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TEEN SCENE: Mainstream music: cause and effect

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The 2010s continue to prove itself as a distinct decade in music, having genres and generations fighting for the spotlight

Colby Gallant is a grade 11 student at Bluefield High School completing a co-op placement at The Guardian.
Colby Gallant is a grade 11 student at Bluefield High School completing a co-op placement at The Guardian.

In my honest opinion, the most important generational shift in music to me came from the birth of grunge and the demise of hair metal.

Grunge is believed to largely be derived from an underground music scene in Seattle. Nirvana, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Pearl Jam and Alice In Chains are notable examples of groups formed in, or around, this time. Most consider grunge’s infamous takeover of the mainstream a reaction caused by how tiresome the synthetic hair metal scene of the decade prior was. The success of bands like Nirvana was thanks to years of pent-up angst and a hunger for vulnerability.

Regardless of birth and demise, the 1980s had hair metal and glam rock, the 1990s had grunge and nu-metal. However, fast forward to the present, and we are in caught in a mainstream that can’t seem to get its head together.

The early 2010s were dominated by radio-friendly pop anthems made only to top one another in the pursuit of revenue. This pursuit caused an artificial wave of mass appeal through always-upbeat, fast, and fun bops.

But music isn’t defined by the fads it causes, it’s an art, one which reflects the artist. And what the author is feeling isn’t always upbeat. In an effort to rebel, current mainstream music is becoming what it sought to destroy. Sounds catastrophic, I know, but let me elaborate.

The first half of the 2010s was largely dominated by pop anthems, i.e. Pharrell Williams’ “Happy”, Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk”, Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know”. While the mainstream nowadays still undoubtedly contains similar hits, the teen mainstream has a much darker, and more cynical outlook on adolescent life, and that may be exactly what the industry needed.

Floridian rapper XXXTentacion’s full-length debut, “17”, shook the industry. Hailing from roots of gangs and first gaining notoriety on the music-sharing platform Soundcloud, his legacy still lives on following his demise on June 18, 2018.

The album’s major hit “Jocelyn Flores” detailed a friend he lost to suicide and puts the blame on himself in an equally bleak and self-loathing tone. I use this as a point of reference because this subgenre of hip-hop — often dealing in tones of depression, suicide and drug abuse —was largely brought into the spotlight due to the aforementioned song and the accompanying album. Out of this genre came landmark artists like Lil Peep, $uicideboy$, and Juice WRLD.

As fresh and excellent as some of these artists’ releases are, their search for anti-mainstream notoriety has catapulted them into exactly the opposite, the mainstream. Now, a tattoo above your eye and a codeine addiction seem to be qualifying factors in the hip-hop industry.

Once again, we are in a tailspin between genuine artists and mainstream giants trying to capitalize. However, with a genre containing so much heart, it’s easy to see which creators see past the dollar signs.

Nonetheless, music and its quality is subjective, so what we take from the industry is ultimately up to ourselves.

Colby Gallant is a Grade 11 student at Bluefield High School who is completing a co-op placement with The Guardian.

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