• Parker Beauregard

What Happened to Music?

Updated: Jun 23, 2020

We admit, this article is not groundbreaking in it's revelations. Over seventy years ago, the greatest generation was already yelling at their kids to turn down their rock’n’roll music. This is nothing new. Still, in the larger context of identifying ongoing or contributing factors to social decline, it wouldn’t be thorough to leave this rolling stone uncovered. 

Our thesis is simple: The most popular music performed by artists today is detrimental to the social development of young people. How could it not be? If the performer, bejeweled from head to toe, surrounded by pretty women, holstering a gun, and living luxuriously is not to be idolized, why download the song? The fact that the song represents popular culture means that young people will imitate all of its concepts, whether that is the language used or lifestyle encouraged. Music videos help tell a story, but they certainly don’t help in this situation.

Given the prevalent social narrative of black victimhood at the hands of systemic and individual white racism, it is worth calling attention to the impact of music specifically on the black community. Therefore, for the purposes of this article, we focus on blacks both in the recitation of song and the consumption of content. However, it should be obvious that one could substitute black for white and the idea is the same; music from the 1960s had one message and what passes for music today has another.

The comparisons made here rely on the lyrics themselves to tell the rest of this story. In the mid-1960s, musicians were inspired by hopeful themes. The Golden Oldies produced a great number of retellings of lost love, unrequited love, and mutual love. Present-day music, on the other hand, tends toward an aggressive sound with equally intimidating lyrics. There seems to be a love more for power and vengeance than that of a woman.  

Consider the next few stanzas from popular music in the early 1960s. I will include the artist, song title, and year of release. 

The Temptations, “My Girl,” 1965:

I've got sunshine on a cloudy day

When it's cold outside I've got the month of May

Well I guess you'd say

What can make me feel this way?

My girl (my girl, my girl)

Talkin' 'bout my girl (my girl)

The Chiffons, “One Fine Day,” 1963

One fine day, you'll look at me

And you will know our love was, meant to be

One fine day, you're gonna want me for your girl

The arms I long for, will open wide

And you'll be proud to have me, right by your side

One fine day, you're gonna want me for your girl

The Four Tops, “I Can’t Help Myself,” 1965

Sugar pie, honey bunch

You know that I love you

I can't help myself

I love you and nobody else

In and out my life (in and out my life)

You come and you go (you come and you go)

Leaving just your picture behind

And I kissed it a thousand times

The Foundations, “Build Me Up Buttercup,” 1967

Why do you build me up (build me up) buttercup, baby

Just to let me down (let me down) and mess me around?

And then worst of all (worst of all) you never call, baby

When you say you will (say you will) but I love you still

I need you (I need you) more than anyone, darlin'

You know that I have from the start

So build me up (build me up) buttercup, don't break my heart

"I'll be over at ten, " you told me time and again

But you're late, I wait around and then (bah dah dah)

I went to the door, I can't take any more

It's not you, you let me down again

The Shirelles, “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” 1960

Tonight you're mine, completely

You give your love so sweetly

Tonight the light of love is in your eyes

But will you love me tomorrow

Is this a lasting treasure

Or just a moment's pleasure

Can I believe the magic in your sighs

Will you still love me tomorrow

The Crystals, “Then He Kissed Me,” 1963

Well, he walked up to me and he asked me if I wanted to dance

He looked kinda nice and so I said I might take a chance

When he danced he held me tight

And when he walked me home that night

All the stars were shining bright

And then he kissed me

Each time I saw him I couldn't wait to see him again

I wanted to let him know that he was more than a friend

I didn't know just what to do

So I whispered I love you

He said that he loved me too

And then he kissed me

Compare those to the lyrics of well-known or top-charting songs introduced by more current performers. The first is a contemporary Number One song as of 2020. It will likely fade away once its chart run is complete. We could only hope. What does it say when the number one song in American pop culture focuses on curse words, repeatedly saying ‘nigga’ in reference to blacks, and invariably has a theme of the high-flying gangster life, which means attaining more guns and women than the next guy, not to mention at the expense of him? It’s worth noticing that this “artist” celebrates having shot a fellow human being in front of his two-year-old daughter.

Dababy, “Rockstar ft. Roddy Ricch,” 2020

Brand new Lamborghini, fuck a cop car

With the pistol on my hip like I'm a cop (yeah, yeah, yeah)

Have you ever met a real nigga rockstar?

This ain't no guitar, bitch, this a Glock (woo)

It's safe to say I earned it, ain't a nigga gave me nothin' (yeah, yeah)

I'm ready to hop out on a nigga, get to bustin'

Know you heard me say, "You play, you lay, " don't make me push the button

Full of pain, dropped enough tears to fill up a fuckin' bucket

My daughter a G, she saw me kill a nigga in front of her before the age of two

And I'll kill another nigga too

'Fore I let another nigga do somethin' to you

NWA, “Fuck The Police,” 1988

Fuck the police comin' straight from the underground

A young nigga got it bad 'cause I'm brown

And not the other color so police think

They have the authority to kill a minority

Fuck that shit, 'cause I ain't the one

For a punk motherfucker with a badge and a gun


And when I'm finished, bring the yellow tape

To tape off the scene of the slaughter

Still gettin' swole off bread and water

I don't know if they fags or what

Search a nigga down, and grabbin' his nuts


Ice Cube will swarm

On any motherfucker in a blue uniform

Just 'cause I'm from the CPT

Punk police are afraid of me!

Huh, a young nigga on the warpath

And when I'm finished, it's gonna be a bloodbath

Of cops, dyin' in L.A.

Yo Dre, I got somethin' to say

Fuck the police

Fuck the police

Fuck the police

Fuck the police

Kendrink Lamar, “All Right,” 2015

Alls my life I has to fight, nigga

Alls my life I

Hard times like, yah!

Bad trips like, yah!

Nazareth, I'm fucked up

Homie, you fucked up

But if God got us then we gon' be alright

Nigga, we gon' be alright

Nigga, we gon' be alright

We gon' be alright

Do you hear me, do you feel me? We gon' be alright

Nigga, we gon' be alright

Huh? We gon' be alright

Nigga, we gon' be alright

Do you hear me, do you feel me? We gon' be alright

This is a losing battle. We get it. There isn’t a great historical record of asking musicians to tone down their craft; if anything, they up their game to prove a point. When the now-glorified Golden Oldies came out, parents of that generation likewise condoned it for its overt play on sexual or drug-addled themes. 

Still, one can’t help but notice that the former’s issues were things like teenage lovers seeking time alone (which is what teenagers have always done and will always do) compared to the current ones like celebrating a fast life filled with money, cars, women, and shooting down the competition (police included). They aren’t on the same playing field. Heck, that’s not even the same universe.

We emulate what we admire. If the musical celebrities continue to curse their way through a song, all while flashing their ridiculous sums of money and bragging about their conquests, professional or otherwise, it only makes sense that impressionable followers will do what they can to look like or live like that, too. 

Is it the sole reason for a decline? For that matter, is it not even a contributing factor and merely a reflection of the decline? Either way, little good seems to be coming from it.

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