If you look at iTunes’ Top Charts, you won’t see much diversity in the music selection until you get down to the 40th most popular song. The same names are continuously repeated: Drake, Kendrick, and Post Malone. Twenty years ago Rap artists were less likely to rise to the top, and twenty years before that Rock ‘n’ Roll would have been suppressed as well. iTunes’ top charts is not an accurate representation of America’s taste in music, but it is an accurate representation of where the money and business is.
Levine and Newman describe this phenomena, and explain that culture is defined through a hierarchical taste structure, with the tastes of the socioeconomic the highest (189). This is similar to what Negus discusses in Chapter 2 of Music Genres and Corporate Cultures. He says how “The artists signed and the repertoire prioritized by record companies are in no way a straightforward reflection of the available talent” (32). Essentially, “popular music” is a misconception of what is actually popular in culture. Pop music is more aptly described by what will bring in the most revenue for record labels and corporations. Electronic Dance Music (EDM) has been growing in popularity in recent years, but in order to find such music many people have to explore the less marketable streaming services.
In the 1950’s when Rock ‘n’ Roll was beginning to emerge, it gained popularity among the African American population and the working class Whites, but the socioeconomic elite refused to accept such a genre. This is appropriately depicted in the 1955 film “Blackboard Jungle,” which is why I chose this billboard image from the film. The accompanying music is the acoustics of a song “Left Behind” by Scarecrow Blue Hip Hop–who’s name itself describes a rather unpopular pairing. The song’s lyrics are sung in French, but when translated address issues such as the population being betrayed by those whom it elects, and teachers and politicians who are merely concerned with filling their pockets.
I believe many people are beginning to realize that iTunes’ Top Charts are consistently the same and not an accurate representation of the popular opinion. My hope is that the corporations will acknowledge this and won’t leave the underdeveloped artists left behind.
- Do you think “Top Charts” are representative of you and/or your friends tastes?
- What things must change in order for a once unpopular taste to then rise to the top?