music change so dramatically over time? Well it all depends on what is going on at the time, and the cultural influences that go into making music. It is something that nobody thinks about anymore, but current events influence music more than we realize. Music can define a decade, generation, and time period. In today’s music people look for things they can relate to, something that moves them emotionally, and something to ultimately connect to.
The current number one song on Billboard’s top 100 songs is “Black and Yellow”, which is sung by Wiz Khalifia. “Black and Yellow” is a rap song about the Pittsburg Steelers. The song gained popularity during the football season when it became the theme song for the Steelers. This song probably says the most about our modern American culture because it expresses how competitive Americans can be about football and their team. We take pride in sports and this song is all about representing Pittsburg with the repeated phrase “Black and Yellow”. Although this song is only about one specific place in the United States it became number one because as the generation of the greatest consumers of music media, we tend to look for songs that are catchy and make an impact on you. It doesn’t matter if it makes an emotional impact but it just has to stay stuck in your head, which makes you listen to it more, and eventually you buy it on your iPod. Most young people don’t see meaning at first unless they really look into the song, when I first heard “Black and Yellow” I had no idea what the point of it was until I looked further into it. The success of the Steelers in this song is measured by the support of their fans in Pittsburg.
Bruno Mars is currently one of the most popular artists in America. Bruno’s new song “Grenade” is currently number two on the list. The subject matter of this song pertains to love. It is all about a man who is willing to put his life on the line for a girl who he dearly loves, but the only problem is she doesn’t feel the same way. Almost everyone in one form or another can relate to the theme of love, especially the rejection of love. This song as a whole says the American like straightforward messages in songs, there are however there are certain few who are interested in uncovering the meaning behind lyrics, but “Grenade” says everything flat out with no hidden messages. Gender roles are represented in this song through love, and everyone loves a love story.. As a generation of music media consumers we find this entertaining because right off the bat we are drawn in, just by the title.
“Firework” by Katy Perry has the most poetic merit out of all the songs; in the song she compares fireworks to a person’s spirit. This song is all about expressing yourself which most teenagers easily relate to and understand. Gender roles are described as unified and equal in this song. The fact that it is sung by a woman contributes to the meaning of “Firework” which is, everyone no matter what their situation is can be themselves by letting their true colors show and shock everyone else. The song starts off with “ Do you ever feel like a plastic bag, drifting through the wind, wanting to start again” , that one line alone can stick with a person who is having a hard time and give them hope and make them realize that they aren’t alone. American culture is all about hope and freedom. People in America listen to this song because it makes them feel good and care-free inside, and gives them hope and also something to think about. Every song that people listen to has to evoke some sort of emotion to make people understand and listen to what it is actually saying, and our generation tends to like catchy music with an upbeat rhythm, but overall people want something they can relate to and think about.

Panos N said...

The music industry today is a very different industry compared to the music industry of the past years. Going back thirty, maybe twenty years ago, and one would find music that is much more meaningful and simplistic in comparison of music today. Music, once properly used by musicians to convey messages with meanings, is now abused by many mainstream artists today. The music that is listened to nowadays usually has an underlying message relating to drugs, sex, partying, etc. Songs, like Dr. Dre’s “I Need a Doctor”, Wiz Khalifa’s “Roll Up”, and Black Eyed Peas’ “The Time” are all songs that essentially reflect upon many Americans.
Many mainstream songs made in the twenty-first century often convey explicit messages that are hidden by a fast paced beat, loud drums, etc. These songs reflect upon America’s culture and the current generation of music consumers. One of these songs, “The Time” by The Black Eyed Peas, is a perfect example of a song that would be used at a club. Its fast paced beat would qualify it as a club song. Needless to say, the lyrics also make references to drug use: “People rockin’ to the sound, Turn it up and watch it pound, We gon’ rock it to the top, Until the roof come burnin’ down, Yeah, it’s hot in herrre, The temperaturrre, Has got these ladies, Gettin’ freakierrr.” Ecstasy, a drug also known as the “love drug”, is known for causing a person’s temperature and causing one to behave in an extraordinary manner. “Roll Up” by Wiz Khalifa is a song that is entirely based on marijuana. Although the song title obviously refers to the marijuana, Wiz Khalifa even shares what he does on a daily basis: “Wake up you rollin’ weed, cooking eggs in the morning.” Again, the music consumers continue to ignore the lyrics and the purpose of this song. Lastly, Dr. Dre’s “I Need a Doctor” (featuring Skylar Grey and Eminem) refers to Eminem’s past drug use. At one point in his life, Eminem was a drug abuser, as he abused drugs like Vicodin, Ambium, Valium, and Methadone. Also, there is no gender inequality in today’s music industry. Many women are able to reach number one on the billboard, as well as men. Whether you are a girl or a boy, one can still sell the same amount of albums as a person of the opposite gender. The music industry has gone through a colossal change within the past thirty years.
Songs, like Dr. Dre’s “I Need a Doctor”, Wiz Khalifa’s “Roll Up”, and Black Eyed Peas’ “The Time” are songs that show the type of transition the American community has gone through in the music industry within the past thirty years. Americans completely ignore the message that is in represented in the lyrics and pay more attention to the beat/rhythm instead. In today’s music industry, success isn’t determined by how good your music is, but by how much music you can sell. However, the drastic transition that the people of America have undergone has people ignoring the lyrics and focused more on fast paced beats.

Anonymous said...

“Jar of Hearts” is a fairly new song and was written by Christina Perri. This song is about a guy who has taken the hearts of many girls and left them behind. He is careless with these girls, especially the narrator, presumably Christina Perri. Now, he is back for Christina, looking to see her again. But, she is strong and says no; her heart says yes because she loves him, but her mind knows better and tells her otherwise. The underlying theme here is women strength, standing up for oneself against careless men who think they are going to get what they want. She uses characterization to develop this guy saying ”who do you think you are running 'round leaving scars collecting your jar of hearts tearing love apart you're going to catch a cold from the ice inside your soul”. Also, she uses apostrophe, directly speaking to this “heartless”, careless guy. This song, pertaining to our American culture, explains this new feeling of carelessness amongst couples. People think they can do what they want and get what they want and there will be no consequences. People don't realize that they are hurting the people closest to them, or they simply do not care. Our generation has become about heartache and loss because of people like this. People think that is okay to play around with other people's hearts. For this song, it is about men playing with women, but in today's society that gender role goes both ways – women play with men, too. As for the underlying theme, women have grown as a whole and are slowly building their power in all aspects of today's society.
“Born This Way” is also a new song and was written by Lady GaGa. This song is about accepting oneself and not letting anyone else bring you down. She says everyone is “born superstars” and no one can take that away from anyone else. It doesn't matter what color your skin is, what religion you practice, what ethnicity you come from, what your sexual orientation is, whether you have money or not, or if you are disabled or not. She says in her song that she is beautiful in every way “'cause God makes no mistakes”. Everyone was born the way they are and whatever that may be, it is okay and there's nothing wrong with who you are. She wants everyone to accept themselves and don't change anything. Lady GaGa also uses apostrophe, directly talking to you, or her audience; this engages them and makes it more personal. In today's society, people are judgmental and think what they find to be morally correct it the only way. People are too full of themselves to even see things from another person's viewpoint. Not too long ago, being gay or anything other than straight was just unheard of; people hid who they truly are form themselves and from other people. But, today, people are open and that is okay; but, still there are people against being something other than who they are. Everyone question each other instead of looking for who we really are as people. Success is measured by gender; unfortunately, men are still more highly looked upon than women and that needs to change entirely.
“Back to December” was written by Taylor Swift. This song is a personal apology to someone who treated her so well but she was careless with (is it the opposite of Christina Perri's song). She says in an interview that this song is about a lesson that she learned too late. She uses apostrophe also by directly speaking to this person who is deserving of an apology from her. It symbolizes a true story that she encountered. It is said to be a metaphor for her relationship with Taylor Lautner. A lot of music in our generation is about heartbreak or loss of love. Both genders play an important role in the music. Either the women is heartbroken and the man the heart-breaker or vice versa.

Meagan Elliott

Jaron C. said...

The three songs I chose are numbers 2, 4, and 7 on the Billboard Hot 100:
“Firework” by Katy Perry
“Black and Yellow” by Wiz Khalifa
And “(Forget) You” by Cee Lo Green

I chose these three songs because they are from different styles of music and ranked relatively high on the Billboard chart, proving their popularity. In “Firework” there are many poetic devices used. She says, “You just gotta ignite the light”, which uses assonance. She also says, “Do you ever feel, feel so paper thin, like a house of cards, one blow from caving in?” Katy Perry uses metaphors and similes to express someone feeling weak and vulnerable. The line, “After a hurricane comes a rainbow” uses a double entendre. She is literally saying that a rainbow comes after a hurricane, but also that things will eventually get better, even after a hard time. In my opinion, the song “Black and Yellow” does not use many poetic devices. The actual colors, black and yellow, are symbolic of the city Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Saying the colors in the lyrics is also an example of local color because they allude to a certain city. There is some assonance used in the lyrics. For example, the words “screamin’”, “nothin’”, and “stuntin’” all rhyme with the way the singer pronounces them. There are also some poetic devices used in “(Forget) You” by Cee Lo Green. He says, “Yeah I’m sorry, I can’t afford a Ferrari”. There is assonance used with the words sorry and Ferrari. Cee Lo Green later says, “I guess he's an Xbox and I'm more Atari”. The comparisons are metaphors and also symbolic of new vs. old.

As a whole, these songs, excluding “Firework”, say a lot of negative aspects about our culture. “Firework” talks about how everyone is different, unique, and how one should not be scared to show who they really are. “Black and Yellow” and “(Forget) You” promote other ideas. “Black and Yellow” talks about a lot of material items and having a lot of money. “(Forget) You” is basically a song telling someone off and how they lost a girlfriend to another guy. These two songs don’t really have much meaning and don’t represent our society in the best light. “Firework” presents our society with more meaningful qualities.

As the greatest consumers of music media, our generation should be ashamed of themselves. We are purchasing music based on its beat and popularity, but not its meaning or content. When one actually takes the time to listen to the lyrics of some of today’s most popular songs, they will realize that of most of the songs are not talking about anything of importance. These songs rank extremely high on the Billboard chart, which proves their popularity. “Firework”, in my opinion, is the only song that deserves its spot on the chart. It actually has meaning to it and falls under an extremely popular genre of music shared by most teenagers. While the other two songs have catchy beats and are pleasing to listen to, their message is not promoting anything worth value to our generation.

In popular music, gender roles tend to be extremely cliché. Guys present themselves as masculine, powerful, and controlling. They usually speak of women in a degrading manner. Women tend present themselves in a sexual way because, apparently, sex sells. This isn’t true in all music. Some songs are just the opposite of these clichés. But, in today’s popular music, these are the songs that sell. Success is usually measured by the number of songs sold and how many songs the artist has had on the charts. Lady Gaga, for example, is viewed as being successful because of her amount of number one songs and the number of downloads she has had. However, her songs have little meaning behind them and based on their content, have no merit for ranking as high on the charts as they do.

Anonymous said...

Taylor Saltmarsh- D

Music most definitely changes from generation to generation. Older people hear the music we listen to today, and think its garbage, and younger people think the “oldies” are boring. Why do tastes in music change so dramatically over time? Well it all depends on what is going on at the time, and the cultural influences that go into making music. It is something that nobody thinks about anymore, but current events influence music more than we realize. Music can define a decade, generation, and time period. In today’s music people look for things they can relate to, something that moves them emotionally, and something to ultimately connect to.
The current number one song on Billboard’s top 100 songs is “Black and Yellow”, which is sung by Wiz Khalifia. “Black and Yellow” is a rap song about the Pittsburg Steelers. The song gained popularity during the football season when it became the theme song for the Steelers. This song probably says the most about our modern American culture because it expresses how competitive Americans can be about football and their team. We take pride in sports and this song is all about representing Pittsburg with the repeated phrase “Black and Yellow”. Although this song is only about one specific place in the United States it became number one because as the generation of the greatest consumers of music media, we tend to look for songs that are catchy and make an impact on you. It doesn’t matter if it makes an emotional impact but it just has to stay stuck in your head, which makes you listen to it more, and eventually you buy it on your iPod. Most young people don’t see meaning at first unless they really look into the song, when I first heard “Black and Yellow” I had no idea what the point of it was until I looked further into it. The success of the Steelers in this song is measured by the support of their fans in Pittsburg.
Bruno Mars is currently one of the most popular artists in America. Bruno’s new song “Grenade” is currently number two on the list. The subject matter of this song pertains to love. It is all about a man who is willing to put his life on the line for a girl who he dearly loves, but the only problem is she doesn’t feel the same way. Almost everyone in one form or another can relate to the theme of love, especially the rejection of love. This song as a whole says the American like straightforward messages in songs, there are however there are certain few who are interested in uncovering the meaning behind lyrics, but “Grenade” says everything flat out with no hidden messages. Gender roles are represented in this song through love, and everyone loves a love story.. As a generation of music media consumers we find this entertaining because right off the bat we are drawn in, just by the title.
“Firework” by Katy Perry has the most poetic merit out of all the songs; in the song she compares fireworks to a person’s spirit. This song is all about expressing yourself which most teenagers easily relate to and understand. Gender roles are described as unified and equal in this song. The fact that it is sung by a woman contributes to the meaning of “Firework” which is, everyone no matter what their situation is can be themselves by letting their true colors show and shock everyone else. The song starts off with “ Do you ever feel like a plastic bag, drifting through the wind, wanting to start again” , that one line alone can stick with a person who is having a hard time and give them hope and make them realize that they aren’t alone. American culture is all about hope and freedom. People in America listen to this song because it makes them feel good and care-free inside, and gives them hope and also something to think about. Every song that people listen to has to evoke some sort of emotion to make people understand and listen to what it is actually saying, and our generation tends to like catchy music with an upbeat rhythm, but overall people want something they can relate to and think about.

Jared F. said...

“Rhythm of Love”- Plain White T’s:
This song is very simplistic. The instrumentals aren’t very technical, and the vocals don’t have a huge impression. There are a couple examples of poetic devices, like when the speaker equates a girl he loves to the ocean. “She’s got blue eyes, deep like the sea, that roll back when she’s laughin’ at me. She rises up like the tide the moment her lips meet mine.” There is also alliteration in the end with “meet mine.” It sounds like it’s meant to be a “feel good” kind of song, the kind people would listen to in the car. The subject matter, love, is something many people can relate to, and this puts sort of a playful spin on the idea and gives it purpose by saying that people should move with the “rhythm” of it.
“Higher”- Taio Cruz:
For a modern hip-hop song, this is actually pretty original. It doesn’t use a sample from a popular ‘80’s song, it doesn’t beats from other songs; it’s fresh in my opinion. There is a lot of hyperbole going on here, since the song is about the beats of a song literally taking the singer of the dance floor and into new heights. The most obvious example is towards the end: “The music’s got me goin’ higher, I feel like I can touch the sky.” Again, there’s a bit of alliteration, with “got me goin’”. This song sounds like it’s meant for the club scene, its danceable and catchy and simplistic. It further reinforces the idea that people these days for the most part don’t seek lyrical and artistic value in songs; they just want to dance!
“Waiting For The End”- Linkin Park
This song makes me sad, because it reminds me of how much Linkin Park has changed, for the worse. Anyway, there isn’t much to say about this song other than that it’s generic, but there are small moments of poetry. In the very beginning, Mike Shinoda uses the word “dead” as a verb rather than an adjective. “’Cause we're living at the mercy of the pain and the fear, until we dead it, forget it, let it all disappear.” I believe it’s meant to be inspirational, with the rap being a “voice like a riot”, but Chester Bennington’s clean and slow vocals juxtaposed with it seem unbalanced. His lyrics are solemn and depressing almost, which confuses me about what the song is really about. For the most part though, it satisfies today’s need for a little alternative stuff, and to go outside the box as far as effects and overall sound is concerned.
All in all, these songs show that today’s musical taste lies in simplicity. People today for the most part aren’t looking for technical guitar solos, masterful lyrics or anything like that. They’ll listen to anything as long as it counts as music, and if you can make music, then you’re in. This is shown by the fact that songs with the simplest and worst beats will still sell for millions of dollars in today’s music industry.

Mike W. said...

Michael Witoski-D

No generation that has experienced popular music has experienced it the same way. There are many reasons for this. Major events during the time period, such as wars, almost always effect our musical sensations at least indirectly, if not directly. This is, of course, just on a general scale. What effects one person, group, or band will not effect others in the same way, although they all may go through the same motions. Today’s popular music includes storytelling, love songs, and excessive venting. It seems to be the same general topics that every generation heard at one point in popular songs, but today’s music expresses it in a much less sophisticated way than past generations. This is not to say we are less intelligent than generations of the past, but the truth is the truth and there is nothing we can do to change it.

The first song I chose to analyze was “Waiting for the End” by Linkin Park. This song is very general and can apply to many unrelated situations, but I saw it as bad choices and lost love. By bad choices, I mean that somewhere in a relationship you realize that you made the wrong choice and “wish for the end to come” and for the strength to back up your decisions. But, in knowing that it is all over, you wish for the end to come, but wish that the pain would not come with it. “ ’Cause we’re living at the mercy of the pain and the fear until we dead it, forget it, let it all disappear.”

The second song I chose to analyze was “Just The Way You Are” by Bruno Mars. This is the typical love song; a guy singer compliments the girl he loves indirectly, although sometimes it is directly, and turns it into a simple little song accompanied by piano. There are more unique love songs out there, but this is the stereotypical one that you can hear all over the radio.

The final song I chose to analyze was “I Need a Doctor” by Dr. Dre featuring Eminem and Skylar Grey. This song, which included long rap sessions by Eminem, included one simple, but powerful message; We, as humans, need compassion, but compassion needs to come from the right source. “I’m about to lose my mind…I need a doctor…to bring me back to life.” You want compassion, but you never want to look for it in someone who is going to lie to you and use you. “Went through friends…they just left…where…are they now?”

Although I said that our popular music is slowly declining in lyrical and musical quality, I do agree that there are some bands that continue to keep the faith by writing intelligent lyrics with meaning that still manage to strike interest in the people who enjoy popular music of today. I think that these songs say that as Americans of today, we enjoy songs that do not take too much deciphering. We also seem to want songs that have simple musical structures that sound attractive. So, as a whole, people of today want attractive sounding music that is simple enough to figure out as a whole upon listening to it the first time.