Too many of us complain that pop music content is nothing but crap. Even though not everybody agrees with that, I think we can all agree it offers a high dosage of mindless content and that it has been, for a long time, present at the top of the music charts in several countries. Why do you think that is?
Does our popular music reflect what society is like or is society being shaped by the music catered to us? Does art imitate life or life imitate art? Who is to blame?
As a singer/songwriter who fulfills demands of writing pop content for artists all over the world, I have acquired some experience in the topic, gathered some thoughts and realized some key points that might make you rethink how you listen to pop music.
I struggled with finding the answer to this question because at the same time that I see pop artists thriving with all sorts of mindless and many times “dumbifying” content, I also see avid complaints by many people who listen to pop regarding the lack of meaningful music content this genre presents.
I also see how fast many of these mindless pop artists fall off the face of the earth after one or a few big, yet vapid hits. It made me wonder for a while if this kind of music is really what the masses want to hear like we assume.
Let’s first understand one thing: mindless music and “dumbifying” music are not the same. But, even though they have different purposes, they can have the same negative effect on people.
“Dumbifying” music, as the name suggests, is presented in a way that trains the brain to not process elaborate information. So when you passively hear your favorite trap rapper or pop artist repeating the same word over and over again without a purpose in a brainwashing ritual as a glorifying element, promoting people and situations that are damaging to us or even using lyrics with flawed logic, you are entering “Dumbville.” If you can’t see that, I’m sad to say it might already be too late for you.
Mindless music, on the other hand, is designed to elicit a similar effect on our brains as comfort food. Your brain is tired from the stressful life most of us live in the 21st century and the last thing you want is for your brain to have to work hard even more. It now craves to relax and recharge. At this point, you then choose music that makes you feel good and doesn’t make you think. This type of mindless music is an escape.
There’s technically nothing wrong with this except there is such as a thing as too much mindless music. Moderation has been and always will be the key to a healthy life.
When we fill our days with nothing but mindless content on the radio, playlists, television and films, mainly because we feel too tired or overloaded to think, we are training our brain to stop processing more elaborate information.
The biggest danger in this is how the content in our music today is so mindless and so constantly shoved down our ears. Our brains are being conditioned to not think at all and we passively start to accept every single idea presented to us in a song. Subtly and gradually, this will have an influence on you, regardless of whether you think you’re strong enough to resist it or not.
Learning through music has been a long-used indoctrination strategy by many entities and people and it still is a key factor in either enriching or numbing your brain because it retains information without you even noticing. That is why, in the past, certain record labels and music producers would include subliminal messages in songs, which they now continue to do in music videos. The effect of this messaging will cause you to know part or even all of the lyrics by heart, even though you never sat down and looked at the words of a mindless pop song.
Many of these ideas being taught in songs are completely “dumbifying,” simply because you don’t want to think, you don’t care to analyze the content and are happy instead to just simply absorb the information. Instead, you say “Oh, I don’t really pay attention to the lyrics. I just like the beat,” or “I don’t really know what they’re saying but this song is lit.”
You might frequently notice that people who don’t actively listen to the subconscious messages in music might not make strong arguments about important topics in life such as family, the meaning of life, politics, science, faith, history, etc. They do, however, know the newest pop or hip hop song out there or who the Kardashians are marrying next. Maybe now we have shed light on one of the reasons.
Ok, so we all consume junk, I get it. But who decides that we need to listen to junk? In the end, record labels won’t put out music they know won’t sell. Whose fault is it? Are we flat-out dumb by creating a demand for dumb music or are we being conditioned to become dumb?
Major record labels operate like any other corporation in the sense that it’s a business, period. The artist, writer, producer, audio engineer and A&R rep are hired by these labels to deliver a result for a company, with the ultimate goal of making the company revenue. The “employees” will also make some in the process as well. This is the ultimate goal of a major label: to make more money at more consistent intervals. In due time, the next goal will be to expand so it can continue to make more money and attain more power. Labels commonly play it safe and produce tried-and-true music formulas primarily because the concept of a lack of money and power elicits about fear. This is the essence of the music industry: to obtain or retain power through money by operating out of fear.
Labels avidly watch the charts, looking to see the most popular content and subsequently will reproduce these formulas. I also know labels who will create non-existent demands with the intent of making more money in a technique similar to that employed by some advertising campaigns. So, are the labels to fault? Their greed should naturally be unacceptable, but I don’t believe they’re the ultimate piece of the puzzle to blame.
At the end of the day, a label will only sell if three elements choose to cooperate with their sales goals: music consumers, songwriters and artists.
If there aren’t enough people willing to buy junk, junk will not be produced and marketed by a record label, simply because it isn’t selling. If songwriters are not willing to write junk, labels will not have junk to place on the shelves and if artists are not willing to perform junk, there will be no materialization of the junk.
Since realizing this, I have made a personal decision to not write or sing anything I will be ashamed of, because even when I die, my music will stay. It’s a legacy I’m leaving to somebody in the world. I’ve met countless artists, writers and producers, both indie and major, who don’t want to write or sing meaningless music. What saddens me is that the majority of them do it anyway because they feel it’s necessary in order to even have a job or in order to achieve success. At the end of the day, everyone in the music industry all does it for the same things: money, power and fear. This is the real mindless disease of our society right now, doing anything for money and equating power to success because we fear not having acceptance, love and happiness.
I hope the meaningless music industry dies before we do.
Mia Rio is a Brazilian-born pop singer, songwriter and actor in Atlanta, GA. Mia is currently signed to Born Genius Records and has written pop music for major and indie artists in the U.S., Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Sweden and Portugal.