By Josh Scott
In an American society in which money, beauty, and success are considered somewhat synonymous, it is natural to assume that all forms of media must conform to this ideology that is created by the majority. Although some might argue otherwise, music is a form of media which is just as susceptible to the views of its listeners as television, for instance, is affected by ratings. Many genres of American music have been changed by the media when they “come out of the underground”, or are simply elevated to the larger American audience and put in the spotlight. Music, is simply another medium in which messages that corporations wish to distribute through discourse can travel. One of the most important ways that advertisers and merchants choose to advertise in the music scene is through clothing. Over the course of recent history, many genres have fallen victim to American ideology in the forms of fashion, and other visual aspects and are exposed to be a form of discourse the same as anything that is displayed on any more common form of media.
When contemplating the effects of the media on music a specific term “sell out”, is often thrown about. The term is referring to the commercialization and cooperation with artists and larger corporations that are involved in the money making aspect of musical production rather than the artistry. Bands that “sell out” are often discarded or forgotten by followers who claim to respect the artistic integrity of the music. A way in which selling out is recognized is clothing that musicians wear, and fashion has become a large aspect to musical forms because clothing, has been found to be a very strong form of advertising, and with musicians being constantly exposed to a large following, merchants try to outfit bands with their own clothing. The term “sell out,” may be skewed towards the negative connotations intended towards the musicians, but it is the media that is responsible for creating the music that we learn to love regardless of artistry. So it is clear that it is impossible for music to avoid the media, and most music in many ways is created by other forms of media, so it can be assumed that the collaboration between the media and musical artists can be considered an American ideology.
To demonstrate how a musical genre can be changed or skewed by other types of media in America, the hardcore genre, and more specifically the clothing associated with it, is a very interesting topic of discussion. The origins of hardcore evolved from several bands of white middle-class punk-rockers creating a new genre music which spawned off of punk-rock with a much faster and aggressive style and very controversial lyrics. In the mid 1980’s a very symbolic band to the genre was the band Minor Threat, a group of young white punks dressed in plain t-shirts and jeans (often ripped, stained, or bloodied) and singing of many topics that angered them. The point of hardcore at the point of its creation was to bring upon a self-destructing form of music that would send a message and excite the listener. Early hardcore lasted only several years, before merchants could affect the plain look of the band members and outfit them with more elaborate clothing. As could be predicted, but recently a new form of music has arisen that has retaken the name of hardcore music, this time with clothing that does not at all resemble its predecessor.
Modern hardcore is a blend of metal and punk music which does not resemble either of the genres fully. Modern hardcore has swapped the battered t-shirts and jeans of hardcore punk for colorfully printed shirts and distinctive “skinny jeans.” The new form of hardcore is highly commercialized in that many of the clothing styles of popular bands have found their way into stores, and via commercialism, into an American fashion style. The white controlled genre has also found itself on the way out as many more bands start to introduce African American members, such as the modern punk/hardcore band Whole Wheat Bread which is comprised of all African American members. This swap of punk values to commercialized rock is a switch that finds itself rooted in American ideology in that money is a very important part to the society. Music doesn’t have the ability, as with any medium, to escape ideology or creating its own discourse because a need for success, which is defined by revenue in America.
Hardcore is a very good example of how America has a deep rooted philosophy and ideology which consists mostly of money related issues. Clothing, and expression through garments is a modern interest of merchants because it is a very good way to advertise despite the message of the music. So the issue of American musicians “selling out,” can be tied not to a problem with the philosophy of the musicians, but rather a much bigger aspect of an American Corporatism. The introduction of African Americans into white-controlled genres also is also a modern trend of action which resembles an overall shift in feelings of Americans. So music does not find itself free of the ideologies that are present in American society but rather exemplifies them in a visual and audible form that most Americans can relate to.
About BMC 277: Media and Diversity
This course asks students to critically examine the role of the media in facilitating and challenging the social constructions of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation in U.S. culture.