American Music Standards Are Overrated

In fourth grade, one of my favorite songs on Just Dance 4 was an Indian song named “Beware of the Boys”. I didn’t understand a single syllable that was uttered, but I still  jerked my arms and legs in coordination to the song because all that mattered was that it was catchy. I was even inspired to further research what the lyrics were about and was pleasantly surprised to learn it was a chivalrous message directed towards females about being cautious about the men they trust. It was an experience I could’ve never had on earlier Just Dance editions. Those had been completely dominated by popular American music. American music has been dominant for a very long time. Artists from other countries drew direct inspiration from American-born folk, jazz, and hip hop to create their own hits songs. However, this lead to Westerners placing themselves above music of other genres and other countries, making them almost apathetic to new art. Accepting the American music standard as the gauge of artistic ability or success is exclusory and non-advancing, 

The majority would agree that Western influences have been unbelievably important to the worldwide music scene. Almost every country has a form of music that has originally American roots. Hip-hop especially, a style stemming from traditional folk music,  is an American-made genre which people from prominent countries like Britain started to copy because it was new, shiny and innovative, particularly compared to their organized, traditionally classical taste. But in doing so, they allowed American music to be placed on an indestructible pedestal so that the music that was once innovative was recycled over and over again to become the standard. If their music isn’t inherently hip hop or another genre originating from American folk music, such as country, R&B, rock, or pop, it isn’t to be considered. This leaves nothing but a tiny sliver of an opening for other genres to preside.  Each time one unexpected genre manages to do so, it’s called a phenomenon. However, most artists simply try to take the easier path and conform to the American music standard. Those who try to conform risk losing their identity just to make it big in a place where the requirements aren’t necessarily considerate or fair. 

Western standards are too restrictive. The top charting songs are rarely unique, almost always being hip hop, pop, rock, R&B, and country. Music distinct to certain cultures are nearly locked out because Americans prefer what is familiar without consideration to what is good. That is why the same artists, such as Drake, who has won 27 billboard awards and 81 nominations over the course of eight years, consistently top the charts. It also explains why it’s difficult for new artists to break into the industry, much less foreign artists. Americans make up less than five percent of the world wide population. What about the other 95 percent? Is their taste irrelevant? Korean pop music is only seen as truly successful when they break through to the western market, despite it having awards analogously prestigious to major American music awards. The MAMA and Seoul Music Awards are judged the same way as the Grammys and Billboard Music Awards. Therefore, music should be considered universally. However, American music standards cause the standard American recording academy to try to defend their type and position. That is why when a foreign creation makes a meteoric rise to popularity, like the Latin song Despacito did in 2017, and doesn’t fit the mold of western taste, academies are quick to categorize it separately from American music. The 2019 VMAs created an exclusive kpop category in an effort to be “hip with the kids”  and appear inclusive whilst simultaneously preventing kpop from winning in categories that their American counterparts didn’t necessarily work as hard for. In doing this, they are being selfish, and robbing the proper artists of the recognition they deserve, the fans the pride they take in the artist, and potential fans of the experience.

The obvious fact is that American music is no longer on the cutting edge. Hip hop has been the reigning genre for ten years, much longer than the usual swing in music trends. During that time, artists worldwide have been crafting unusual and unexpected compositions, quietly distorting the general public’s opinion about what “real” music actually means. People have started to question just how prevalent genres like hip hop can remain when musicians from decades ago like Queen are having a comeback and new, culturally explosive groups like the k-pop group BTS, are quickly becoming the new norm. Not too long ago, it was almost a crime to mention you were a k-pop fan; it was comparable to proudly calling yourself an obsessive koreaboo. But just a few days ago, a guy from my class yelled some korean lyrics to BTS’s “Run” while we were playing tennis, and I was instantly able to connect with his interest, us excitedly talking about k-pop though we’d barely known each other for 30 minutes. This proves kpop, along with other foreign musical imports are making their rounds and skipping circled around hip hop, because like American music standards, it never seems to evolve. Whether recording academies like it or not, people are beginning to ignore what they deem is popular in favor of discovering styles of music they find more interesting. The American music standard has become irrelevant. 

I don’t usually post essays on my site, but I figured I’d share this one since it’d be a waste for one-time academic use. Hope you enjoyed it! Don’t forget to check out my other posts, which are considerably more light-hearted.


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