Theories on modern music and its listeners

Akmal Mustofa

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As summer approaches, new music will be something to look forward to as there are plenty anticipated album drops coming up. As exciting as this will be for many of us, myself included, it isn’t exactly the topic we’ll be exploring. Music is a wonderful creation that has found its way into global culture since the very early ages of civilization. Something that fascinated me was not necessarily the creators of the music, nor the listeners themselves. It was rather the relationship between them.

Music producers of all genres make music because they enjoy what to do so. Their success, however, is driven only by the amount of support provided by their fans. But what attracts these fans to certain artists? Sure, they may make catchy music, but I’m sure it’s more than just that. Sophomore Anna Maria-Galperina was able to help me get some insight as to why.

“I really like Frank Ocean. He isn’t like many other artists, he actually writes his own work. You get to feel his experiences with him, and you’ll definitely understand how genuine he is,” Galperina said.

To branch off this thought, something I’ve noticed over the past few years is the attraction to people who “stand out,” so to speak. Artists or bands that don’t exactly fit into the “norm” of a particular category, in a sense. When Lil Yachty started to blow up late 2016, I was very quick to assume it was because of his red dreads. I then took a closer look at his music, and I noticed that he shouldn’t be considered the “average rapper.” In fact, a lot of his songs shouldn’t even be considered rap such as “Minnesota“ with its slow BPM, funky synths and excess of autotune. He managed to create a style of his own.

Keeping that in mind, we can also inspect underground artists such as the New Orleans dark rap duo, $UICIDEBOY$, who rose through the soundcloud charts throughout 2015 and blew up late 2016 with over 230,000 followers as of June. They rap about very explicit and dark content, generally appealing to listeners who are going through stress or suicidal thoughts. In a Genius interview, they explain a certain explicit yet important lyric in their hit song “PARIS.”

Well, the cult refers to our fans,” member Ruby da Cherry said. “I hate saying the word “fans.” We consider them our brothers and sisters, really. [We’re] part of a big family.”

The duo often references themselves as “shepherds” to the “flock of sheep.” What Ruby clarified showed how they don’t want to rap down to their followers, but rap alongside them, in a sense.

I also feel that material imagery such as a unique stage name or a signature mascot of some sort can also contribute to the whole “individuality” thing earlier. EDM producers like Marshmello or deadmau5 to bands such as Hollywood Undead and Slipknot sport signature masks in their music videos and concerts. Followers can identify artists by their image, the more memorable the better. Maybe there’s something about people today where they find materialism more attractive than more traditional aspects of music, such as lyrical meaning or story.

With all this nonsense being said, I suppose that terms such as “average artist” or “average rapper” seem to lose hold of their meaning. The “norm” of music wouldn’t exist anymore, because after all, it’s a pretty subjective term as well. The further we get into 2017, 21st century musicians all seem to have their very own special style, be it pleasant, unpleasant, controversial, whatever. You could also say that the image of artists that they portray have more of an importance today. Of course I could maybe just be looking at all this from a narrow point of view, exaggerating a generalization about fellow music-lovers today. You never really know for sure.