Assignment 1: Does Popular Music Lost Its Meaning Over Time?

Topic covered:Music and Meaning, Music and Identity, Popular Music As Culture

Do you ever listen to a song and find yourself moved so deeply you are almost in tears? Have you ever been to a live performance that turned your worst day into your best? Have you ever heard a song that inspired you? Music has the power to move us and to change us. Yet today’s music mostly does not seem to have the same earth-moving, society-shaping effects as that of the past. (, 2016) Nowadays, when you Sit down and listen to mainstream radio for 10 minutes. You’ll find yourself captivated by fresh beats and catchy hooks, but what are you really listening to? What is the music that we hear every day trying to get across? Although it sounds cool.

Plato said that music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything. He maintained that the arts could shape one’s character to a great extent and, for that reason, they needed to be strictly controlled. Poetry, drama, music, painting, dance can all stir up emotions. Along with poetry and drama, music was regarded as important for young people’s education in his ideal republic— only the “good” music, that is. He was largely influenced by the theories of Pythagoras and his numeric mysticism, inspired by a series of overtones connected to the vibration of a string. “Ordered” music meant ordered souls. (Frey, 2016)

Throughout the history, there are many examples which can improve. While Bob Dylan has long been outspoken on several issues, he is especially known for his songs about the African-American Civil Rights movement during the 1960s. His hit “Times They Are A-Changing’” for example, was intended for a young generation of the 60′s who felt that segregation and oppression were outdated practices and were looking for change. Its ambiguous nature, however, will allow it to inspire future generations. (Global Citizen, 2016)

This global telethon was hosted on January 22, 2010 to raise funds after an earthquake struck Haiti. With an audience of 83 million viewers, the concert raised $58 million. Musicians included Madonna, Coldplay, and Shakira, and an original song “Stranded (Haiti mon amour)” was performed by Bono, The Edge, JAY Z, and Rihanna. (Global Citizen, 2016)

Paul Kachur said that “David Hasselhoff is on record as saying that he thought his song Looking for Freedom (1989) helped bring down the Berlin Wall. I disagree, but I haven’t the heart to tell him.”(BBC News, 2016)

“Now, you see musicians singing about girls, money and fast cars. Not long ago Africa was full of music that made a statement—about government, corruption, things that matter,” says Sigauque Project leader and trumpet player Daniel Walter. “Our music talks about HIV, women’s rights, recovering from a disaster, xenophobia and much more. It’s not just great music, we’re saying something.(, 2016)

Music is a universal language By engaging our emotions, it can separate complex issues into things we can all relate to like love, friendship, fear, or loss. In this way music expands our horizons and opens our minds to new ideas. The meaning of music is to make ourselves better, even though the world.


BBC News. (2016). 20 of your songs that changed the world – BBC News. [online] Available at: [Accessed 11 Nov. 2016].

Frey, A. (2016). Here is What Great Philosophers Thought of Music. [online] CMUSE. Available at: [Accessed 11 Nov. 2016].

Global Citizen. (2016). Music that has changed the world. [online] Available at: [Accessed 11 Nov. 2016]. (2016). Music can change the world | Africa Renewal Online. [online] Available at: [Accessed 11 Nov. 2016].


2 thoughts on “Assignment 1: Does Popular Music Lost Its Meaning Over Time?

  1. I think its interesting to compare the passion and meaning in the music of today to the music of the past. I think trying to speculate on the reasoning behind the alleged lack of passion or meaning in today’s music as compared to previous years would be interesting. Simon Barber speaks of passion in his literature on songwriting – could it be that the mechanical processes of songwriting have changed and that is why the music of today carries less meaning (or less intensive meaning).

    You could also put forward that Adorno’s standardisation theory has become more and more true as the music industries have become larger and oversaturated – the tastemakers and gatekeepers know what the masses want to consume – even if this does mean less meaningful music.

  2. I find myself arguing constantly already over your entire first paragraph of thought, particularly at your notion of the music of today lacking the same effect, emotion, and meaning the music of the past possessed, particularly as not all music from today is mainstream, nor was all the music from the past. I did, however, enjoy your mention of philosophy, particularly the link to Plato, however considering the nature of this scholarly debate to media, I’d suggest having a look at Adorno’s theory of standardisation, and the idea of music being mass-produced for the mainstream, as I feel this could strengthen your argument. You mention Bob Dylan, and I think it would be interesting to question his recent Nobel Prize award, and whether the meaning of his songs were cause for his award over his stature. I would have a look at Juslin & Sloboda’s work (2013, 2001a, 2001b) on music and emotion, particularly their more recent output which explores mechanisms that intervene between music reaching a person’s ears and an emotion being experienced or detected by that person as a result of hearing that music.

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