The Radio

News & Politics

Christina's medical affliction.

Since I changed schools I've been subjected to the very worst of music. From the very lowest common denominator hip hop can muster, to the pop-reggae that seems to be taking the world by glossy, predictable storm. Pop-punk also seems to be a major player in this carnival of the untalented; bands like Good Charlotte and Sum 41 have swept up that audience trying to make the transition from *N Sync to the Sex Pistols, but just don't find Johnny Rotten attractive enough to sustain interest.

And, as always, the straight-forward, perpetual, ruthless machine that is bubblegum pop rolls on, faltered only by Christina Aguilera's seemingly medical affliction that inhibits her ability to stay clothed, and the consequent backlash mothers have as their daughters buy her albums (after all, in their opinion, monkey see, monkey do). As different as these bands are in terms of their sound, they all have two things in common: they are forcing their audiences to sacrifice the integrity of their music consumption, and they are on the rise.

For years, the music industry has been trying to capitalize on the new trends as quickly and as thoroughly as clothing businesses attempt to exploit the underground fads that shape the new wave of hipsters, and, for the most part, both have been succeeding. American Eagle snatches up those trucker hats that can be purchased from Value Village for 70 cents, smacks a fake-vintage logo on the front and sells them for 50 dollars. The music industry goes a little bit further on this same concept, as they can not only discover the trends and over-saturate the market with them, but they can actually invent the trends themselves if nothing hip is available at the time.

good charlotte
Deep songs about girls, bullies, jocks, acne, and football.

Take a band like the aforementioned Good Charlotte, for instance, a band marketed by the music industry as being "punk rock" all the way to the bone, a band so undeniably sympathetic to the teenage condition that they hate the "establishment" and rebel against "the man" every moment possible, while poignantly singling out what it is to truly be a teenager: girls, bullies, jocks, acne, and football. Well, it's a nice dream, and one that is easily marketed to an impressionable audience such as the main Good Charlotte fan base: 12-year-old girls who don't know a whole lot about music, think the band members are cute, and don't read a newspaper.

The truth of the matter is this same band who is apparently rebelling against the fierce, oppressive establishment are performing at the MTV Video Awards, the exact establishment that suffocated the punk rock movement, and indeed a great deal of rock 'n roll during its inaugural season. The audience doesn't seem to see this, because MTV markets itself as being the couriers of new music greatness, and because Good Charlotte prostitute their names to the cause, they are given the juicy little kickback of being marketed by stations like MTV (or MuchMusic here in Canada) as being "the next big thing." This wouldn't be such a harmful system if these bands were honest and the music weren't so, well, awful. There is no substance to the music, and bands should be aiming for integrity, not just money. Music is an outlet for social change and personal growth. It can be the ultimate expression of independence, defiance, upheaval, and the voice of revolution, but instead these bands sing simple, catchy pop tunes, waving the flag of defiance to add a little zest for those audience members looking to be different but not that different, and they get rich off of the sacrifice of artistic integrity. Each time this cycle repeats itself we are losing a chunk of music itself, as it's getting hard to trust bands that come from major labels.

The radio has been plagued by these bands for years, and the influence of the record labels' push of hyped artists is always identifiable. But what is becoming a harsh reality is the conglomeration of all the stations. As companies like ClearChannel sweep up stations all across the continent, what we're finding is that radio outlets are taking fewer and fewer chances, aiming instead for the sure pleasers. The rap stations play the same core of artists, nothing underground, the rock stations play Creed, Nickelback and the other five hundred similar-sounding groups, and as for alternative stations: they don't exist. College radio and pirate radio, like independent labels on the executive side of the industry, are the fleeting hope of music fans all across the world. These artists are engraining themselves in one sound and, with the assistance of the crack marketing team at their label, are having wild success in the business of stagnation. They're on the rise with literally no end in sight, as it's becoming increasingly difficult -- if not impossible -- to give corporations like ClearChannel a run for their money. They've got the market cornered, the audience against the ropes, and they're kicking around the future of music simply because they can.

Mike LaPointe is a Canadian high school student living in Port Hope, Ontario. In addition to being a published newspaper columnist, he is the editor of the online culture source Fuzed Magazine. You can email him at

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