Graphic by Ellie Mitchell
I get in my car and turn on the radio and Shawn Mendes’s “Mercy” is still playing. Shocker. I switch the station. “Starboy” by The Weeknd begins to play next. Ugh. I change the station again. Now Ariana Grande’s “Dangerous Woman” begins to play in the background. Typical. I give up and turn off the radio. All of the songs playing are filled with the same trashy lyrics about parties and worn-out, electronic melodies that make me rather not listen at all.
Driving down Nall, I wish I could listen to oldies like Queen, but unfortunately these are only found on my phone. Listening to the radio has become a chore for me. Unfortunately, I have a car without an aux cord, so unless I want to sit in silence, I listen to the overproduced top 10 songs that seem to play on a loop.
Compared to most people my age, my musical preferences differ greatly, so my taste in music isn’t the target audience for popular radio stations. I listen to the Beatles, Otis Redding and my absolute favorite — Billy Joel. Meanwhile, most of my friends’s playlists are filled with Drake and The Weeknd.
Unlike the usual songs that play on the radio station, the songs I put on my playlists have emotion behind them. There are stories behind the songs. Billy Joel’s “Vienna” is my current favorite and I know that he went to visit his estranged father and then wrote “Vienna”. There is meaning behind the words, unlike the gap I feel between myself and modern artists. They seem to just be there for the purpose of selling records.
My dad was the person who introduced me to the classic tunes that have drifted to my “Most Played” playlist. The music my parents grew up with has carried through generations because they are relatable and meaningful songs. Artists produced music that is timeless, but there are very few artists from the current musical climate that I think will carry on to future generations. The Beatles have lasted for decades, while the only people that will survive from our generation are those of extreme popularity such as Adele, Beyonce and Taylor Swift.
Music has the ability to tell a story and pull you into a situation through the way it is written. Frankly, I don’t sympathize or relate to Bruno Mars when listening to “24K Magic.” It just doesn’t feel that important to my current life as a teenager.
The lyrics of these songs don’t differ much either. They hypnotize their audience with songs about partying and drugs — activities I don’t find appeal to listening to. I find both meaningful lyrics and melodies in Otis Redding’s “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” and the “Here comes the Sun” by The Beatles. They are still catchy, but not to the extent where they get repetitive.
But when I hear most of the tracks that are popular now begin to play, I usually give up and don’t listen at all. These are aren’t the songs that I want to share with my hypothetical children. The songs all sound the same and I can’t tell who it is until they start actually singing. It follows the same structure of every popular song on the radio: a couple of repetitive verses and the chorus that is played for 85% of the song. I know exactly what song is on as the words “Hey Jude” blast into my headphones.
There is a tipping point between having a certain style and recreating the same thing over and over again. I have to give artists a little credit for mastering the formula of the multi-million dollar song though. Whether these artists are talented or not, they have figured out how to sell massive amounts of records.
Modern music has had the opportunity to be really good with new technology to enhance the sound, but I think it has been used as a cop out. Some songs use it in a way that brings new aspects to the music, but some rely too much on the technology instead of actual musical ability. By the time I hear them on the radio, who knows how many times it has been altered.
The Chainsmokers “Closer” and “Starboy” will be overplayed on the radio for three months and then hopefully die off into music history never to be heard again, like most of the songs from this generation of music.
Songs from Otis Redding and The Beatles, written over 30 years ago, have stayed relevant over time and have had more impact on my life than what I hear on the radio every day. There are few songs that I would want to share with my future children, like my dad did with me I can only hope when telling music history, they skip over this era.