Culture, Society and Popular Music

Week 1: The influence of Music on Contemporary Society

The following blog asks the question; does music have the power to cause social change?

Music has an extremely powerful grip on our emotions as human beings. So much so, that we use our musical tastes as a way of defining who we are. Because music has such a deep effect on us, I feel that music has the power to do anything, even cause social change. However I believe that all forms of media must be supporting the issue, within society, that needs to be resolved. Especially in a time where there is such a saturation of information in mainstream media. An example of music and media causing social change would be the emergence of Hip Hop culture within mainstream media during the nineties. Prior to this media was dominated by the white male, even now it is still an issue. During the nineties we seen the rise of a black rights movement within mainstream media with the likes of Public Enemy in the charts with the famous song ‘Fight The Power’, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air taking over our television and the film ‘Do The Right Thing’, an extremely popular film which highlighted racial tensions which were happening at the time.

I believe that a hierarchy of musical genres exist within media and within some peoples heads. I understand that this may draw or prevent people from listening to a particular type of music over another, however I feel that people should not follow this ‘hierarchy’ as it only holds us back from experiencing the new and causes us to be narrow minded.

Week 2: Working Class Representations in Popular Music

The following blog discusses current and past representations of Irish working class musicians within popular music.

Because music is so deeply rooted in our personalities and defining who we are as human beings, it is extremely important that all classes and cultural backgrounds are represented within popular music. It is often artists that have grown up in under privileged backgrounds that raise important social issues that need to be discussed within mainstream culture. The reason working class musicians discuss such topics is because it is the socially deprived that have first-hand experience of the consequences that occur due to the uneven distribution of wealth and power caused by capitalism. Luke Kelly, Christy Moore and Damien Dempsy are all representations of Irish working class musicians, all of which were very socially conscious and discussed important political issues within the lyrics of their songs. Unfortunately the number of working class musicians within popular music has decreased in recent years. This may be due to the recent surge in popularity of talent shows such as X-Factor.  Generally the contestants that succeed come from a rough background.

Week 4: Music and Deviance

This week I discussed music, deviance and moral panic.

When a new form of music becomes available, a scene develops from this. Eventually the media become involved. The media focus on the strange types of behaviour associated with some fans associated with the scene. When the media portray this the strange behaviour it is then associated with the movement rather than the individuals that were practising this unusual behaviour.  In turn a self fulfilling prophecy takes place. These now become guidelines for future fans of the scene. The media expresses outrage when fans exhibit this behaviour. Because the behaviour is considered to be unusual, there is a heightened level of concern. A lot of the time this has a knock on effect as the musicians play up to the controversial aspects of behaviour that has been associated with them. An example of this would be Black Sabbath’s association with Satanism in the 1960’s and 70’s. This in turn caused moral panic. The moral panic surrounding the band led to an increase in popularity and the band never denied associating themselves with satanism even though it had little to do with their music.

Week 5/6: Representations of Race in Popular Music

The following article looks at cultural appropriation within popular music.

More often than not race is represented in popular music through the white persons distorted perception of what other cultures are like. This is due to the constant mediation of cultural stereo types in popular music and other formats of media. This concept is called cultural appropriation and has occurred for years in popular music, from the extremely racist minstrel show’s which dates back to the 1830’s, to George Harrison and John Lennon’s appropriation of Indian music in 1967, 2014 when  Katy Perry portrayed her interpretation of ancient Egyptian culture in her music video for the song “Dark Horse”. The reason that these racist and naïve impersonations of other cultures occur time and time again in popular music is because the music industry is predominantly made up of white males, therefore the marketing “experts” behind most popular music and how it’s portrayed are white males and they have a distorted idea of other cultures and how to introduce new cultures into the industry.

Week 7/8: Masculinity in Popular Music

The following article outlines the fundamental issues that is caused by boy bands and the skewed representation of masculinity that is portrayed as a result.

Most boy bands are the construction of major record labels. They are marketed and sold with the target audience being young girls. As it is not young females that market them, but more often than not white men, these boy bands are the portrayals of the white man’s notion of what young girls want. Another inherent problem with the ideology that is spread from the creation of something that is so false is that the boys within the boybands are given set images. There is a formula applied to all boybands by the major labels. There is a character applied to each member so that there is one member to fit the desire of most young females. Along with this, the lyrical content expressed within their music gives off the impression that they are the perfect “boyfriend material”. As this is a lot of young girls first exposure to discussion about relationships this can shape their expectations for future boyfriends.

Week 9/10: Remix Culture

In the following blog I will discuss the term “remix culture” and how it has become relevant to all new music.

Lev Manovich states that there are three different types of remixing. The first is the remixing of previous cultural contents and forms within a given media, this is often referred to as “post modernism”.  The second is the remix of “globalization” which is the remixing of national and cultural traditions. The third type of remixing is the remixing between culture and technology. The concept of “remix culture” is under threat from big corporations that profit from copyright. They fear that our read write (RW) society is destroying originality. Many people argue that a RW society will threaten the value of intellectual property, but on the other hand of that argument is the point that because of our remix culture new art and entertainment is generated. It has caused society to become more creative and exciting. It has caused the creators of art and entertainment to make less money, as more and more material is being generated and technological advances are destroying the value of intellectual property. However it has forced artists to become more creative about how they release their content to audiences. There are certainly negatives to our remix culture, but it certainly makes for a more exciting industry.

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