What Music Means to me

Sadly, the time has come to write my final blog post. While I may have complained every night before a post was due, I must admit, I really enjoyed searching for a new topic to write about each week and sharing my thoughts on music with you this semester.

This week, as a final note to leave you off on, I just wanted to explain where my love and passion for music stems from and how it has personally impacted my life over the years. Music has always been an integral part of my life, and my love for music was pretty evident even at a young age. Growing up, my favorite toy was a mini plastic piano and even at the age of 3, I had this obsession and passion for creating music. I’ve carried that same passion with me my entire life, and I put that passion into learning many different instruments. I have played the piano for a little over 15 years now, the flute for 9 years, and the violin for 6 years.

Being born and raised in America, I definitely find it challenging at times to stay connected to my culture and roots in India. Music has helped me stay connected. The amazing thing about music is its ability to bring cultures together. When I am at home, I listen to Indian songs on my laptop and learn how to play the song on my piano simply by ear. This allows me to integrate my Indian culture into everyday life and stay in touch with my heritage.

As cliché as it might sound, music has singlehandedly gotten me through rough patches throughout my life. When I was only 5, my grandfather passed away due to a severe heart attack. Losing a loved one is always going to be hard and disheartening, but at such a young age, it was difficult for me to comprehend the situation and handle the different emotions running through my head. During that time, music really became a therapeutic outlet for me. Although I couldn’t articulate my emotions in words, I was able to express my frustration, stress, and misery through playing the piano. I composed and played a song in memory of my grandfather, which allowed me escape reality for a bit and find some solace.

Another huge part of my life, especially throughout high school, revolved around marching band, which quickly became my niche. I think marching band has that general connotation of being considered that lame, “geeky” activity for losers. To be completely honest, I was initially critical and worried of being labelled as that stereotypical “band geek.”  Looking back on it, I am extremely glad I chose to join. Not only did I create lasting friendships and incredible memories, but I developed team working skills and a sense of individual responsibility.

Screen Shot 2014-05-27 at 7.49.30 AM

Here are some of highlights of my favorite memories from marching band:

How many people can say they got to perform the half-time show at an Eagles game? I can. Needless to say, the experience was unforgettable and one the most memorable moments of my life!

FullSizeRender (5)

In 2010, I was able to perform in the Rose Bowl Parade in California! No big deal or anything.

FullSizeRender (1)

I had the incredible opportunity to be a part of the Citrus Bowl Parade in Florida two years later.

FullSizeRender (2)

At the end of the day, my favorite memory from marching band was performing at the Friday night high school football games.

1452094_495846350531181_780402887_n

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 8.49.29 PM

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog this semester! I hope you found it to be insightful!

Gender Stereotypes in the Media

word-cloud-470x260

Something that has been on my mind for quite awhile is the media. I don’t think we truly realize the extent to which the media subconsciously affects our minds on a daily basis. We see several commercials and ads on T.V everyday, but do we really pay attention to their message? Although it may not be as strikingly apparent nowadays, the media does a lot to push gender roles and perpetuate stereotypes about women, most of which are often misconstrued or inaccurate. Media uses these skewed stereotypes to portray a misrepresentation of women, which consequently manipulates and shapes the attitudes, opinions, and views of the public. For this week’s post, I wanted to look at this problem in more depth by analyzing the structure of commercials and T.V. shows and specify the gender stereotypes they utilize.

Commercials are a vast source of gender stereotyping mainly because they are typically adapted to specifically a male or female target. From a general standpoint, women are more often presented in commercials because they are usually seen as responsible for making everyday purchases. When men are shown, they are generally advertising cars, alcohol, cigarettes, business products or investments, whereas women are shown advertising cosmetics and domestic products. Women are also more likely to be portrayed in a home environment performing domestic chores such as laundry and cooking, unlike men, who are usually shown in the outdoors. Thus the media is creating a societal norm and pushing gender roles by showcasing the idea that women are typically stay at home moms who cook and clean all day, contrary to men who do the work outside the house. Another important thing to note is a phenomenon known as face-ism present in the majority of commercials. The face-ism phenomenon essentially consists of showing the entire figure of women in ads and close-up shots of men. This expresses the idea that body image of women is more highly scrutinized and placed at a higher importance than that of men’s.

According to research by University of Houston Professor Steve Craig, women are presented in commercials in several variants.  For example, one of the most popular is portraying a woman as housewife whose main problem is lack of ideas for dinner. The other examples are less traditional, however, still very stereotypical. Many commercials portray women as female “vamps” or in other words sex objects who exist to primarily service men. They mostly appear in the commercials directed to men. When a beautiful woman accepts and praises male cosmetics or a product directed towards the male audience, it is treated by men as a guarantee of its quality. Another type of stereotyping in media is when ads portray women whose major concern is to preserve their beauty. Hence, she presents a healthy life style, is physically active, and uses a wide range of body and facial cosmetics. The problem with portraying women like this is that we observe mainly the presence of very thin actresses in these type of commercials. This consequently leads to the the faulty assumption that only thin women can be beautiful and healthy. As a result, the female audience generally fall into the obsession with their weight, which leads to negative effects, including low self-esteem, confidence, unhealthy dieting techniques, and even starvation.

In more recent commercials, gender roles are being pushed through advertisement even on young children. Girls are often portrayed as playing with dolls and easy-bake ovens, whereas boys are seen playing with action figures, trucks, and anything involved with sports. This perpetuates a false stereotype that girls never play with action figures and boys never play with easy-bake ovens, when that is not necessarily the case.

When looking at popular T.V. shows like The Big Bang Theory for example, there was one consistently present female lead in the earlier seasons, Penny. Penny’s character was that of the stereotypical female. She was presented as the ditzy, attractive neighbor who existed solely to create sexual tension between herself and one of the show’s leading men, Leonard Hofstadter. As the show progressed, characters developed and more females were introduced, but Penny’s character still exists to primarily create romantic tension. The portrayal of such stereotypes often causes the public to change their perspective on women and causes them to form the misconception that females are dumb, bemused, and/or simply present to attract men.

Sources:

Lantagne, Allison. “Gender Roles in Media.” The Huffington Post, 14 May 2014. Web.  <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/allison-lantagne/gender-roles-media_b_5326199.html&gt;.

Pryor, Debra; Knupfer, Nancy Nelson. “Gender Stereotypes and Selling Techniques in Television Advertising: Effects on Society,” 1997. Web. <http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/0000019b/80/16/c4/8c.pdf>.

Some of My Favorite Songs

I think almost all of us have a particular taste in music and a list of what we consider to be our “all time favorite songs.” I consider myself to be a fairly eclectic and open-minded person and enjoy listening to all types of music, whether it is from different cultures, languages, styles, or genres. If I had to list all my “favorite” songs, we would be here for hours, maybe even a couple days. So- instead of boring you to death and endlessly listing them all, I thought I’d just share a few.

1.) Drops of Jupiter- Train

It has been 14 years since Drops of Jupiter was released, and I can whole-heartedly say it still continues to be one of my absolute favorite songs to listen to. Drops of Jupiter is just one of those “feel-good” songs that automatically puts you in a 49brighter mood. Overall, it has a smooth, rock feel to it with a moderate speed, making it pleasant to listen to. Not only are the vocals sung with passion and personality, but the classic piano and orchestral backdrop gives the song a richer sound, as well as a symphonic rock touch. Another reason why I love this song is because the lyrics are somewhat quirky, yet poetic. Lyrics like “She checks out Mozart while she does tae-bo” and “Did Venus blow your mind?” are so unique that it makes the song more intriguing and stand out from the others.

2.) Danza Kaduro- Don Omar ft. Lucenzo 

Danza_Kuduro_(single_cover)There is something about the song Danza Kaduro- scratch that- Latin music in general that makes me want to break out into dance every time I hear it.  Although I don’t understand a single word of the song, the extremely infectious beat compensates for it. The entire song has an upbeat Reggae tune to it, which I find particularly catchy and fun. If you ever need to feel energized or uplifted, listen to this song. Not to mention- it’s great workout music!

 

3.) Born this Way- Lady Gaga 

tumblr_inline_ni6hiqV6M61r2300zThis song speaks to me and touches me emotionally due to the powerful message it conveys. The song promotes the idea of accepting ourselves for the way God made us and to take pride in who we are as a person. Especially when my self-esteem is low, or I feel conscious about my appearance, this song makes me feel a sense of identity, self-worth, and confidence.

 

4.) Don’t Stop Believing-Journey journey-dsb-re

If you haven’t heard this song yet, stop what you’re doing and listen to it. Truth be told, I am guilty of blasting this song several times in the car and belting out the lyrics embarrassingly loud. There is nothing more to say other than the fact that this song is one of those “classic songs” that is easy to sing along to, has a great tune and has extraordinary guitar instrumental.

 

5.) I Want it That Way- BackStreet Boys 

In spirit of Throwback ThursdI_Want_It_That_Wayay, I just had to add this one onto my list. Who doesn’t love the Backstreet Boys, right?  Every time I hear this song, I am instantly reminded of my childhood- the times when boy bands were actually good.  The harmonies in this song are simply amazing, the voices blend extremely well, and again, it is highly catchy.

 

5.) Shake it Off- Taylor Swift

Let’s be real-would this list really be complete without a T-Swift song?  Most of you are probably sick of this song by now. I, on the other hand, have an unhealthy obsession with it, and I can never seem to get enough. Even if I am feeling stressed, angry, or upset, the cheerful nature of the song can always put me in a happier mood. Another aspect of the song I like is the simple balance between the subtle saxophone line and the vocals. Finally, I really appreciate the message of the song because it is trying to convey the inspirational idea of letting loose, having fun, being yourself and ignoring what the “haters” think of you.

article-swift5-0818

What are some of your favorite songs and why?

Rough Draft of Issue Brief

AN EXECUTIVE ORDER TO INCREASE RESTRICTIONS ON MEDIA VIOLENCE

WHAT’S THE ISSUE: An Overlook of Increasing Media Violence in the United States

T.V. Violence:

In American mass media, violence is ubiquitous. When looking at television specifically, the American Psychological Association Commission on Violence and Youth reported that the average American youth will witness more than 200,000 violent episodes on T.V. (including more than 16,000 murders) before age 18, and weapons are shown on an average of 9 times per hour. On average, T.V. programs display 812 violent acts per hour, almost half of which comes from children’s programming.

46% of T.V. violence occurs in children’s shows, particularly cartoons. Saturday morning cartoons alone contain about 20-25 violent acts per hour, 6 times as many as prime time programs. Some claim cartoon violence is harmless and not damaging to the health of children, due to the fact that they are not “real”. In reality, cartoon violence is shown to increase the likelihood of antisocial and aggressive behavior in the youth. Since 67% of these programs typically juxtapose violence with humor, children have developmental difficulty discerning the “real” from the “fantastic.”

Video game violence

In video games, the players are an active participant rather than merely a viewer. 97% of children ages 12-17 play video games, most of which play every day for an hour or more. Some of the most popular video games, including “Call of Duty” and “Grand Theft Auto,” are especially violent, featuring missions with the main goal of brutally murdering others through firearm, warfare, or other weapons. Most games nowadays are “first-person shooter” styled, with realistic graphics and special effects, making shootings and other violent acts appear real.

IMPACT ON YOUTH

Media Violence vs. True Violence

Violence in the media presents a skewed portrayal of true violence. In the media, 75% of violent actions are committed with no remorse, 41% are associated with humor, and 58% involve victims who show no sign of pain. This inappropriate presentation of violence causes the youth to develop false expectations of true violence. Statistical analysis and reports by the National Institute of Mental Health identified these three major effects of media violence:

Aggression:

Over 1000, cross-sectional analyses, lab experiments, epidemiologic studies, reports, and longitudinal studies support the hypothesis that media violence leads to increased actual violence. In particular, certain categories of people including males, delinquents, and children with developmental and emotional disabilities, are particularly sensitive to media violence. Young children are more prone to be influenced by the media and often imitate violent acts on T.V. in their play with peers. In movies, television, and even video games, violence is often rewarded and viewed as “cool” or the ideal way to resolve a conflict. Especially before age 4, many children cannot distinguish between fact and fantasy and thus view violence as simply an ordinary occurrence. Therefore, youth typically accept violence as a way to handle problems.

When looking at video games, the children playing the game are actively participating in the physical violence. Through shooting, fighting, or brutally murdering characters in the game, children are subconsciously impacted psychologically. Constantly being exposed to brutal acts of violence and actively engaging in such acts through video games causes children to automatically think more violently in everyday life, which sometimes translates to actions.

Large-scale studies provide evidence linking frequent exposure to violent media in childhood, with aggression later in life. A report by the US Secret Service and US Department of Education, which examined about 40 incidents of targeted school shootings and school attacks, found that “over half the attacks demonstrated some interest in violence though movies, video games, books, and other media.

The graph below shows the correlation between % of students involved in physical fights and high/low violent game play.

graph1

Desensitization to violence, pain, suffering of others

New research shows that children watching televised violence or playing violent video games become desensitized to the idea of violence over time. In other words, they become “immune” or “numb” to the horror of violence, therefore becoming less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others. Adolescents are exposed to mass scales of violence almost everyday and as a result, they come to see violence as a fact of life and lover time, lose their ability to empathize with both the victim and victimizer. When young children watch characters get shot, stabbed, brutalized, degraded, raped, or murdered on T.V., it is “real” to them and they view it as though it were actually happening. As they are exposed to such violent acts hundreds and hundreds of times, they are essentially desensitized to the violence and don’t have much of a reaction when an act of real violence occurs.

Victimization and Fear

It has also been proven that media violence leads to a feeling of victimization as well as fear. In a study, 10% of high school students sough counseling due to anxiety, pure fear, and nightmares associated with media violence. Another study targeting 3rd-8th graders also reported having trauma symptoms and nightmares as a result of increased viewing of media violence.

PROBLEMS WITH PAST PUBLIC POLICY EFFORTS 

 After research and analysis, there are two main reasons why past public policy efforts to curb children’s exposure to media violence have failed. These reasons must be taken into consideration when implementing new policies in the future.

  1. Legislation and past efforts to restrict children’s access to violent video games are struck down by courts as infringing on children’s First Amendment rights.
  2. There is an apparent gap between what scientific findings suggest and what the U.S. courts and society understand. (Disparity between perspectives)

Policy Proposal:

Policy changes must take into consideration the newfound understanding of the impact of media violence on mental and physical health, specifically of the youth’s. In order to take steps forward in addressing the mass issue of increasing media violence and improve the well being of the public youth and society as a whole, the following measures are strongly recommended.

  1. Increase federal, state, and local restrictions on media violence (and enforce current restrictions)
  2. Improve Media Violence Education

Enforcing and implementing both strategies will address televised violence, as well as violence in video games.

Enforcing Current Restrictions and Increasing Restrictions on Media Violence

Although film ratings and advisory labels are put into place in order to regulate and restrict children of different age groups from being exposed to T.V. or video game violence, this system has proven to be constantly ineffective and unreliable. In more recent years, film and video game ratings have failed to be strictly enforced, causing the youth to disregard or even ignore them. Labels like “parental discretion advised”, “R” attracts children, particularly boys.

The chart below shows that as time passes, the % of underage purchases of R-Rated films and M-Rated Video games increased drastically.

graph2

ENACTING A NEW POLICY:

In order to enforce current restrictions, a strict policy should be enacted in which it is mandatory to show personal identification in the form of a passport, license, etc. before purchasing video games rated “Teen” or “M” for Mature. Similarly, when buying/renting a movie or watching a movie at the theater rated “R,” “NC17”, or “PG13”, individuals must be required to show a form of identification. Failure to comply with policy will result in a hefty fine (can vary depending on situation).

HOW WILL THIS HELP?

Enacting and strictly enforcing such a policy will help to limit the youth’s (specifically adolescents and pre-teens) exposure to media violence. Additionally, such a policy will significantly lessen the impact of violent media on the youth. Children around the ages of 12-17 will not be able to purchase video games rated “M” or get into “R” rated movies at the theater. Thus, they will not consume as much media violence and will be less likely to be impacted mentally, physically, and psychologically.

Improving Media Violence Education

In addition to limiting exposure to violent media and increasing federal, local, and state restrictions on media violence, educational efforts must be developed to help children understand the divide between real and fictionalized violence, the root cause of many psychological and emotional problems amongst the youth.

Implementing Media Education and Literacy Programs

Alongside drug and alcohol education programs, media education programs that focus on processing, dissecting, and analyzing media violence must be developed and implemented in schools, targeting elementary and middle school students. Emphasis should be placed on the unrealistic and inappropriate nature of violence in T.V., films, and video games and include a curriculum centralized on discussing the consequences, complexity, and responsibility involved with true violence.

Media education programs will help younger children properly distinguish the difference between reality and fantasy, which will help their psychological development in many ways:

  • They will less likely be desensitized to the suffering and pain of others, and empathize with victims of harsh violence more strongly.
  • They will less likely see violence as an “ordinary occurrence” or an acceptable method of resolving a conflict or issue
  • They will less likely associate real violence with humor (like that portrayed in media) and thus view real violence with more seriousness.

Through media education programs, children and adolescents can be taught “critical viewing skills” so they can learn to better interpret what they see in the media.

Anyone can “Sing”

There are countless singers who always knock it out of the park whether they’re recording an album, singing acapella, or performing live. If I had to write about all the skilled and incredibly talented singers out there whom I admire, respect, and love, it would take me at least a couple weeks.

Truth is, it is much more fun and interesting to talk about the artists who don’t have that stuff going for them. There are singers who are rich, famous, and beautiful (I may even like their music), but their “live voices” are far from what we hear on the radio. And I don’t mean that in a good way.

A couple weeks ago, I was mindlessly scrolling through Youtube videos on my laptop when I came across a video titled “Top 10 Worst Live Singers” on the home page with a whopping 5,000,000+ views. Needless to say, within the first couple minutes of the video, my ears were practically bleeding.

Here are a couple singers (in no particular order) who made the list.

Selena Gomez

Selena-Gomez-Smile

 

 

 

 

 

Brittany Spears

Britney-Spears-Surprised

 

 

 

 

Ke$ha

kesha-name-body

 

 

 

 

Robin Thicke

Robin-thicke-1

 

 

 

 

 

Katy Perry

Katy-Perry-Smile

 

 

 

 

As much as I absolutely love jamming to the songs of these artists on the radio or at a party, hearing them perform live confirmed that you don’t necessarily have to be a good singer to have a music career.

You might be wondering… who cares? Why does something that seems so trivial matter? Obviously, the purpose of this post was not to trash or blatantly insult familiar singers. Youtube videos like the one I watched perfectly exemplify the drastic extent to which modern music has evolved. Nowadays, it seems like practically anyone’s voice can be altered or manipulated to sound phenomenal through the magic of auto-tuning and highly advanced sound editing tools. What pertrubes me is that we are tricked into believing this illusion that a singer sounds a certain way based on the heavily edited voice we hear on the radio, when in reality, that is far from their actual voice. More recently, it appears as if the music industry is specifically seeking visually attractive singers, or those who have unique or controversial personalities simply to gain attention amongst the media and public, despite how horrendous their voice may sound. In other words, the music industry is placing their focus on the appearance and personality of the artist over their voice. As long as someone is attractive or captures attention, who cares what they sound like live, right? With modern technology, we can make anybody’s voice sound “amazing” right?

I completely understand that visual appeal, personality, and stage presence is crucial for marketing and publicity purposes, but shouldn’t music be centralized and focused on a singer’s true voice? This brings me to another topic that’s been constantly running across my mind. Most current singers, despite how talented they are, seem to focus on creating a dramatic performance full of dance moves, props, and creative costumes, as opposed to focusing on what is truly significant: their voice. I love a great performance, but if it means sacrificing or detracting away from a powerful voice, is it really worth it?

Examining Sex Trafficking: A Domestic and International Perspective

dreamstime_m_32349546Over spring break, I had the opportunity to read the book Half the Sky (strongly recommend it!), which essentially details the stories of young girls and women around the world subject to harsh oppression. Every story was disheartening, but the ones that particularly caught my attention and struck a cord with me focused on the prominent issue of human trafficking, specifically sex trafficking.

Human trafficking, is currently one of the fastest-growing criminal industries in the world, generating approximately $27.8 billion a year globally, the majority of which comes from the international sex-trade. Human trafficking in its most malicious form is essentially akin to modern day slavery, where people profit from the victimization, control and exploitation of others. Specifically, sex trafficking or the “sex trade” is when people, most often women and girls, are bought or abducted, harbored, and coerced into commercial sex against their will through the use of threat, abuse, or deception. No matter where in the world, all trafficking victims share one essential experience- the loss of freedom and human rights.

As Americans, we want to believe that sex slavery is only rampant in developing countries, but essentially non-existent here; however, this is a popular misconception. Many Americans are oblivious to the seriousness of the issue within the country, perhaps due to the hidden nature of the crime in the U.S.  In reality, sex trafficking is just as prevalent in the United States, as in any other country. In 2013, The National Human Trafficking Resource Center reported that about 15,000 people are trafficked in the US each year, 50% of which are children under the age of 18 in risk of being forced into prostitution.

bestbackgrounchecks-human-trafficking-chart

The top sex trafficking industries in the United States include online escort services, residential brothels, and in-street prostitution. It is important to note that the Super Bowl is the day with the single largest incident of human trafficking in America. Since thousands of fans globally come to the host city for the game, it becomes a profitable breeding ground for forced workers. About 10,000 victims are forced into prostitution during this time, and sex trafficking victims are expected to sleep with around 30 men per day at such an event. The awareness raised about sex trafficking leading up to the Super Bowl is important to make sure people know this crime exists; however, that awareness should not be limited to simply big sporting events.

When looking at the issue from a global standpoint, close to million women and girls worldwide (even a small number of boys) are currently enslaved in the international sex-trade. To put the severity of the issue into perspective, as of the 21st century, far more women and girls are shipped into brothels annually than African slaves were shipped into slave plantations per year in the 18th century.

Especially in developing countries such as India and China, the majority of victims are extremely young girls, who are separated from their mothers at birth and forced into brothels to be sexually exploited or intimidated into prostitution. These girls usually grow up in the brothels and continue in the sex-trade business for the majority of their lives.

Human TraffickingThe problem of sex trafficking continues to be a growing global problem primarily due to collapse of communism in Indochina and Eastern Europe, which has opened up markets for commercial sex. The fear of AIDS has also increased, causing some customers to target younger girls, who they think is less likely to be infected, or virgins, believing the girls to cure AIDS. The sex trade self-perpetuates, as it continues to grow. Once girls are sold into the sex slavery business, it becomes all they know, and they often become so stigmatized that they remain in the trade, even if it means selling sex voluntarily.

With enough political will, we can begin to hold government’s accountable for not only passing more anti-trafficking laws, but also enforcing them. Officials worldwide should be under pressure to shut down jail-like brothels, crack down on trafficking across borders, and investigate criminals buying underage girls. Of course, there is no easy solution to ending the complex issue of sex trafficking, but we must to everything we can to make a positive change, in the US and internationally.

What’s the Deal with Country Music?

Let me be completely honest. Unlike the majority of America, I am not the biggest fan of country music. When I think country music, all that comes to mind is that stereotypical Southern accent, a guitar, and lyrics about tractors and alcohol. Personally, I prefer the musical genres of pop and alternative, but as an American, I think it is only appropriate that I address our nation’s so called “craze” over country music and my views on its booming popularity.

Although popular music genres continue to diss and poke fun at country music, country calmly remains as one of the top-selling and most-listened-to genres of music in America today.

  1. taylor-swiftCountry artist live tours are consistently amongst the best-attended and most profitable among live shows: Taylor Swift and Brad Paisley had record breaking tours last year, indicating the strong loyalty factor amongst country fans.
  2. Country’s crossover appeal is growing: Country music is not only heard on country radio stations anymore- now it is commonplace to hear Taylor Swift, Luke Bryan, and The Band Perry across other popular radio stations. 
  3. When looking at the top ten albums on iTunes or the Billboard 200 chart, at least 1-2 of the hit records are always country: Albums by Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan, and Brad Paisley have hit the top 10 multiple times. 

When I watch singing competitions such as the X Factor, The Voice, and American Idol, I can’t help but notice the vast majority of contestants who are country artists. Many of which make it to the top rounds, become finalists, or win the entire show. Almost always, it is the country artist that America votes to be the “winner.” This got me thinking…why has country music garnered so much popularity?

There is not much real science behind this, but I do have some theories…

  • COUNTRY MUSIC IS LYRICALLY ACCESSIBLE: Genres like hip-hop are built around being “bigger than life,” bragging about how much “swag” or money they’ve accumulated, and the “good life” everyone wishes they had. On the other hand, country songs focus more on making the most of the life people already have. They generally tell stories about everyday things that real people can relate to and connect with: love, loss, making a living, having a beer, and missing loved ones.
  • COUNTRY MUSIC KEEPS IT SIMPLE: Country music usually doesn’t push the musical envelope and sticks to the norm with predictable chord patterns, standard verse/chorus song structures, and highly singable melodies. The predictability and familiar sounds, rhythms, and song structure makes it catchy and easy for people to recognize it and sing along. The simplicity and consistency of country music is what appeals to many.
  • COUNTRY MUSIC VALUES ITS FAN BASE: One of the reasons why country fans are so fiercely loyal is because country artists are known for being fiercely loyal to their fans. There is a well-established love relationship between country artists and their fans, which is why established country artists can keep performing well into old age.  They continue to record albums the fans will like, despite knowing that the fan will buy their record even before they know whether it’s any good.

LukeFansTwitter

I am not sure if I will ever grow to enjoy country music and jump on our nation’s bandwagon, but I can definitely say I have a newfound understanding, appreciation, and respect for it.

 

Sources:

Wilson, Jacque. “Obsessions: Crazy About Country Music.” CNN. Cable News Network, 4 Nov. 2011. Web. <http://www.cnn.com/2011/11/04/showbiz/music/obsessions-country-music/&gt;.

Who Said It: God or Kanye?

kanye_west_power_by_gody00-d34otykDoes Kanye West really think he’s God? As utterly foolish and random as this may sound, this question is actually a current topic of debate headlined in the media and circulated amongst the public. This strangely intrigued me, and I couldn’t help but do a little digging and research for myself.

Kanye West has an infamous reputation of being egocentric and self-obsessed, and is almost always associated with sparking mass controversy. Let’s be real- with his questionable stints at award shows, the lyrics of his music, and his general behavior and actions over the years, it is not that difficult to imagine why.

Remember that time when Kanye stole the mic away from Taylor Swift during her acceptance speech at the VMA’s?

ye-celeb-wacky-tacky

These are actual things that were said by Kanye during various interviews…

kanye_has_god_complex_11

yeez

Don’t get me wrong- I am not trying to belittle or criticize Kanye West by any means. In fact, I personally love many of his songs and he is considered to be one of the greatest artists, rappers and producers of this generation. But he’s also known to make grandiose statements. While many interpret his statements as inspirational, they are usually seen in the media as egomaniacal “rants.” TKanye-West-Godo that end, a debate rages across the Internet: Does Kanye have a God Complex? The answer to this question varies, but it can’t be denied that there is a lot of overlap between what Kanye says and the words of God. The parallels are quite shocking, so I thought I’d pitch Kanye’s words against the Almighty himself.

Can you tell the difference between the word of God and the word of Kanye?

  1. “I am the light of the world.”
  2. “I feed the branches of the people.”
  3. “I live and breathe every element in life.”
  4. “I am the living bread which came down from heaven.”
  5. “I am the way and the truth and the life.”
  6. “I AM the way, the truth, and the life.”
  7. “The devil dances and eventually answers to the call of Autumn.”
  8. “And all of you are children of the Most High. But you shall die like men and fall like one of the princes.”

kanye_has_god_complex_20It is perfectly acceptable to express spiritual beliefs and connection to God through music; however, Kanye West might be taking his religious beliefs to a whole new level of extreme. He has a supposed “God complex,” which was specifically highlighted with the release of his new album titled Yeezus, a blatant play off of Jesus and his own name. The album features several controversial tracks like, I am a God, Jesus Walks, The One, and New God Flow, which give insight into Kanye’s self-proclaimed “Christ-like” persona. One particulakanye-jesus-e1353117142581r line that struck me was from his song, I am a God, when he says “I just talked to Jesus/he said, ‘What up, Yeezus?…../I know he’s the most high, but I am a close high.” Not only does this line show his direct communication with God, but by saying he’s a “close high to God”, it seems as if he views himself as a match or equal to Jesus and believes to be a form of God himself.

This may sound like a bit of stretch, insane, and completely delusional, but his recent performances and album covers say otherwise.

This is a highly controversial album cover of Kanye’s, which clearly references the crucification of Christ. Does Kanye believe to be the modern day Jesus?

kanye-west-yeezus-crucified-400x400

Then there was the performance where he brought “Jesus” onto the stage, “communicated” with him on a spiritual level, and appeared to be a form of God descending from the heavens.

kanye-west-yeezus-jesus-tour

Does Kanye believe to be an angel of some sort?

kanye-west-jesus-walks-1_phixr2

Whether Kanye is truly egomaniacal or simply religious is the question that still lingers, but ultimately I guess that’s for us to interpret.

Sources:

Cleveland, Lauriel. “The Kanye God Complex.” CNN. Cable News Network, n.d. Web. 21 June 2013. <http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/20/showbiz/music/kanye-west-god-complex-yeezus/>.

L, John. “The God Complex: Kanye West.” Eagle Watch. N.p., 04 Apr. 2014. Web. <https://rosslyneaglewatch.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/the-god-complex-kanye-west/>.

Just IMAGINE

This week, I chose to analyze one of my all time favorite songs, Imagine, by the one and only John Lennon. As I was listening to the “throwback” playlist on my Ipod earlier this week, I came across the song, and after replaying it about 5 times and dissecting the lyrics, I felt inspired to examine the song in more depth.

John-Lennon-Imagine

Imagine is quite different from the modern pop music we are probably attuned to hearing by now. Ranked third in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, “Imagine” is a universal anthem for world peace. Although the lyrics are simple and seem straight-forward, I think its simplicity is perhaps its most powerful asset. The message of the song is highly profound in meaning and the lyrics have been interpreted in a skew of ways.

 

For those who have not heard the song or are unfamiliar with the lyrics, feel free to check it out: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/johnlennon/imagine.html  

Now, from what I’ve heard, Imagine is considered to be the “international peace ballad,” and it is pretty obvious why. With lyrics such as  “Imagine all the people living in peace”, “Imagine all the people sharing all the world,”  “I hope some day you’ll join us and the world will live as one,” and a “brotherhood of man”, I’m positive that even a 5 year old could tell you that the song was aimed to encourage peace of some sort. What many people may not know is what the “peace” was for. After doing some independent research, I found that the song was actually written during the height of the Vietnam War and thus, many people see it as a call to promote peaceful relations and cooperation amongst the countries and prevent growth of the war.

When I first heard the song and listened to the lyrics, I viewed it as a sweet, simple song advocating world peace, brotherhood and freedom from suffering and discrimination. You have to admit it’s hard to miss such a basic message when the lyrics are so unambiguous. After further examination, I realized that the song expressed a message deeper than peace. It is really asking the listener to give up on discrimination based on ethnicity, social class, religion, and nationalism. Through the lines “imagine no religion” and imagine no countries,” John Lennon is basically trying to express the key message that prejudices can be eradicated if we stop believing in categories that separate people. For example, most wars are fought largely due to religious beliefs, nationalism, or battle over territory. If we didn’t have countries separating us or we could all practice religious tolerance, would these wars even happen? Furthermore, when people have an unequal share of wealth, it leads to greed, power struggles, and hunger. Thus by “imagining no possessions”, Lennon is trying to get us to imagine a happier world in which people share equal power.

Believe it or not; however, not everyone interprets Imagine as a “peace anthem,” despite the clear-cut lyrics. In fact, I was strangely fascinated to discover that many people actually correlate the song to Communism. Out of all things, Communism? Seriously? I don’t know about you, but Communism and peace do not exactly go hand in hand in my book. So why do people view this song as “Communistic?” By imagining a world with “no more religion, no more countries, and no more politics,” John Lennon himself said that the song was virtually the Communist manifesto. By imagining no heaven, hell, religion and politics, people believe he is shooting down religion and political systems, two of the major tenets of Communism.

Ultimately, interpret the song as you will. Some envision it as the “Communistic utopia”, but I prefer to think of it as just a beautiful tune full of pie-in-the-sky ideas for a better, united, and more peaceful world.

john-lennon-imagine (1)

 

The Gender Pay Gap

The 87th annual Academy Awards this past Sunday night was dedicated to recognizing and honoring the stellar work of people working in film; however, the Oscars was not only a big night for the movie industry. It was a huge night for women all over the nation. If you simply google “Oscars”, I can guarantee you that one of the top articles that pops up will be about Patricia Arquette’s acceptance speech, which will forever go down, in my opinion, as one the most galvanizing, yet controversial speeches in Oscar history.

When accepting the prestigious Best Supporting Actress award for her role in the movie Boyhood, Patricia choose to shine a spotlight on the growing, unresolved issue of inequality towards women. In particular, the gender pay gap and wage inequality.

winner-for-best-supporting-actress-patricia-arquette

The issue of the gender pay gap has been a fairly touchy and sensitive topic for years and has triggered mixed thoughts amongst many. Most of us have probably heard the general statement that men are paid more than women are paid over their entire lifetimes, but what does that really mean? Are women paid less because they choose lower-paying jobs? Is it because more women work part time than men do or because women tend to be the primary caregivers for their children? Or is it simply an issue of gender discrimination? The answer is, it is a combination of all of the above.

There are women who choose to work part-time or take on lower-paying jobs, and are thus paid less than men who have higher-paying jobs and/or work full-time, which is logical and seems fair. However, over the years it has been found that women are making less money than men despite doing equal work with equal experience for the exact same job. That is when the problem of gender inequality comes into play. The Equal Pay Act was established in 1963 to abolish gender wage disparity, yet 50 years have passed and women are still earning less for working just as hard.

Personally, it boggles and perturbs me that our country is still backwards in our ways of thinking, and gender discrimination has failed to completely cease. Obviously, it would be inaccurate to state that all women are faced with the problem of unequal pay; however, the harsh reality is that there is evidence of a wage disparity between men and women, and statistics show that most women make less money as they get older, when compared to men.

When looking at the numbers, the pay gap has barely budged in a decade. Amongst full-time, year round workers as of 2013, women were paid only an average of 78% of what men were paid according to the Census Bureau. So in other words, for every dollar a man makes, a woman earns just 78 cents for doing the same job.

Screen-Shot-2014-09-16-at-10.09.14-AM2-638x475

To put the issue of the current gender pay gap in perspective and address the growing divide in wage equality, here are the concrete facts and statistics, which are disconcerting to say the least. Women in every state experience the pay gap, but some states are worse than others. Women are paid 91% of what men are paid in Washington D.C, but in Louisiana, the worst state in the country for pay equity, women are paid just 66% of what men are paid. Just 66%!  Furthermore, according to the American Association of University Women (AAUW), the pay gap does not apply to one occupation. Women unfortunately face the pay gap in nearly every occupation, whether they are female-dominated, gender-balanced or male-dominated. Whether it’s a job in computer programming, teaching, law, or arts and entertainment, women are paid less than men regardless. As Patricia mentioned in her acceptance speech, it is true that the pay gap widens and grows with age. Reports by the AAUW state that until about 35, women typically earn about 90% of what men are paid, but as they get older, the average earnings for women typically drop down to approximately 75-80% of what men are paid.

As sad as it is to say, the gender pay gap makes me feel like our nation has traveled back in time and is taking giant leaps backwards instead of pushing forward. If this wage disparity continues to grow and this gap expands, what will the future look like?

1 2 3 5