I like to consider myself the Dark Knight of The California Aggie, and not just because I have a deep brown complexion. Like the Caped Crusader himself, dear readers, I live by one simple rule that has come to define my suave, brooding existence — if the song you’re listening to can be enjoyed by a 14-year-old girl at a middle school dance, turn that shit off and never look back.
It’s not that I don’t trust the taste of prepubescent postmodern piles of progressing progesterone. It’s that I’ve come to understand the inner workings of an industrial machine preying upon a terrible trifecta of parasitic interactions between artist, producer and audience.
Somewhere in recent history, big-time producers and corporate executives realized they can make a killing on the marketing of carefully carved piles of steaming shit to teen audiences and the unwitting parents that buy it for them. Every facet of blockbuster artists such as Ke$ha, Bieber and Chris Brown is crafted with the intention of selling millions of records, appealing to the raging hormones and underdeveloped brains of innocent young adults, only to be forgotten fast enough for the next big name to come along and top the charts. Think about it — who remembers any of the lyrics to “Don’t Stop the Party”?
You’re not supposed to. You’re just supposed to dance hard enough at the junior prom to buy the song on iTunes, third on a list of filler tracks you’re supposed to brush over. After you’ve forgotten about it, you repeat the cycle when the next Pitbull song comes out and the producers are laughing at your ass all the way to the bank.
Who remembers the words to “Rolling in the Deep”?
What’s worse is seeing great artists with the potential to produce brilliant work succumb to the temptation of major success.
Let’s take my favorite example — the fallen angel of a musical act that is Maroon 5 (or Adam Levine feat. those other guys, as they now are). Enter 2002, when the fab five of fresh-faced Berklee College of Music graduates debuted with their tour de force Songs About Jane, an album so filled with musical creativity, ingenuity and experimentation that to this day their anthems still grace much of popular contemporary radio. You can hear the passion behind every refined strum in a funky guitar riff, searing solo and bombastic bassline. Each song had complex structure, interesting melodies and sultry vocal performances by a then-unknown lead singer. Sure, most of the lyrics had a sensual overtone, but so did Al Green. He even became a reverend. Make note of the album artwork — a red cartoon of a woman with voluminous hair holding Pandora’s box.
Fast forward to 2011. The original drummer of the band has jumped ship and marketing has realized the sex appeal of Adam Levine (and the prosperity to be found in the teenage niche). Enter Hands All Over — a naked woman draped in white sheets masturbating with 10 hands on the cover of an album so watered down they had to re-release it with a song made famous by CBS’s “The Voice” in order to generate more sales.
And teens ate it up.
This isn’t like the music scene of the 1980s, where everything was unintentionally terrible and the general population simply didn’t know any better. There’s an endearing innocence to the monstrosity that is Olivia Newton-John’s “Let’s Get Physical.”
This is a calculated effort to propagate the hypersexualization and dumbing down of our media for outrageous profit.
Ke$ha releases a photo of herself smiling amidst a pool of sparkling semen and yet she still sells out arenas to a teenage demographic.
Chris Brown beats an innocent and talented young woman. Now he’s making more money than I ever will hope to.
Look what he did to Rihanna, people. Look at her goddamn hair.
You might read this as the crabby ramblings of an old soul, demanding youngsters to “get off his lawn” as he listens to Abbey Road on his gramophone.
But our music is our culture. Like art, cuisine and dialect, what we we listen to is a vital part of our identity and plays a critical role in the shaping of our society.
I’m just a 20-year-old editor frustrated with the hijacking of his cultural identity.
Just as Harry Potter revolutionizes adolescent reading, promoting strong young female characters taking on the forces of evil, Stephenie Meyer comes along to anal fist the fantasy genre and convince a new generation of teens that all you need in life is to find a man.
Something is very wrong with what we’re spoon-feeding our youth.
It’s heartening to see Mumford and Sons’ Babel take Album of the Year just this week as the popularity of organic artists like Adele and The Black Keys continues to rise.
I commend the Entertainment Council for bringing similar artists to the hallowed halls of Freeborn this April.
But for every Jack White out there today, there are too many One Directions to drown out the faint signal in a whitewash of gregarious noise. For every Alicia Keys and Florence and the Machine, you have the next Bieber waiting on the wings to fuck it up for everyone. For every Macklemore and Frank Ocean, there’s a post-Degrassi Drake spouting on how much he’d love to stick his Lil Wayne in your daughter.
For now, I’ll continue to turn on the radio and listen to the diarrhea that spurts all over my face from the speakers. I might even hum along to it as I flick the specks of fecal matter from my lips.
If we’re being honest here, “Moves Like Jagger” is rather catchy.
Then again, so is herpes.
ADAM KHAN will continue to tap his feet to Maroon 5 and hate himself for doing it. Chastise him in tempo at firstname.lastname@example.org.