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S&M: A Disturbing Bondage Between Social Media and Music

Remember the funny jingle ‘Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen’? It peaked into Billboard Hot 100. A 45-second song with eight unique words. There’s nothing wrong in having a 45-second joke become a Billboard success, but remember how we look back at the 90’s and still jam to a lot of those songs? Do we really want people to look back to this?

Pikotaro/Daimaou Kosaka

Exaggerations aside, no, it isn’t as bad as it sounds. Talented artists do exist. But we cannot deny that social media has had an inadvertent effect on how music is being created in this day and age. You see, ever since Billboard changed their policy to include streams as equivalent sales units, a marginal shift has occurred where musicians are now focused on being more repetitive and catchy than make quality music. Gone are the days when your career would be in jeopardy if you were caught using Auto-tune; almost every artist uses it now. Of course, the blame cannot be squarely put on the artists. They do have pressures from their labels and commercial expectations to meet.

That’s why you have a song like ‘Work’ by Rihanna smash all sales records. This song helped her equal Michael Jackson’s record.

Lyrics to ‘Work’, by Rihanna

Sadly, even Kendrick Lamar who is now considered to be one of the greatest rappers of all time, has succumbed to this pressure to make repetitive music. Albeit, he had the wit to cover it up by hinting that he was mocking the current rappers’ style and flow. It made for a quality banger but not a good rap song.

Cover art for ‘HUMBLE.’ by Kendrick Lamar

The previous statement also holds true for almost every rap song after 2013.

‘Started From The Bottom’ by Drake

The masses do play a pivotal role in this shift in music. With the rise of beats and downfall of lyrics, the public as such have very little patience for songs with heavy material. The basic philosophy for making a hit nowadays is that music must be entertaining, but also shouldn’t make them think too much and should be something they can dance to when possibly intoxicated.

Online challenges are increasingly becoming a common short-cut to a Billboard No. 1. Black Beatles only became popular because of the ‘Mannequin Challenge’. Migos became a phenomenon after the famous ‘dab’ movement.

Rae Sremmurd

Cover Art for ‘Look At My Dab’ by Migos

What we see here is a transient movement from being an artist to becoming a social media icon. More and more artists are readily giving up their integrity to become viral and can we blame them? Drake got his biggest hits, ‘Hotline Bling’ and ‘One Dance’, only after he tapped the power of memes and became a living-breathing meme himself.

Drake in his prime

It’s not the worst thing people have done for money but at this rate, what will really be the difference between someone who is, say, a Snapchat sensation and a real musician?

DJ Khaled in his prime

Oh wait, hold on, DJ Khaled just got his first Billboard No. 1. Never mind, there is no difference.

A number of artists are getting into this ship and moving along, enjoying the comforts of the cruise. But the dangerous part is that a more incompetent driver is being chosen to steer the ship each time. There will come a day when the ship finally crashes into an iceberg.

Things aren’t all bad though. Despite its cons, social media has always been a huge platform to showcase your skills. Chance the Rapper is one such talent to have come up thanks to the Internet. When used right, social media is a powerful tool to hunt for talents and record labels are increasingly going digital to recruit artists. Platforms like YouTube and SoundCloud give genuine exposure to new and upcoming artists and at the end, no matter what anyone says, talent always does shine.

Chance The Rapper winning his first Grammy

Indian music is no less but thankfully, the quality has not dipped as much in comparison to the tunes ten years back. We have only a handful of artists like Badshah and acts like Dhinchak Pooja botching things up once in a while but, as a whole, it has been quite consistent throughout the times.

Things may improve in a few years; popular music may regain its foothold as deep and meaningful once again, artists may not have to rely on social media fame to sell records, and the general public may start appreciating real music as well.

But until that day comes, the formula for a hit isn’t hard to decipher.

Mediocrity is the new brilliance after all.

13 Reasons Why

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