Compositions & Coffee Presents: "Creative Soul Digest"
Beast Coast Wednesday
Welcome to the HUMP my friends another week is half way behind us. Today we are going to explore music through the eyes of the youth culture. Taking a look at how music was ultimately shaped, and even, "shaped" the youth, by looking at the past, up to the current trends of today.
The History of Music & Youth Culture
The economic boom of the post war period benefitted the white teenagers of America as much as their parents. The children of the baby boom had expendable incomes from babysitting, mowing lawns, and allowances parents gave their kids. Since parents gave their kids money and kids had the opportunity to make money they could use it to buy clothes and records. Transistors and radios became completely portable giving kids an opportunity to listen to their music without disturbing their parents. They could listen to it anywhere they wanted even in automobiles and soon music became their soundtrack. The music on that soundtrack was the new sound of rock n’ roll. In post war America many black recording artist, many of them blues performers, created a style of music they called rhythm and blues. Rhythm and blue was a musical hybrid of blues, country boogie, gospel, and big band jazz. When rhythm and blues added electric guitars to the mix a new sound was born. Since rhythm and blues had been so popular among African Americans and hadn’t quite crossed over to mainstream, once fused with electric guitar, it sounded new to most people. Jazz also had it’s influence rock n roll with saxophone and stand up base. In 1953, Cleveland disc jockey Allen Freed played a new kind of music, so-called Negro music, for his white teenage audience and it became wildly popular. He thought this new sensation needed a name and Reed coined the term rock n’ roll. Next thing you know radio stations all around began to play this new sound. Chuck Berry is a credited as the father of rock n’ roll since he was the first to mix country, rhythm and blues, with lyrics about fast cars and women. His first mainstream hit was Maballene in 1955 when he crossed the color line and became successful amongst white audiences. Little Richard was the next big success in rock n’ roll that crossed over to white audiences and experienced mainstream success with songs like Tootie Frootie, Lucille and Good Golly Miss Molly. Little Richard was well known for his make-up, style, pompadour, and stage presence.
White musicians soon followed suite by copying the style but toning down the sexual lyrics for their mainstream audience. Songs like Rock Around the Clock, which became the anthem for the rock n’ roll generation soon became a huge hit. However, adults and conservatives began to condemn and protest the music. They felt it was ruining the youth of America by “over exciting their libidos” with it’s sexualized lyrics and wild dancing. However, the movement wasn’t strong enough to stop the 1950’s youth culture from enjoying it and American culture from making it their anthem. When Elvis Presley hit the scene he was just what Sam Phillips at Sun Records had been looking for. He stated, “ If I could find a white man that sang like a black man I’d make a million dollars.” So he did. Elvis Presley combined blues and country boogie style with hard driving rhythms and unique sounds. By 1956 he had 3 hits on the record charts. His moves and sound ultimately dubbed him the King of Rock n’ Roll.
The film industry also realized how America’s youth had time on their hands and money in their pocket and began to capitalize on this and produced movies directed entirely towards teenagers. Actors like James Dean, Marlon Brando, and Marilyn Monroe became iconic and seen as people that adopted their values, their sense of society, and culture. Marlon Brando’s character portrayal gave teenagers a new idol and created a new fashion style with motorcycle jackets, t-shirts, and blue jeans.
The 60’s maintained that rock n’ roll edge with artist like Jimi Hendricks’s, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and The Rolling Stones. However, what differentiated the 1950’s from the 1960’s youth culture was the changing attitudes surrounding society and the culture. 60s music was diverse and brought about the British Invasion leading to artists like The Beatles and Rolling Stones to American Youth Culture. Motown and the Era of Soul music also sprung up during the 60s offering music that appealed not just to black youth but also went mainstream and appealed to youth all over the world. Motown and Soul music were also reflective of the Civil Rights Movement and the racial climate in the US as the fight for equal rights was underway. Music became the youth cultures means of protests against the changing climate. By 1969 the biggest musical event known as Woodstock's goal was "Peace and Music". This reflected the tone of the era which saw not only the civil rights movement but protests regarding the Vietnam war. The music fest was a 3 day event and had more than 400,000 gathering in White Lake, New York.
Fashion trends of the youth culture also changed in the 60s where teens previously dressed in a likeness of their parents now developed a completely different fashion trend. Teenage girls no longer wore long skirts but instead pants and skirts with short hemlines. Men began to wear tie dye and long hair.
The 70s welcomed the disco era full of fast upbeat music that danced into the hearts of the 70s youth. Soft rock also bloomed during this era welcoming artists like The Eagles, Elton John, and Billy Joel. Hard rock artists like Kiss, Led Zepplin, and Queen all became popular amongst the young adults of this era. However, disco is often the music that everyone remembers when thinking of the 70s. Disco night clubs played artists like Donna Summers and the Bee Gees and eight Track tapes made listening to music accessible anywhere. This was especially important to the teenage population whom now had access to music anywhere and everywhere especially their car.
The 70s also was a big boom in the film industry with youth culture contributing to blockbusters success in theaters. Films like the Godfather, Star Wars, and Jaws were huge hits among the youth culture. Video games also became teenagers new form of entertainment with young people flocking to arcades around the US.
80s became the error of compact disc although they were expensive. The youth culture continued to benefit from this new way of carrying music around, at least those that could afford it. The walkman in the early 80s became a symbol of wealth amongst young white Americans. However, cassette tapes and records were still common and more accessible to most Americans. The most popular performer of the decade was non-other than Michael Jackson. Following the success of his 1982 album Thriller which was the best-selling album across the world (we will dive more into the famous MJ on Friday stay tuned). Other artist also became famous during this decade like Prince, Madonna, Run DMC and LL Cool J bringing in the rap and hip hop era which was appealing to young black audiences. Beastie Boys also saw success in the pop charts with their album Licensed to Ill making them popular amongst white American teens. Various different styles of music were born during the 1980’s with genres that included death metal, goth rock, hip hop, folk, acid house, and psychedelia. The music diversity spoke to young people of all ages in different parts of the world making it easily marketable. This also marked the rise of the popular music channel MTV. Pop stars were born under the influence of MTV like Paula Abdul and Madonna. The branding focused on teenagers giving birth to the term the MTV generation which indicated the growth of young people in the mass media and pop culture. This made MTV a desirable effective promotional tool for record labels. They played music videos, hosted musicians, and had live performances each day which made it the ideal tune in station for youth across America.
The 80s sparked a birth in the identity of youth culture and shaped it hence forth for generations to come. In other words, music, marketing, television, fashion, movies, etc. would all be under the rule and thumb of trends youth followed. Exuberant wild clothes, make-up, and long flowing hair was seen in tv specials, music videos, magazines, worn by celebrities, and in movies. Fashion was increasingly important to the youth. Who can forget the teased hair, make-up, neon colors, and kicks? It was the 80s that brought the success of the 90s and 2000s youth take over.
1990s to current
Now I know everyone at this point has had experience with 90s music and pop culture as a young person whether teen or young adult so I won’t bore ya’ll with the facts as much since you lived it. The biggest take away from the 90s was the explosion and prominence of bubblegum pop, techno, rap, hip-hop, grunge rock, R&B, and Neo-soul. Music diversity continued which made it appealing to all ages but especially to young Americans. Hip-hop and techno rose to popularity because of it’s dance beat. R&B and hip-hop began to take on a sexual tone via lyrics and innuendo making it popular among young adults. Rocks popularity among youth can be attributed to its lyrics that satirize society and its values. This new form of rebel could be seen in artist like Nirvana and their album Smells Like Teen Spirit. This led to the grunge and alternative rock era which was often dark and artist were often under the influence of substances. To offset this came the bubblegum pop groups and boy/ girl bands like Nsync, Backstreet Boys, 98 degrees, Destinys Child, and Brittney Spears. The bubblegum pop music and groups took on a life of it's own similar to that of the Beatles during the early 2000s. Teen heart throbs like the guys from Nsync and Backstreet Boys made marketing and selling tickets to concerts easy. Albums sold out in record numbers, posters of the boy bands filled every girl (and guys) bedrooms. Teen magazines were hard to keep in stock at local stores and don't even get me started on the dolls. The rise in pop meant the rise of importance in teenage/ young adults ability to directly influence the culture and market.
The style of the 90s is something many people will bring up. Grunge or bagging clothing and unkept hair gave an almost un-groomed appearance. Flannel, plaid shits, and long hair also grew in popularity in the early 90s and could be seen by teens all over the US. Styles by hip-hop artists were also popular such as kicks, baggy pants, chains, overalls and baggy pants for the ladies, and updo hairstyles like pig tails or short hair cuts.
Welcome the 2000s
The early 2000s welcomed punk rock and "the new" pop music that began to blend in more and more with R&B such as artists like Nelly Furtado, Rihanna, and Pussycat dolls. In the beginning of the 2000s teens flocked to pop sensations like Brittney Spears and Christina Aguilera. If teenage girls wanted anything more, it was to have the same sexual appeal like these two idols. Pop music began to change into the "new pop" era that we know today in the early 2000s. Artists like Brittney Spears and her song Slave, as well as, Justin Timberlakes move from group to solo artist. As they shifted away from their previous water downed R&B, soft and fluffed out lyrics, with less sexual tendencies, by this time, they had matured into grown and relational lyrics. In a sense it became more applicable to the young adult population. Songs like Cry Me a River, the collaboration of Christina Aguilera in Lady Marmalade, Christina Aguilera's Dirty opened up provocative sound with explicit lyrics and inuendos. For those of us that were still teens during this musical shift, you may remember becoming more curious about your sexuality. Many teens began to test the waters of what we deemed "independent"," sexy", and "cool". Later successors in the pop genre were Katy Perry, Pink, and Lady Gaga. Justin Timberlake was one of the surviving members of the pop boy bands that found success and continued to be an American heat throb. Today’s youth would do anything for Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, Shawn Mendes, Billie Eilish, Khalid, and Selena Gomez. Teenagers can still be seen sporting the posters and definitely dressing in the style of these artists.
Rap and hip hop artists that were influential to youth culture in the early 2000s were Eminem, Jay-Z, Kayne West, Lil Wayne, 50 Cent, and T.I. These were the big names that, wherever you looked for hip-hop you would see. For example, clothes like Rocawear and Sean John, television shows like Making the Band, and movies like 8 Mile, Get Rich or Die Tryin, and ATL. Hip hop began to bleed into all other industries and artists began to cross over in scope and influence. MTV was huge in the music industry for the past 20 years and up until the early 2000s was the most popular network for young people to watch and tune into for music videos and performances. Black Entertainment Television well known as BET soon emerged as the number #1 viewing station for hip hop, rap, and R&B music. 106th and Park hosted all of the hottest artist in music at the time as well as interviews, performances, and countdowns with the top 10 songs during that month. Whereas the late 80s and 90s was driven by Gangsta rap with artist like TuPac, Biggie, and Nas leading the way, the 2000s was more about money, women, and influence.
Today's hip hop and rap genre is experiencing another shift in the dynamic amongst the youth culture. What once was spoken word that told a story about economic troubles, inequality, and injustice through Gangsta rap and then shifted to glorifying money, women, and what it looks from the top making it out of the "hood" has now morphed into a sound. Today's hip hop music has been split into 3 different types. #1 Mumble artist/ trap artist, #2 The Versatitle Artist, #3 Artist of the Black Struggle. Now you all knew I was gonna go here WHAT IN THE WORLD IS #1?! Okay, okay, let me be open minded because it does have dope sound and production. The beat drop is love, the sound change/ shift, is hot, and the way it provokes a natural head bob is amazing don't get me wrong. But MY BROTHA why is Future, the main leader in this sound quoted saying, "Sometimes I don't even know what I be saying."?? I mean...Cmon now. Anyway, its totally what the Millennials are into and it continues to grow in popularity with artist like Future, Migos, and Designer. Trap officially started with non other than the King T.I. but morphed into a new form that glorifies Bougie and Ratchett. Nothing wrong with that I'm just saying. The master of Versatility today who has emerged into a class of his own is non other than Do Right and Kill Everything; Drake. He can do no wrong and literally can do any language, sound, sing, rap, go hard, make you feel and think hard, as well as make you shake ya tail feathers. He is all about what the people want to hear as well as what hasn't been done yet. His mix of rap and singing put him in a unique space of hip-hop that now has artist from everywhere wanting to duplicate or do the same thing. Since he hit the scenes in 2008 we have seen so many artist now want to become versatile by either singing turning into rapping or rapping turning into singings. What makes the versatile artist appealing and will continue to keep them around is it doesn't limit them to just one narrow box in hip-hop. They can change up their sound and always keep things fresh. Versatile artist that we see today that are popular amongst the youth would be Drake, PartyNextDoor, JuiceWorld, TyDolla $, Post Malone, 6lack, and Bryson Tiller.
Rock artists of the early 2000s was filled with punk, alternative, and hard rock with artists like Good Charlotte, Green Day, U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Killers, Blink 182, Paramore, and Avril Lavene. Today’s rock has taken on an indie flare with artist like Mumford and Sons, Kings of Leon, The Black Keys, U2, The Who, Coldplay, and Panic at the Disco.
R&B held on during the early 2000s with artist such as Usher, Beyonce, Destinys Child, Alicia Keys, Aaliyah, Mariah Carey, Ne-Yo, John Legend, Amy Winehouse, 3LW. Today many will say R&B is dead but it, just like Soul, has morphed into something new. Neo-soul/ PR&B has been solified with artist like HER, Jhene Aiko, Sabrina Claudio, Miguel, Chloe X Halle, Alina Baraz, SZA, The Weekend, Adele, Ella Mai, Summer Walker, Trey Songz, and Jacquees. Keep in mind there are a TON more artists this is just in terms of high ranking amongst Teens and Young Adults.
As you know marketing continues to aim towards the youth culture particularly with gaming, make-up, fashion (even though it’s taken on a more glamorous and name brand trend), and electronics (phones, head phones, MP3 players, tablets). All of this has been coined “necessities” for the current youth culture and no longer accessories. Today tweens can be found with phones glued to their hands looking at the latest social media posts about their favorite artists/ celebrities, looking for new trends to follow, hashtags to utilize in their video, or latest tweet. The social media explosion in a nutshell has completely transformed youth culture making everything accessible with just a swip or click. Following their favorite actor, TV reality star, musician, or fashionista’s daily life through posts and tweets makes it easier for them to imitate and live vicariously through them. Reality TV has also taken the place of cartoons and, to some extent, movies. This has brought the idolization of these icons closer to home making it easier to mock their lifestyle.
Taking you through 70 years of music you can see how much youth culture has truly shaped popular culture today. The role of youth culture in all aspects of media, music, television, and fashion has led to what we know today. All that we deem relevant has come from the following and trends the youth have deemed favorable. All movements may have begun with artists and industries but without the support and following of the youth culture they would have died off as fast as they had come and eventually be deemed one hit wonders or irrelevant.
Well friends that’s it for our walk through youth culture in music check out some of the artists names I’ve dropped throughout this post to BEAST through the rest of your Wednesday. As always I’ll leave some amazing recommendations of books, coffee, and businesses to support below. See you back here tomorrow for all things HOLIDAY DÉCOR! Much love and as always…
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Brittany’s Record Shop- Cleveland Ohio
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JB’s Record Lounge, Atlanta
Re-Runz Records, Orlando, FL
Halsey & Lewis, Brooklyn, NY
Moodies Records Bronx, NY
Freshtopia, Norfolk VA
HR Records Washington DC
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