One local a capella group has, as the characters from Pitch Perfect would say, changed “the face of a capella.” Last month, several students from North Carolina’s Durham Academy involved in their highly-esteemed extracurricular a capella group XIV Hours explored the gender roles and abusive relationships portrayed through popular songs with a film titled “Lost In The Game: A Musical Story of Relationships, Sex and Gender Politics.” The students spent six months making the film; however, the initial topic of gender inequality and relationships had briefly been discussed in a “campus-wide dialogue.” The students, as stated in the video’s description, “wanted to deliver an important message and inspire conversation on a larger level about relationship expectations and the mixed messages teens navigate through the music they listen to every day.”
The video was nothing short of breathtaking; the vocalists were spectacular, taking viewers through an array of emotion whilst giving new meaning to popular songs. The video even captured the local scenery of Durham from the Piedmont Restaurant to the Durham Bulls sign. Overall, the video was well curated, allowing the students to convey their message in a thought-provoking way.
For many people, the video really struck a chord and made them more cognizant of the media’s impact, especially students at Apex High School. The pop music genre includes songs that Apex High students are very familiar with, and hear almost every day on the radio, around campus, or in their favorite television shows.
Students at Apex High share a passionate range of emotions about pop music. One student stated that in general, music has become “too sexual,” portraying women as “sex objects” rather than humans. The student even went as far as to refer to popular music as the “Donald Trump of music [genres.]” In reference to the hit song, “All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor, one junior stated that the song is “all positivity” at first; yet, it contains underlying messages “shaming skinny people.”
Some students felt that the popular music heard on the radio often objectifies women, making them seem simple-minded. One particular song, “Rude” by MAGIC!, infuriated many students due to its underlying theme of a woman following along with a man’s wishes. Holding the number one spot on Billboard’s Top 100 Chart for over a month, the song was very influential and stormed the nation. But what exactly was the song saying? Several sophomores stated that the singer was “really intense,” and “demanding” in his word choice, giving the woman “no choice” in deciding her fate.
As popular music evolves, it has become increasingly important for students to be aware of the messages within the media, the themes entangled in their favorite songs, and the ideology of their role models. How does such lewd and obscene music become popular if it clearly degrades women, oversexualizes situations, and promotes abusive relationships?