Popular Culture and Music, discussion help

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As outlined in Chapter 3, popular culture serves many functions which can be categorized into 4 broad groups:

– Disseminating ideology

– Raising consciousness

– Providing therapy

– Stimulation and distraction

Takacs mainly uses television as her examples with each of these groups, but I will look to use other another form of popular culture as an example of these functions: music.

In talking about popular culture as a defining factor for ideology, Takacs points out that media today seems to focus on developing a sense of lifestyle (p. 43). With the way the general populous looks at popular artists today, they (the artists) have a control over many aspects of our lives. They dictate how we dress, talk, and act. We try to be like them and so they are able to define what is “popular” in our lives. Musicians and their music define “reality” for whatever group idolizes them. Some examples in my opinion (not necessarily the only ones) are:

Frank Sinatra in the 40’s

Elvis Presley in the 50’s

The Beatles in the 60’s

The Bee Gees in the 70’s

Michael Jackson in the 80’s

Nirvana in the 90’s

Eminem in the 2000’s

What musical acts do you think are defining our current decade?

Music is something almost everyone includes in their life. That is one reason why it is such an effective medium for raising awareness. One of the most well known and successful collaborations between popular artists is 1985’s “We Are the World,” which raised awareness (and money!) for the famine in Africa between 1983-84. Some of the biggest names of the decade participated, including Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Willie Nelson, Diana Ross, and Billy Joel. There are even songs that seem to point in one direction, but actually address issues that many don’t know about. A good example is Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” which seems like a patriotic song but actually talks about the horrible treatment of the war veterans by the US Government. 

Music can also be therapeutic. Besides the clinical applications of music therapy, it can also be a social therapy as well. It is easier than ever for a person to feel lonely, due to the high pace and demand for efficiency of the world. Many people find their identity by identifying with a style of music. This not only provides them an escape from their day-to-day lives, but it gives them a peer group with which they already have a common interest. It also allows people to express themselves in a way they may not be able to in their regular lives, much like the Jerry Springer Show allows individuals to express latent, repressed, or taboo urges (p. 57).

Finally, music is a great tool for occupying time. Sometimes listening to music just for the sake of listening to it can be a good distraction. Although it may seem therapeutic, Takacs points out that their is a difference in doing something to cope and doing it for selfish desire. On p. 59, Takacs uses the example of students watching TV or playing video games rather than doing homework to explain how this function of popular culture can sometimes be non-productive. I don’t watch a ton of television or play too many video games, but I know there have been plenty of times that I went to play music or listen to music when I really should have been doing something more productive, like homework. This function is a necessary, albeit risky, part of life.

I believe that using popular culture to raise awareness is a good idea. I have already stated how it can help raise awareness. However, I think it could also be detrimental as well. Sometimes it can shift the focus too much onto certain things and then we as a society overlook other aspects. For example, let’s look at the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, a viral video stunt that was become popular in the summer of 2014 and resurfaced in August of 2015. It raised awareness for a good cause and, in general, did a lot of good in the world. However, it also had its critics. Many questioned whether the focus was still on the cause, rather than the stunt itself. There were also flags raised on the misuse of water, especially in areas of the country that were experiencing low-water levels and droughts.


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