Since Rock n’ Roll woke America up in the 1950’s, music has taken on a role beyond itself. Each decade of popular music helps to document the times, representing the feelings and taste of the mass majority of each generation. With the invention of the internet, the ability to get your voice out there had it’s doors blown off. Suddenly, anybody could share their music with anyone across the world with websites like Purevolume, Myspace, and Youtube eventually vastly increasing this output.
So much music is available nowadays, it can be difficult to sort through it all, and even more difficult to remain relevant in such a fast paced industry. Due to this, it’s hard to really pinpoint the Kurt Cobain of the current generation. Yet, we’re more exposed to the real world than we’ve ever been, the country is going through incredible economic woes, is still involved in two wars, and college students are graduating with debt into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. So, where’s our John Lennon? Where’s our Bob Dylan? Who’s representing us in popular culture?
The spectrum of popular music’s expansion has certainly made this a near impossible question, but we have a few nominations:
Kendrick Lamar – He may be fresh on the scene, but he’s been around the block once or twice. So many times in fact, that his breakthrough album “good kid, m.A.A.d city” may be one of the most authentic hip hop albums ever to depict the life of a teenager struggling to make something of himself. While the albums setting may be more extreme than a lot of people can relate to, most of the problems are the same. Kendrick’s verses tell intricate stories about things such as trying to figure out what you want to do with your life, while simultaneously finding out what real life is actually like. It’s an incredibly dark coming of age tale that perfectly represents what most of young America is going through currently.
The Wonder Years – These guys have slowly climbed into the public eye, finding their biggest audience yet with last year’s “The Greatest Generation.” That album was the finale to a trilogy of albums, all dealing with topics like graduating college, chasing your dreams, finding yourself, and the friends and family you lose along the way. They’re almost like the suburban pop-punk equivalent of Kendrick Lamar. They may still be relatively low-key on the scale of popular music, but if they keep with the deep lyrical themes over infectious pop-punk hooks, you’ll be sure to hear about these guys sooner than later.
Kanye West – Love him, or hate him, the guy certainly has a lot to say. From saying George Dubya Bush doesn’t care about black people, to comparing himself to the likes of Hitler and Jesus; you have to respect the man’s commitment to himself. He’s a top contender for representing our feelings because, to be honest, he just doesn’t care. This is a double edged sword, as he not only cares less about what he says, or who he says it to; he just straight up doesn’t care. Our generation seems to be a little too internalized nowadays, and so Kanye represents our inner frustrations, but also our inability to sometimes not care enough about our outer ones. He blends the two attitudes perfectly in a cut off his newest album “Yeezus,” subtly titled “New Slaves.”
Frank Ocean – Frank Ocean coming out of the closet was huge. Surrounded by an industry of people that have constantly employed homophobic lyrics, and prided its self on the notches on their bedposts, Frank bravely took the risk of isolating himself from certain artists. A lot of people might think it’s not a big deal to come out of the closet these days, but that is totally uninformed. While America is certainly taking big strides in the ways of correcting the mistreatment of homosexuals, there is still a great prejudice looming over the country. Frank Ocean opened the doors(no pun intended) not only for other gay Hip-Hop/R&B artists, but for gay people everywhere. (Oh, and he’s insanely talented as well.)
So what do you think? Agree or disagree? Who would you nominate for being one of the biggest musically influential voices of our generation?