The lyrics of a song are undeniably one of the key components of a song, along with the musical components of melody, harmony and rhythm. It is obvious to anyone listening to popular music that musical genres progress and change, and that musical components change with them. But does this automatically mean lyrics have changed over time, and have the themes behind them become something new?
The most common assumption in the music community is that lyrics have become more sexualised. This idea is fueled by articles such as the one in the Huffington Post, which has some pretty graphics that show the increase not only in the mention of sex, but also the increase in profanity in music. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/27/nickolay-lamm_n_4855787.html) This is further supported by constant bombardment of programs such as 60 Minutes and the former Today Tonight, telling us that our children are watching music videos that are sexualised and out of control.
But taking a closer look into this, the idea that changes in music occur without changes in society is simply absurd. Society in the 21st century is more open about sex than any generation before, and this is all around us in the television programs we watch, advertisements we see, magazines we read and the conversations we have over the dinner table.
And when we look at different musical genres, this change is not universal; it is almost entirely contained in popular music, and more specifically the genres that have become a part of it in the 21st century. When looking at the reason behind this change, it is important to look at those genres that are currently influencing popular music, especially Hip Hop and Rap. http://graphics.latimes.com/music-evolution-hip-hop-rap/
Hip Hop and Rap are notorious for less than polite language and are often full of obscenities, and this has been a part of these genres since they began (http://www.shortlist.com/entertainment/music/statistical-history-of-swearing-in-rap). With these genres influencing the current pop music, is it any wonder that the words that are used to express thoughts and feelings have changed?
Society has changed, pop music has changed, but if you truly look at the lyrics, the core themes of love, loss and life are still there. They are just expressed differently, certainly more directly, these days.
The evolutions of lyrics is not greater than the change in how we speak. Music is simply keeping up with the times.
Author: D. Whelan for Jamhouse Creative
© Jamhouse 2014