The Decline of Popular Music's Message-Conveying Power

Topics: Music

The following example essay on “Popular Music” addresses the question why is popular music no longer the powerful message conveyor it used to be?

The commercial pop we have now, the Ed Sheerans, the Chainsmokers, the Taylor Swifts, will never be a carrier for social change in the way music once was. Id like to examine the true reach of mainstream pop and learn about why more mainstream artists arent utilizing their voice to its fullest potential.

What is pop music? When the term originated in the late 1950s, it was used to describe a new music that was increasingly popular with middle class teenagers.

It was more commercialized and more accessible than rock and classical music and, most importantly, according to British musicologist Simon Frith, was not driven by any significant ambition except profit and commercial reward […] and, in musical terms, it is essentially conservative. This defining characteristic remains the truest.

What is the pop music we have now? Its a sound technically crafted to fill a market need of extremely accessible, easy to dance to music that can serve as a backdrop to a materialistic lifestyle.

Frith calls this music provided from on high (by record companies, radio programmers, and concert promoters) rather than being made from below … Pop is not a do-it-yourself music but is professionally produced and packaged. This modernized pop music is not in itself problematic, but its shameless pushing of capitalist propaganda and the lack of social awareness directly in front of a new and young generation of music listeners is.

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This isnt saying we are entirely devoid of true artistry in mainstream pop; The Kendrick Lamars, Beyonces, and Childish Gambinos are using their power as artists to comment and critique on the state of our country, but everyone else seems to be asleep at the wheel.

Why arent all popular artists using their voice to speak out? Lets look at Bruno Mars specifically. According to, his music (on Spotify alone) reaches around 31 million people monthly. Each day he gains 20,000 new Spotify followers, 12,000 Instagram followers, and gets nearly 7 million views on YouTube. His music is constantly in the top curated Spotify playlists expanding his overall audience reach to 172 million people; thats almost every single free and subscribed user on Spotify. And yet none of the songs hes released in the past 10 years offer any sort of commentary or critique. He is preaching to the youngest generation of music listeners that everything in the world is seemingly okay.

In closer examination, Bruno Mars plays on average 186 shows per year ( Almost all of which are arenas averaging 15,000-20,000 seats. Lets say theres 17,500 seats per arena and he averages 80% tickets sold each of the 186 shows. That exposes him, live in person, to 2.6 million fans a year. At none of these shows did he choose to mention any type of commentary or even reference the political climate of our country.

Similar statistics can be applied to Taylor Swift, The Chainsmokers, Ed Sheeran, the list goes on. What needs to happen in order for these (white) artists to wake up and use their voice for social change? How would our country be different if Katy Perry and Eminem used their voice to defend Planned Parenthood? Or if Post Malone used his voice to continue raising awareness of the water situation in Flint?

In the 60s and 70s Artists like Marvin Gaye, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, and Sam Cooke regularly spoke out about injustice and called for action. Look at the song Mississippi Goddam by Nina Simone, deemed one of the most powerful songs of the civil rights movement in 1964.

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The Decline of Popular Music's Message-Conveying Power. (2019, Dec 15). Retrieved from

The Decline of Popular Music's Message-Conveying Power
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