Mainstream music hits all-time low

When some of my friends and I recently piled into a car to go shopping, we were deciding what music to play. Being notorious for my ABC taste in music (anything but country), my friends usually try to spare me the redneck vocals. They played Ke$ha’s “Your Love is My Drug,” and they all sang along to the song’s nonsensical, not to mention incoherent, lyrics.   ops-logo11-300x297

At that moment, not only did I want to jump out of a moving car due to my friends’ heinous singing voices (love you guys, but let’s be real), but I was saddened by the obvious lack of talent in today’s mainstream music.

In my opinion, the quality of the music in today’s top 40 has taken a turn for the worst. When comparing today’s music, namely referring to mainstream music, to that of the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, and even the ‘90s, I honestly find it unbearable. What happened to the meaningful lyrics and soulful voices?


Before I delve into lyrics, allow me to briefly touch on song titles. Go to, and check out the current major hits. You’ll find titles like “Turn Me On,” “Sexy and I Know It,” and “Strip.” Sense a common theme?

It’s as if my generation’s raging hormonal minds can’t stand to think of anything other than that meant-to-be-sacred three-letter word, and the vulgarity tends to leak into the actual content of the songs too.

With a few exceptions, like songs by Adele and Foster the People, songs found in the top 40 consist of lyrics that encourage the use of alcohol and casual sex.

Remember when Enrique Iglesias came out with “Tonight I’m Loving You”? It’s undoubtedly a catchy song; I admittedly go to the club and dance to it. Then I really listened to it and noticed the change in lyrics from the radio version to the real version. The word “loving” gets replaced by a word that is so offensive, my editor wouldn’t even let me allude to it in this story.

It seems like degrading women is a popular topic in the music industry. Tune into any station that plays the top 40 for more of where that came from.

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St. Thomas students talk about today’s music. (Geena Maharaj/TommieMedia)

So how does this compare to the music of our parents’ day? Back in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, lyrics had a propensity to turn to the raw emotion of love.

Junior Joseph Mueller agreed that “nowadays, it only seems to be about lust, not love.”

Lyrics used to be beautiful, full of inoffensive vehemence, and held sex in a higher, more meaningful regard.

For example, listen to John Lennon’s song “Love” written for his wife, Yoko Ono. Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is” and The Bee Gees’ “How Deep is Your Love” are also prime examples of quality love songs.


In addition to the distasteful lyrics found in today’s music, it also seems like no one can actually sing anymore. With the invention of auto-tuning, an audio processor that alters pitches, anyone can become a singer.

Let’s go back to the song I mentioned earlier, Ke$ha’s “Your Love is My Drug.” It is so heavily auto-tuned that you definitely would be in for a rude awakening if you heard her live. Her singing voice without the audio processor is horrendous. I didn’t know this was possible, but her singing is comparable to the unbearable singing that goes on in my shower.

With a voice similar to mine, Ke$ha would have no chance in the music industry if auto-tuning did not exist. Same goes for the voices of Miley Cyrus, T-Pain, and everyone’s favorite, Rebecca Black.

Flashback 20 to 30 years ago, and you’d find vocal performances that were Darwinistic…only the strong singers survived. Unique, yet mesmerizing, artists like Stevie Nicks, Michael Jackson, Etta James, Robert Plant and Aretha Franklin were able to thrive in the competitiveness of the music industry without auto-tune.

In fact, I cannot name a single singer from that time that used auto-tuning to perfect their pitch. It was not necessary because music required talent back then, whereas now, you don’t need to be a skilled vocalist to be a multi-millionaire.

Still, not all music in today’s world is as bad as I’m making it out to be. Gifted singers and song writers do indeed exist. But how often do you see them in the top 40? Mainstream music is largely made up of talentless artists singing about inane and lewd subjects.

There are other sides to this topic. For example, I can understand why people think hip-hop/rap requires skill. Busta Rhymes in “Look at Me Now” raps at an alarming rate, and it’s hard not to be impressed. Thus, I agree that it’s hard to judge music as a whole. Freshman Gina Coleman believes that “music has evolved. You can’t say it has necessarily gotten better or worse.”

But for me, I can undeniably say that the popular music of today can in no way compare to the hits of my parent’s generation. Long live rock ‘n’ roll.

Geena Maharaj can be reached at

12 Replies to “Mainstream music hits all-time low”

  1. As Ke$ha’s fiancé, I must object to your portrayal of her in this piece. She is an excellent singer live and actually has a great voice. I understand that its your opinion, but if you listen to “The Harold Song” or some of her ballads, you’d get what I’m saying! 

  2. Comparing Ke$ha to Stevie Nicks is like comparing Keystone to Surly. They’re all popular, but they intend to serve very different purposes. Ke$ha  and Keystone are light and meant for mass consumption. They’re manufactured quickly and cheap. On the other hand, Stevie NIcks and Surly are delicately crafted and meant to satisfy connoisseurs who understand their mediums. They might not appeal to everyone, but those who do enjoy them on deeper levels.

  3. Brendan, I salute you for putting this into perspective in a way we can all understand. You sir, are a real man of genius.

  4. People still listen to the radio? I gave up on that back in middle school. If I ever feel like killing a few brain cells, I’ll turn on KDWB or 93X; complete and utter garbage from both stations. Real music discovery takes place online on different music websites and blogs, not on some pathetic radio station playing to the lowest common denominator. Plus, it’s so easy today to sync/hook up your mp3 player to your vehicle’s stereo, that you can take 80GB of your music with you, and choose to listen to whatever you want.

  5. Geena, you raise some good points, however I wholeheartedly disagree with your assertion that “…music required talent back then, whereas now, you don’t need to be a skilled vocalist to be a multi-millionaire.”  I’m quite shocked you’ve made that assumption, especially considering your last statement of the longevity of rock.  Case and point: Mick Jagger.  The man has no more vocal talent than anyone else.  He just screamed and danced around.  The same goes for dozens of punk bands.  One of the most popular examples of a band not having a lot of talent but still being successful is The Ramones.  The guitar playing wasn’t that great at all, nor were the vocals or lyrics.  Virtuosity wasn’t what The Ramones were about.  They were about the punk image, much like Ke$ha isn’t about virtuosity, but rather about having fun.

    If we’re going to discuss the sexuality of today’s music, consider Mozart.  He is hailed as one of the greatest composers of all time, and yet the man wrote dozens of pieces and letters about sex, drinking, and fart jokes.

    Music evolves.  It’s your choice whether you want to go along for the ride or sit and pout about the fact that every artist that is played on KDWB isn’t the next Michael Jackson or Stevie Nicks.  

    The only…

  6. You probably can’t name anyone from that time period who used auto-tune because it wasn’t available until 1997…while I don’t necessarily disagree that there has been a decline in the quality of music, you don’t recognize that there was also plenty of bad music that made it into the top 40 in the 60s/70s/80s/90s. The examples of good music you gave are classics, but they are by no means representative of everything that was a hit, just what people recognize as superb quality. Give it ten years and see how many people remember half of today’s hits.

  7. Great opinion piece Geena! It’s certainly started a conversation, which is exactly what an opinion piece is supposed to do :) 

  8. I believe that Geena has a very great point but not only have vocal talents in mainstream music declined but instrumental as well. I was just thinking to other day how most music is just beats and computerized and there really aren’t many live instruments in music anymore. For the most part, mainstream music has definitely gotten worse… topics are less broad and diverse, vocals are none existent or not strong and there really is no such thing as instrumentals anymore.

  9. I totally agree with you Tlara! Its a shame that modern ‘hit’ music only has electronic bass beats and no longer has instrumentals or solos. Great article Geena!

  10. Geena, I agree with everything you said in your article, but I think that you could’ve said: “Success in music required talent back [before the mid-90s], whereas now, you don’t need to be a skilled vocalist to be a multi-millionaire.” Okay, so some of the music of the 60s, 70s, and 80s seemed to be about style over substance, but I do agree that the way a lot of mainstream music has sounded since the Spice Girls/Backstreet Boys era of the mid-90s, and the visual presentation of artists such as those two groups, Justin Bieber, Britney, J. Lo, Lady Gaga, and artists like that – if sexuality and techno drumbeats are the only way to go anymore in the music industry, then I feel bad for this and future generations. For music after 1998, I tend to look beyond the surface – jazz this, soundtracks that, video game music the other, and a little bit of J-Pop in between.

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