I’ll admit that I enjoy listening to Top 40 music, and that no matter how often I hear Pitbull’s “Give Me Everything,” it still has a good beat and I haven’t grown tired of it yet.
Even so, there’s something vaguely unsettling about current popular music. Perhaps it’s the terrible grammar the artists use in their lyrics, the subject matter, or even the fact that each song is played ad nauseam on a seemingly continuous loop.
Nicole Scherzinger’s hit “Right There” (featuring rapper 50 Cent) includes the grammatically incorrect lyrics “Me like the way that you touch my body” and “Never gonna let no girl steal him from me.” Of course, the lyrical content isn’t meant to be taken seriously (or even really listened to), and the song is more about the beat and the popularity of the two singers, but the first time I heard the song, it bothered me.
The subject matter of popular songs is also disturbing. The top five songs as of October 11, 2011 and their subject matter are as follows:
1. Maroon 5 – “Moves Like Jagger” (dancing, club lifestyle, sex)
2. Bad Meets Evil – “Lighters” (working one’s way to the top)
3. Britney Spears – “I Wanna Go” (dancing, club lifestyle, sex)
4. Katy Perry – “Last Friday Night” (partying, drinking, no regrets)
5. Nicki Minaj – “Super Bass” (crushes, sex)
The Bad Meets Evil song has a fairly important and positive message (work hard to make your way to the top), but Eminem’s rapped verses contain a great deal of profanity that can take away from that message and undermine the hopefulness of Bruno Mars’s chorus.
The only song on the list of current top 10 hits that’s remotely different in style and subject matter is Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks,” and even the band members themselves do not really know how the song rose to the heights of popularity that it did. But that is not to say that the content of even that song is redeeming; it’s about a kid with homicidal thoughts, although the lyrics were meant to raise awareness of gun violence.
It’s a little disconcerting to think that kids in middle school are listening to this music and quite possibly taking it seriously. I argue that this music is meant to be pure fun, have a good beat, and to be “ear candy” with no real substance, but young kids might try to emulate the lifestyles portrayed in the lyrics.
All in all, listening to Top 40 music is a bit like eating Pringles potato chips: airy, fun, and difficult to stop, but it won’t fill you up or satisfy you.
Note: This article was originally going to be published on the New Student Union blog, but it didn’t make the cut, so it’s getting posted here.