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The Definition of Hip Hop

From the 1970s when DJ Kool Herc first inspired hip-hop to today, hip-hop has been continuously changing. Hip hop began as a positive creation to draw teenagers out of gang life and prevent violence. DJ Kool Herc founded Universal Zulu Nation to promote this. Now, hip-hop has digressed back to promoting violence, advocating sexual intercourse, usage of drugs, showing that money can buy anything, especially materialistic things, and the degradation of women. Many artists portray women as useless and invaluable through their lyrics. The degradation of women in hip-hop has changed the way society views and treats women. In a way, it is instructing future generation males that it is acceptable to degrade women and future generation females that it is acceptable to tolerate the mistreatment.

Most artists’ songs, especially rappers, describe women as “wh*res” or “b*tch.” Artist K Camp is no stranger to this. K Camp is rapper from Atlanta, GA, but was born in Milwaukee, WI. He started performing with a group called HBC in high school. This led to the start of his career in 2009 when he performed open mic alongside with Waka Flocka Flame and Travis Porter.

During this time, K Camp created a track called “All Night,” but the song was not a big hit outside of the college crowds. This track talks about a woman dancing for money and putting on a show. We take it all the way down to the ground. You got that booty girl, it goes around &’round. How long can you go, I should be throwin’ ones in the air for this show. You take it all the way down, girl it’s show time, your time, girl it’s go time… You take it all the way down, girl it’s show time, your time, girl it’s go time… The lyrics depict a woman as an object to draw men. The next track was “Do It,” in which he created the hook for the song, but it was questionable if he was actually on the song. This song states: “We can start off on this floor. End up on that bed, you rubbin through my head. While I’m all between yo legs. Imma hit it from the front, back, side, side.. Girl I love the way you do it.”

“Do It (Explicit)”

K Camp and Mykko Montana explain women as sexual objects throughout the song and also calling her “b*tch”. Camp continued to create his image and build his reputation. He made releases such as Fan4life, Show Money, and In Due Time privately. Due to his career enduring ups and downs with management, K Camp hired his mother as his manager. He jokes in one of his interviews that his mother knows every song that he has made, even “Cut That B*tch Off.”

With that particular song, K Camp expresses how this song came about (Garland, Maurice. “Who is K Camp? How the ATL Rapper Behind “Money Baby” Turned Setbacks into Get Backs.” Complex Music. 29 January 2014. Web.). Of course it had to do with a woman. One night when K Camp was recording in the studio inside his home, he received a text message from a female he was trying to have relations with saying, “What are you doing?” His response, “I’m recording, pull up” and she response, “Ok.” Later, he runs to the gas station to purchase alcohol and receives a text message asking if he just passed her. In the end, the female states that she’s going to leave, and K Camp becomes upset. When he returns home, he begins to freestyle and creates this song. This freestyle became a popular hit, and once again, one of K Camp’s song disrespects women.

Recently in early 2014, there was a mixtape released called K.I.S.S. PT. 2. All the songs on this mixtape talk about women being used for sexual intercourse or money and how she will allow a man to treat her as he pleases. For example, the song “Blessing” includes lyrics such as: “Yeah I love when your body on top of me when I’m deep inside no stopping me, I’m gone hit it so good you’d be proud of me. We can do what you want but don’t lie to me. Want you to know that you’re blessing.Yeah baby girl you’re a blessing. Want you to know that you are a blessing. Yeah baby girl you’re a blessing.” Because all of K Camp’s songs oppress women, this may explain a lot about his life. He may have negative situations with women since they seem not to be good enough for him. On this mixtape, other artist like Nash B, Young Ex, and Big Fruit also participate in the act. The degradation of women has been in action and around for so long, that many people do not value it nor believe that it is important.

“Cut Her Off (Lyrics)

From a different point of view, in an article called Hip-Hop: The False Advertisement of Women, women are used to represent the success of artists. Women are treated as an accessory to prove that the artist has accomplished reaching the top. Rappers feel if they treat women as a collector’s item, then they can express their new success. Also, the women used in the videos have to be the sexiest women. The reason for this is to draw the attention of younger generations, especially young men, in order to make them believe that the people in the videos are living a good life. But what hope does this give for the future generations? None. It only encourages them to disrespect women, treating them as a product, using money to get them, and keeping the ideology that women are gold diggers. This may create a sense of insecurities for women, low self-esteem, and allow them to feel as if they have no values. Rappers are not thinking about the ideas that younger generations will create when they are sitting in front of the television watching someone state vulgar words, or throw money in the air as if money grows on tress or is easy to come by. These are false expectations.

Rappers and artists need to stop leading younger generations in the wrong direction. What can be changed to create the same idea that they can succeed, but change the message that they do not have to be disrespectful? Some artist and rappers are trying to change the message like the rapper Common. In the article Chicago Rapper Common Says Hip-Hop Artists Can Help Reduce Violence, describes how he is worried about the violence in his hometown of Chicago. Days before this article was published, there was a shooting that wounded thirteen people. Common believes that the key to ending the cycle of violence in hip hop music is to create more educational programs and initiatives. Change is coming to hip hop music, but it’s coming step by step.

Her: The Future Of Soundtracks Is Now



No, it’s not a low budget indie film, though you wouldn’t know by listening to it. Amongst the myriad of blockbuster epics in 2013 from 12 Years a Slave to the Wolf of Wall Street, it was Spike Jonze’s unassuming film Her that stood out from the pack. While the concept of the film offered a unique look into the future of human relationships, with a man falling in love with his operating system, the plot was not the only revolutionary aspect of the film. In an Oscar nominated effort, the films soundtrack brings an indie sound (a blend of indie rock and electronic genres) that has never before been heard in a commercially successful blockbuster, and paves the path for a new future of soundtracks in Hollywood.


Let me challenge you to think of an iconic film score. Take as long as you need. Regardless of your knowledge of film, whether dilettante or expert, this choice boils down simply to one of two options: a score rooted in classical music like Casablanca, Star Wars and most recently Pirates of the Caribbean, or a pop score like Easy Rider, Saturday Night Fever, or recently The Great Gatsby. Invariably when we are asked to think about a blockbuster score our minds naturally gravitate to these two genres because they are the only two that have been used throughout Hollywood history. Dating back to the birth of film, or moving pictures as they were called in the early 1900’s, accompaniment and soundtrack were the means of indicating to the audience the genre of the film before the era of audio. A classical styling was used with Drama and was perceived to be a “higher” art form for a more sophisticated audience. Pop music, or ragtime jazz as it was called during the era, indicated a comedy and a lower art form that catered to the common man through slapstick and ribald humor. As the decades passed and film progressed into the “talkie” era in the 1930’s and onward, these relationships between soundtrack and genre remained more or less unchanged. If a director wanted to establish a serious tone, like longing and heartbreak in Casablanca, or intrepid adventure in Star Wars, they naturally gravitated toward a classical score. If the desired effect was more whimsical, a pop score was the natural choice; exhibited by the 1960’s ballads found in the film Easy Rider and the disco hits of the Bee Gee’s in the film Saturday Night Fever. [youtube][/youtube]

It was not until the late 1980’s, with the emergence of the Sundance Film Festival, that a new brand of movie was created and directors first began to contemplate breaking the established mold of movie soundtracks that had stood for over a century.


To truly grasp the essence of The Indie Age, one must first grasp what it means to be an indie film. In its purest sense, the term “indie” is short for independent, meaning that the film is not produced or distributed by any of the six major film studios: 20th Century Fox, Columbia, Paramount, Universal, Disney, and Warner Brothers. In addition to that barebones definition, the term “indie” has colloquially become associated with the characteristic that many of the films share such as low budgets, young and upcoming talent, and innovative art techniques from cinematography, to screenplay, to soundtracks. In was in this setting that young directors, most famously Quentin Tarantino, began to experiment with the relationship between music and film in ways that had never been seen before. Tarantino soon became known for breaking the established mold and placing seemingly unfitting pop songs into his gory movies, most notably the Stealers Wheel song “Stuck in the Middle with You “during the torture scene of the film Reservoir Dogs.


While Tarantino was the pioneer of unconventional music placement, it was not until Spike Jonze and Her that the spirit of the indie soundtrack was able to break into the non-indie studio world of blockbuster films.


In creating Her, writer/director Spike Jonze had a very specific vision for the atmosphere of film, which was to be created in large part by its unique soundtrack. To craft this futuristic, yet timeless emotional texture, Jonze called upon his favorite bands and former collaborators, the Canadian indie band Arcade of Fire, electronic composer Owen Pallett and songwriter Karen O.

Rock_en_Seine_2007,_The_Arcade_Fire   Arcade of Fire

Jonze paid such care to the soundtrack that he even co-wrote the lyrics to the film’s main theme “Moon Song” with Karen O to ensure the song conveyed the right amount of heartbreak and tenderness. Come February of 2014 Jonze’s work paid off, as he and the rest of the collaborators earned an Oscar nod and widespread critical acclaim for Her’s soundtrack. Film blog states that the soundtrack does an excellent job of “capturing the film’s vivid color spectrum and melancholic overtones”, proving it to be the emotional lynchpin of the film as soundtracks had always been throughout Hollywood history. However, within the scope of 2013 and the entire history of cinema, no other film pushed the boundaries of convention with regards to music quite as much as Her. In a soundtrack that would have been avant-garde for indie film standards, Her became the first commercially successful film to incorporate a soundtrack comprised of a blend of indie rock and electronic ambient sounds. In an industry that had been divided for over a century into the categories of blockbusters and indies largely on the basis of their soundtracks, the 2013 film Her effectively shattered the barrier through its unique sound and amazing commercial success, with profits of over 25 million dollars and counting.


Her Trailer Pop-up Video


Through it’s revolutionary soundtrack, Her has proven the most influential film of the decade, creating a new amalgam genre of “indie blockbusters”. The question moving forward is to what degree have the “indie” tenants truly permeated into mainstream culture. Surely there will always be a market for huge budget adventure movies with conventional classical or pop scores, but what of more movies like Her? What remains to be seen in whether this trend of blending the indie and blockbuster genres will continue, or if Her and its groundbreaking soundtrack is merely a flash in the pan.


Works Cited

  • “How the movie Her depicts the future of mobile.” WeWork. N.p., 1 Jan. 2013. Web. 21 Apr. 2014. <>.
  • “her: A Spike Jonze Love Story.” Her Official Site. N.p., 1 Jan. 2013. Web. 22 Apr. 2014. <>.
  • “Film Appreciation – A Brief History of Music in Films.” Film Appreciation – A Brief History of Music in Films. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2014. <>.
  • “Jan 22 – Feb 1, 2015 Park City, Utah.” Sundance Film Festival. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2014. <>.
  • “Independent Film.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2014. <>.
  • “Major Film Studio.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2014. <>.
  • “Quinton Tarantino.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 22 Apr. 2014. Web. 24 Apr. 2014. <>.
  • “Stuck In The Middle With You – Reservoir Dogs (1992).” YouTube. YouTube, 1 Jan. 2012. Web. 24 Apr. 2014. <>.
  • “Saturday Night Fever Opening Intro (1977).” YouTube. YouTube, 20 Oct. 2013. Web. 24 Apr. 2014. <>.
  • “Spike Jonze.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 23 Apr. 2014. Web. 24 Apr. 2014. <>.
  • “Arcade Fire.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 22 Apr. 2014. Web. 24 Apr. 2014. <>.
  • “Karen O.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 21 Apr. 2014. Web. 24 Apr. 2014. <>.
  • “LISTEN: Spike Jonze and Arcade Fire’s Oscar 2014 Nominee ‘her’ Soundtrack Contends for Best Original Score.” Classicalite RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2014. <>.

Alex Coopersmith is a freshman student at The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. He enjoys acting, singing, television and film. His favorite actor is Joaquin Phoenix and his favorite movie of 2013 was Her.

Resurgence of the 70’s and 80’s

When I am listening to today’s popular music on the radio there is something that jumps out as familiar. Many of today’s biggest hits are upbeat songs with electronic sounds that get people up and dancing whenever they listen. The winner of the 2014 Grammy for Record of the Year, Get Lucky , by Daft Punk, is a great example of a song featuring these characteristics.


The song emphasizes the electronic sound that has proven to be a hit with today’s listeners around the world becoming the first single to sell a million copies in the United Kingdom in 2013. Listeners are not the only ones getting up and moving to these great songs. Today’s best performers are focusing on getting up and moving with intricate dance choreography for their performances and music videos. For example, Bruno Mars shows off his dance skills in his performances that include extensive choreography and a large cast of back up dancers. His Super Bowl halftime show was extremely successful amongst the viewers because it was a performance focused on dancing as well as just singing.


As you watch these performances and listen to these hit songs you will soon notice their resemblance to the music and performances that were popular in the late 70’s and early 80’s.

The time period between 1975 and 1985 was a fantastic era for music and specifically musical performances. I grew up listening to my mom’s favorite artists from that time period, especially her all-time favorite Whitney Houston. Houston’s hit song, “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”, is a perfect example of a classic 80’s dance song that would get listeners up and moving.


In the Whitney Houston’s Grammy performance, she kicked off the show with an upbeat song featuring numerous dancers in the background. My mom was a part of the audience watching these memorable performances and was born at the tail end of the Baby Boomer generation. This generation created a surge in the United States population. Baby Boomers were listening to the hits of the 70’s and 80’s as they went through high school and college and still remember and cherish those songs today. According to an article in the New Yorker, when people hit their 50’s is when they experience the most nostalgia looking back at their lives and the Baby Boomers have reached that age in their lives. These Baby Boomers are now raising a new generation of music listeners and exposing the new generations to their favorite music and performers. The new generation is now predisposed to the music and dances of the 70’s and 80’s and enjoys the new pop songs that bring back the sounds and performance characteristics of the retro music from the prime days of the Baby Boomers.

There are also many artists from this time period still performing their hit songs from the 70’s and 80’s today. Madonna in particular is an example of an artist from that time period who is still as popular as ever and continues performing for large crowds. It was only 3 years ago that Madonna headlined the Super Bowl halftime show and performed her hit from the 80’s, “Like a Prayer.”


Madonna also teamed up with Justin Timberlake to release the song, “Four Minutes” in 2008 which reached number 1 in 21 countries. Another 80’s superstar, Michael Jackson, also continued performing up until his untimely death. He had planned to hold 50 concerts in London from 2009-2010 which were all sold out before he passed away. He was still prominent in the music industry and popular among younger listeners. The continuation of his concerts would have sustained the music of the 70’s and 80’s fresh in the mind of music listeners.  Michael Jackson’s influence is most visible today in the dance moves of pop superstars Justin Bieber and Usher. Usher has long been a mentor of Justin Bieber and they share similar dance choreography in their performances. Their dance choreography steals some of Michael Jackson’s most iconic moves, in particular, the moonwalk.


Even though Michael Jackson is no longer performing, viewers today can still see the influence of the 80’s in the performances of Justin Bieber and Usher.

Our access to a wider range of music has dramatically increased from even the 70’s and 80’s increasing our exposure to older and more varied music. Today we not only have the common radio stations but also XM and Sirius Radio, online radio stations, and almost any song can be looked up online with YouTube. XM radio features two separate channels dedicated solely to 70’s and 80’s music. On Sundays, each channel features the Top 40 songs from the 70’s and 80’s from a week in that time period. This has enabled music listeners to access older music that may not play often on the everyday radio. For example, after seeing Madonna perform at the halftime show, listeners can go look up older hits from the 80’s and fall in love with the older music. Baby Boomers can also take advantage of the increased music access. They can find songs from the 70’s and 80’s that they never hear on the radio and hear their favorite songs again. This easy access to music from the 70’s and 80’s allows for increased exposure to the music amongst younger listeners.

The successful television series Glee, which first aired in 2009, has been integral in revitalizing retro music from the 70s and 80s and keeping it in the forefront of current culture. Glee reached out to a younger audience of viewers and exposed them to these popular songs and dances from the 70’s and 80’s. One episode on Glee performed only songs from the 80’s, including the songs “Disco Inferno” by The Tramps and “Saturday Night Fever” by The Bee Gees.



Some artists from the 70’s and 80’s had too many hits for Glee to only cover one song from each person. Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston were two such stars from the 80’s who had an entire episode devoted to their music. Glee showcased not only the songs of the 70’s and 80’s but also the costumes and dances from the time period. One of the characters, Arty, wore Michael Jackson’s iconic red suit from the Thriller music video.


During its height of popularity Glee reached 12.45 million viewers. This national exposure helped bring the music of the 70’s and 80’s to televisions across the country and popularized the music to Glee’s younger generation of viewers.

Younger generations have been exposed to the most popular songs of the 70’s and 80’s and have responded favorably to the music of the time period. Listeners today love the electronic beats from that music era as well as the elaborate dance performances. Today’s most popular artists recognize the success of these qualities in their music and make sure to feature them in their work. As a result, they show the influence of the 70’s and 80’s in their elaborate dance performances in concerts and music videos. Bruno Mars recognized the popularity of the dance beat in the most popular songs and channeled that into his song “Treasure”. His music video also capitalized on the appeal of dance with many backup dancers and performers in his video. It is clear that the 70’s and 80’s are making a dramatic resurgence in today’s pop music due to its popularity fostered by past generations, artists performing longer, greater accessibility to the older classics, as well as the hit show Glee.

Cari Albritton is a freshman at UNC Chapel Hill. She is currently working towards earning her B.S. in Computer Science. 


The truth about “Happy” remake or not?

Since its release, Pharrell Williams “Happy” has not only topped the US Billboard Hot 100 chart but has also topped charts in 23 other countries. “Happy” has become a very popular song throughout the last few months. Could it be because the song is a remake? Even though Williams’s takes full credibility of this song, it has been argued that “Happy” is not the original version of its kind. Could it be true that Pharrell adapted another song, changed a few minor details and made it his own? “Happy” by The Velvet Hammer was a song released in 1977 that many people say has similar qualities to that of Pharrells’. Unfortunately, The Velvet Hammer’s version of the song failed to break records whereas Pharrell’s did. A major component that makes the two songs different includes Pharrell’s effective use of psychological techniques such as simple yet catchy lyrics. These lyrics can uplift almost anyone’s mood and allow for a larger targeted audience. Not only the lyrics, but the simple background beat that invites you to clap along, and a music video that makes you want to dance as well help in grabbing the attention of a wide range of ages. The subtle techniques used by Pharrell, which will be analyzed in more detail below, have allowed “Happy” unlike its counterpart to become an international hit!

For those of you who have never heard of The Velvet Hammer’s version of “Happy” before, play the video below. Most people have heard of Pharrell’s version of the song, but just in case you haven’t, click here. What similarities and differences between the two do you notice?


The most obvious similarity is the background 70’s Jazz/Blues tone. The beat for the two songs is very similar as well. Watch this video of a girl dancing to both songs with the same steps showing us how identical the rhythm actually is.

The differences that arise between the songs are due to the subtle changes Pharrell made. Pharrell Williams’ great use of psychology in “Happy” is an important factor to its success. The lyrics especially, play a key role in this song. Having closely analyzed the song word by word, Williams’ selection of lyrics are essentially moral boosters. For example he uses phrases such as

“Can’t nothing bring me down, My level’s too high, Bring me down.”

In conjunction with the uplifting sayings the repetitive use of the word “Happy” impacts the listeners mind creating a more positive mind set in their heads.

It has also been scientifically proven that the tone and beat of a song can cause certain hormones to be released that allow for a change in mood.  In this article, Dr. Victoria Williamson compares how lyrics in both happy and sad songs can influence the listener’s mind. She defines happy music as specifically having “staccato articulation, louder intensities and major mode.” The results of her study concluded that acoustic features are a major component of happy music. In other words music with a strong focus on instrumentals causes the limbic regions in the brain to become strongly activated. Generally the faster the attack and the brighter the timbres (quality of  a musical sound), the more the neural activity occurs in the left hemisphere of the brain.

In The Velvet Hammer’s “Happy” there are numerous times where the singer’s voice is overpowering that of the instruments, whereas in Pharrell’s “Happy”, Pharrell puts a larger emphasis on instrumentals than lyrics. The background music is slightly more overarching than the voice of the singer thus allowing the limbic system to be more activated when listening to Pharrell’s version. Another difference arises in the use of the background music. In both songs a very similar set of instruments are used, but in The Velvet Hammer Version, the beats are more slurred together than that of Pharrell’s. Pharrell uses the idea of “staccato articulation” and “louder intensities” to his benefit. The rhythmic clapping beat in the background of Pharrell’s not only adds sharp articulation, but also invites the listener to clap along. It’s like killing two birds with one stone!

Dr. Ellen Weber’s research  gives us more insight as to how different styles of music rather than different moods of music impact the brain. She mentions how certain styles such as baroque induce enzyme activity in the brain and thus help for focusing, while saying that a Jazz or Blues tone, the category which both “Happy” by Pharrell and The Velvet Hammer fall under, can uplift and inspire people by releasing deep joy. “Happy” seems to parallel exactly what Dr. Williamson and Ellen have found through their research.

A subtle technique Pharrell also uses, that was mentioned above, is the uplifting words. Many people in our time period, due to our restricting societal views, especially because of media, have a lack of self-esteem and confidence in them. This article on Building Confidence and Self Esteem, states that you should “Think positively about yourself. Remind yourself that, despite your problems, you are a unique, special, and valuable person, and that you deserve to feel good about yourself. Identify and challenge any negative thoughts that you may have about yourself, such as ‘I am a loser’, ‘I never do anything right’, or ‘No one really likes me’.” Pharrell’s lyrics are all about building self-esteem. First off, the lyrics are so catchy and simple to memorize that after listening to the just once, you’ll have the gist of them down. Second, almost every word in the song is a morale booster. If you sing the song to yourself, you automatically begin to feel better. My dad used to say, “Even when your sad, just smile a few times and you’ll automatically begin to feel happier inside.” Similarly, repeating the word “happy” to your-self multiple times has the same effect. Unlike Pharrell’s version, The Velvet Hammer version is talking about a girl, so the same morale boosting effect doesn’t occur. Although the word “happy” is used in this song in multiple places as well, the context is completely different. Compare the lyrics for Pharrell’s version and The Velvet Hammers version to notice the difference.

Another Aspect that although could be due to the time period that The Velvet Hammer’s version of “Happy” was released, yet makes a big difference is the music video. The Velvet Hammer version does not have a video whereas Pharrell uses his music video to his advantage to target an even larger audience. He uses normal Americans in their day to day live to show how happy anyone no matter who they are, can be.

The use of normal people with varying styles allows for a larger targeted audience

Try listening to “Happy” when you’re down, it really does lift up one’s mood! It works for me, let me know if it works for you too! Look at the popcorn video below of “Happy” to learn some interesting facts about the song.


Isn’t it cool that Pharrell’s song has its own version of music videos all across the world? It’s even the first 24 hour long music video! Having been used as a soundtrack in a popular kid’s movie also helped Pharrell’s version gain lots of popularity.

Now let’s take a look at the popcorn video for The Velvet Hammer

Even though many people argue that Pharrell’s Happy is a remake of The Velvet Hammer’s version, the two songs are very different from each other. The way Pharrell has put his song together through the use of abundant subtle techniques makes his version different from The Velvet Hammer version. His use of simple yet catchy lyrics, a Jazz/Blues tone, a happy mood, overarching background music, and a music video that targets a large audience all add immensely to his song that it is very different from The Velvet Hammer version and should not be called a remake.

Nitika Arora is a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill taking English 105 under Rae Yan as a Biology Major

Classical or Rock?: The Story of 2Cellos

Classical or Rock?: The Story of 2Cellos

When you think of cellos you don’t think of rock and roll, but the duo 2Cellos is known for their AC/DC and Michael Jackson covers. The group 2Cellos has been rising in fame recently. Their newest cover, Thunderstruck, has been the topic of several articles including Sarah Barness’ in The Huffington Post, who praises the duo for their ability to “make a song their own” even when it’s an extremely, well known and loved song. 2Cellos first appeared in 2011 with a cello cover of Smooth Criminal played by Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser. This duo is changing how we think of classical and modern music by taking a classical medium, the cello, and playing modern rock and pop songs.

Sulic and Hauser are both classically trained cellists who have been playing since they were children. As some of the best cellists in the European Union they became rivals, though they didn’t meet each other until years later. Their first meeting was not in the Balkans, their homeland, but in the UK while both were studying music in college; Sulic at the Royal Academy of Music in London and Hauser at the Royal Northern Academy of Music in Manchester. But the story of 2Cellos began in 2011 when they posted a video of their cello duel of Smooth Criminal online. Immediately after posting their cello-off, they were grabbing the internet’s attention. In what felt like overnight to the duo they were famous, famous enough to grab the attention of Elton John, an alum of Sulic’s college. Elton John took a liking to the pair and invited them to tour with him and to even open for his concerts. If they weren’t already famous enough from their video, this skyrocketed them into the public eye. They were soon recording their first album produced by Bob Ezrin, who has also worked with Lou Reed, Alice Cooper, Kiss, Pink Floyd, and Peter Gabriel, and chalked full of covers of rock songs.

Although 2Cellos has gained many fans in the past three years, not everyone likes their fusion of classical and modern music. There are critics, many of whom are conservatives in the classical music world, who don’t like what 2Cellos does. They feel that 2Cellos is misusing the instruments to play other music. While they aren’t the only musicians using traditional classical instruments to play modern music, they are part of a very small group.  Rather than seeing their music as a way to introduce cellos to a wider audience, their critics see it as an affront to their classical sensibilities. However, this doesn’t deter Sulic and Hauser. They are both carefree and enjoy what they do, and as long as they like rock music they’ll keep rocking out on their cellos.

Sulic and Hauser feel that they are bringing attention to the cello, which doesn’t get a lot of respect even within the classical music world. The cello is a very versatile instrument. It can rock like a guitar or sing like a human voice because it is the instrument best at mimicking the human voice. This is what allows them to play an entire song, fully of diverse instruments, on just a cello. However, they’re playing is rough on their cellos and bows. Cellos are instruments built for classical music which has calmer melodies, but rock has a much quicker pace and more intense rhythm. They usually play on electric cellos or carbon fiber cellos because they are much more durable thanwooden cellos. There is no way to reinforce their bows though and they go through hundreds of bow strings because during each song they break many strings.

Classical music has become less popular over the past decades. Sulic and Hauser are changing how people, especially young people, view this music. Most people know them for their covers of songs like Smooth Criminal and Thunderstruck, but they still play classical music. They incorporate the music of Bach and other composers into their concerts, starting their sets with classical music that increases in tempo until it morphs into rock. The thousands of people in their audiences, many of whom have never given classical music a chance, and they enjoy all of the songs that they play. They introduce the music of composers like Chopin to their audiences, while also showing them that classical musicians and their instruments don’t have to be confined to the classical genre. And those people who are just discovering classical music through 2Cellos often find that they like it.

Their listeners who don’t know anything about the cello discover they also like its sound. 2Cellos is bringing not just classical music, but instruments that have been forgotten with the classics, to a new generation. And conversely they are introducing rock music to classical music enthusiasts in a medium they can enjoy. They’re not just trying to save the genre, they’re also trying to show people the wonders of string instruments other than guitars and basses. The cello is extremely versatile, but it is often overlooked because it is difficult to play and it is outshined by more glamorous instruments in the classical world like the piano and the violin. In orchestras the cello is often used to create harmony and set melodies while the violin take the leading role. Its versatility isn’t often explored when playing symphonies, either. And as Sulic and Hauser demonstrate, it is versatile enough to round out an entire song, playing the fast and wild notes just as well as the slow and calm. (1)But regardless of how they’re making their mark by breaking musical barriers, the most important thing is that they enjoy what they do. They play songs that they like and put their passion into what they play. It’s easy to see this passion when watching them perform. In classical concerts the audience is quiet and reveres the musicians. The musicians are focused and composed, only showing their emotions through their facial expressions. You won’t see Luka and Stjepan sitting quietly while performing. They could perform onstage with any rock group. The wilder the song is the more they are absorbed in the performance, banging their heads and adding tricks and flares, liking spinning their cellos around. They’re stage performances are as visual as they are auditory. Stjepan is especially energetic onstage, where his playful nature shines through. This can especially be seen in their video if Thunderstruck where he spins his cello around in the middle of the song and falls on the floor by the ending, strumming wildly at his cello. The pair’s carefree, fun-loving spirit and the passion they put into their music gives them a great stage presence that modern music fans expect.

The rising fame of 2Cellos has been spurred by their unique take on modern music and their blending of genres. There will always be critics, but the general reaction to the duo is positive. Their covers of Muse, Michael Jackson, and AC/DC songs bring new dimensions because of their use of cellos. The cello which is often overlooked has the versatility to play the parts of many instruments within a song, while bringing a unique sound that instruments typically used in modern music don’t have. 2Cello’s star is on the rise and are watch as they’ll only continue to get better.

The Four Chords of Pop and their Prevalence in Hit Songs


While sitting in his recliner smoking a cigar, my grandfather used to turn on the radio to see what kids were listening to these days. He would grumble and groan at the whiny moans and auto-tuned voices that flood today’s top hits. With a huff under his breath, he muttered, “All pop songs sound the same” before changing the station to something more his style. I would often wonder how he could take ten, twenty, or thirty songs and fail to see the difference between them. Besides, each song had a different artist, different lyrics, a different theme, what was it that made them all so similar?

Listening closely, I had a revelation. Many of these songs are a combination of the same four chords, (I V VI IV).  Which, in the key of C major, the most common key, these chords correspond to (C, G, Am, and F).

No wonder many of these songs sound the same; they all include the same progression! With the help of Wikipedia and TV Tropes, I have concocted a list of songs that use I V VI IV, as played in the popcorn video here (kept pasting weird, here’s the link).

Songs like Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”, Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi”, Train’s “Hey Soul Sister”, and many more are all variations of I V VI IV. The Beatles “Let it Be” includes this progression, and even some country rock songs like John Denver’s “Take Me Home Country Roads” have these same chords.

But is this phenomena limited to recent music? The answer is no, not at all. The first instance of this progression is in Pachelbel’s Canon, which was written centuries ago and rediscovered in 1919.


Previously Pachelbel had only been known to be a friend of the Bach family. He somewhat influenced J.S. Bach’s work; but the resurgence of Canon has made him somewhat of a “One-hit wonder” among classical musicians.

Musicians of the last century have taken note of the success of this chord progression. In the 1950’s these chords were considered the Doo Wop progression. If you’ve ever listened to children play the piano, you’ve probably heard the song “Heart and Soul” which was originally written in 1938, but became famous by playing in the background of commercials for Quaker Oats and iPad Mini. When learning the piano, it is often one of the first songs one learns to play, primarily because of its catchy tune and easy chords and rhythm.

Modern artists have noted how “catchy” these chords are when used properly, and they have used this to their advantage. Even though the I V VI IV progression is the most popular, these chords are arranged in all kinds of ways. One of the other popular progressions using the same exact chords is VI IV I V, which was quoted the “sensitive female chord progression” by Boston Globe columnist Marc Hirsh. It’s seriously the same progression, but it starts on the VI chord instead of the I chord. Songs such as “Love the Way You Lie” by Rihanna and Eminem and “Grenade” by Bruno Mars are technically written using this progression. But, it’s basically the same chords with a different start.

So what does it take to write a hit song? According to the Australian comedic rock group the Axis of Awesome, all it takes is these four chords. In a live performance, they played roughly fifty songs such as “You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid” by the Offspring and “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz using only these chords on a keyboard, guitar, and with their voices.


The video has over 30 million views on YouTube as of today, and views are continuing to climb. Looking through the comments, it’s amazing to see how many people don’t realize that the I V VI IV progression dominates today’s popular music scene in all different genres like rock and country. It’s the progression that makes millions. But its familiarity is what is causing all these songs to sound the same, and it seems that this is not letting up any time soon.

write-a-great-songEven though the same chords over and over again are repetitive, it does not necessarily mean that the quality of music is going down. Writing songs using this progression is similar to learning how to draw using a certain technique. This technique works, so an artist would use it, but it doesn’t mean that all their work is the same. There are colors, lines, shapes, sizes, and many other things that differentiate pieces from one another. It’s the same thing with songwriting. The instruments, beat, tempo, lyrics, and vocals are all different, even if the background chords are all the same.

That being said, many of these recent pop songs are short lived, and that may be due to their unoriginality. They tend to fade in and out like a popular teen romance novel. Once the song is the most popular song of the month; then it fades away to the group of forgotten songs on an iTunes playlist. Some may attribute this to the use of repetitive chord progressions, but if you know anything about music theory (or even if you don’t), you might realize that some chords just belong together. The chords C, Am, F, and G are meant to be, if in the key of C major.

What do you think is a result of repetitive chord progressions in popular music? From a songwriting standpoint, it gives songs a familiarity, almost a “sing along” vibe, which tends to bring people together. “I V VI IV” has been around for centuries, and it’s popularity is resurging in the recent decades. It might be the chord progression that defines our generation, or it might just be the most common recipe for a quick-fire pop song.



Works Cited

  • “Don’t Stop Believin'” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 21 Apr. 2014. Web. 24 Apr. 2014. <>.
  • “Doo Wop Progression.” RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2014. <>.
  • “Grenade (song).” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 19 Apr. 2014. Web. 24 Apr. 2014. <>.
  • “Heart and Soul (1938 Song).” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 21 Apr. 2014. Web. 24 Apr. 2014. <>.
  • “Hey, Soul Sister.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 14 Apr. 2014. Web. 24 Apr. 2014. <>.
  • “I-V-vi-IV Progression.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 18 Apr. 2014. Web. 24 Apr. 2014. <>.
  • “I’m Yours (Jason Mraz Song).” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 19 Apr. 2014. Web. 24 Apr. 2014. <>.
  • “List of Songs Containing the I-V-vi-IV Progression.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 23 Apr. 2014. Web. 24 Apr. 2014. <>.
  • “Love the Way You Lie.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 22 Apr. 2014. Web. 24 Apr. 2014. <>.
  • “Pachelbel’s Canon.” RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2014. <>.
  • “Paparazzi (Lady Gaga Song).” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 19 Apr. 2014. Web. 24 Apr. 2014. <>.
  • “The Axis of Awesome: 4 Chords Official Music Video.” YouTube. YouTube, 20 July 2011. Web. 24 Apr. 2014. <>.
  • “The Axis of Awesome.” The Axis of Awesome RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2014. <>.
  • “The Four Chords of Pop.” RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2014. <>.
  • Four Chord Song.” Axis of Awesome – Four Chord Song (with song titles). YouTube, 10 Dec. 2009. Web. 24 Apr. 2014. <>.
  • “You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 19 Apr. 2014. Web. 24 Apr. 2014. <

Heather Caudill is a student at UNC Chapel Hill who majors in Studio Art. She is a self-published author on Amazon and a blog writer at Hubpages.

“There is more misinformation about my life than there is truth,” claims Iggy Azalea; Get your facts straight people!

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via @thenewclassic Instagram


If you haven’t heard of Iggy Azalea yet then you may be living on another planet, or perhaps under a rock, because this Australian rapper has climbed the charts in both the U.S. and U.K. with her singles “Work”, “Change Your Life”, “Bounce” and most recent release “Fancy”. The more popularity she gains in the predominantly male hip-hop/rap music industry as a white, female artist, the more that people want to know about her background, personal life and current success. From the looks of it, many people (critics and personal haters of Iggy) don’t have their facts straight. Her story is in the lyrics of songs “Work” and “Change Your Life”, people just fail to notice and begin to make the assumption that because she is a rare figure in the rap game and lives the flashy lifestyle now, that she didn’t have a struggle to become famous and make these million dollar deals. Iggy doesn’t have ‘Trust Your Struggle’ tatted on her arm for nothing; it means something to the young artist and she discusses the meaning of it in her interview with MTV Voices. I’m going to give you the inside scoop on Iggy’s life by analyzing the lyrics of both songs “Work” and “Change Your Life” where Iggy flawlessly raps about her harsh rise to fame in the music industry.

Iggy Azalea shows off her “Trust Your Struggle” tattoo in a photo shoot with High Snob Society.


First I’ll give you some brief background information on Iggy. Just so you know her songs are truthful and not made up to receive pity. Not everything starts off smooth and easy, but things do eventually get better. This especially applies to the life of Iggy Azalea who didn’t have anything before coming to the U.S. and entering the music industry.

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Iggy as a kid on Easter via. @thenewclassic Instagram


Shout out to the small New South Whales town of Mullumbimby, Australia for producing one of the current most popular female artists in the hip-hop/rap music industry! Born as Amethyst Amelia Kelly on June 7, 1990, Iggy Azalea was raised by her single mother and worked most of her life in order to support the rest of the family (she has one brother and one sister) and also finance her dream of coming to the U.S. to produce rap music. In her VEVO LIFT UK “Becoming Iggy Azalea” (below) Iggy discusses her childhood and upbringing in a town “that nobody ever leaves, is really like jail” and how hearing rap music for the first time made her “happy and feel strong” and feel like she “had a friend that was music”.


Iggy expresses the thoughts and feelings that she experienced as a teenager through her song “Work”. The title of this song implies that Iggy’s rise to stardom was not handed to her on a silver platter, but that she had to put forth the effort alone in order to become the inspiring female rapper she is today. Iggy is blatantly “tryna let you know what the f*ck that I’ve been through” with lyrics that are honest and frank but mirror Iggy’s personality as a woman who is fighting hard to stay in the rap game and will do what she has to to become the best. The song accurately tells Iggy Azalea’s story from the beginning (living in Australia) to the present (living in the U.S. as a recording artist). Iggy gives us background information about her life prior to coming to the U.S. in her first verse:

“Two feet in the red dirt, school skirt
Sugar cane, back lanes
Three jobs, took years to save
But I got a ticket on that plane”

Iggy continues her story in the bridge by stating that after landing in the U.S. on July 4th, 2006, she had “No money, no family” and was “Sixteen in the middle of Miami”. It undoubtedly had to be a scary experience for the teen seeing how it was her first time ever leaving her small rural hometown in the Land Down Under!

The chorus of “Work” is where Iggy explains just how much she had to do in order to make it into the music industry:

 “I’ve been up all night, tryna get that rich
I been work, work, work, work, working on my sh*t”

The line “Milked the whole game twice, gotta get it how I live” within the chorus opens up a topic of Iggy’s life that was extremely difficult to overcome; the fact that she not only signed one time with Mercury Records in 2012, but then signed to Island Def Jam Music Group only one year later after not succeeding with Mercury. Iggy further explains and addresses her thoughts on the matter within her second verse where she gets down and dirty without holding back.

In her second verse, Iggy includes lyrics such as “First deal changed me, Robbed blind, basically raped me” to infer exactly how her early career as an artist never allowed her to reach her full potential and that it changed her outlook on the whole game. She was pouring her own money into projects including music videos and recording, her manager Sarah Stennett wasn’t helpful, and Iggy just wasn’t gaining the satisfaction she was looking for. Then Iggy explains how she got through the difficulty of failing at her first attempts by going harder, studying the Carters, sleeping on a cold floor of a studio and recording at 4a.m. until she finally reached her dream.

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 3.21.16 PM
via @thenewclassic Instagram


However, there is a shift in attitude from the second verse to the third verse. Coming from the second verse we see the harsher side of Iggy; the woman who states that others “ill intent was insurance for my benefit” and that she hates (sarcastically) “to be inconsiderate”. The third verse shows the softer and more appreciative Iggy Azalea. Iggy raps “pledge allegiance to the struggle”, which can be taken as a  thanks to the industry because even though it was rough, it shaped her into the artist she is now. Iggy then goes on to thank her mom stating that she will pay her back for everything she did. The song “Work” begins with the hype that listeners of our generation want to hear from someone so exotic but ends with a calmness that leaves one feeling like they know Iggy on that personal level. Overall, Iggy gives her listeners insight on her personal life with strong emotional lyrics that make it hard to stop listening to “Work”. The video for the song makes it even harder to pull your eyes away from the screen. Below is a behind the scenes look at the making of the song “Work”.


The lyrics of “Change Your Life” are a complete one-eighty degree turn from those of “Work”. In “Change Your Life” Iggy Azalea raps about the luxury that she presently lives in. Not only does she exemplify the fact that she is no longer seen as a girl whose “passion was ironic” and had “dreams that were uncommon” as rapped in “Work”, but that she is so successful and wealthy now that she can CHANGE YOUR LIFE! Iggy can do more than just take care of herself, she has the ability to effect the lives of others using the finer things in life! Iggy’s got that “good-good” and she “can show you how to do this thing”! Iggy raps “We fast forward four years more, we long way from piss poor” exemplifying her transformation from having absolutely no money to living the American dream as an Australian, female rapper:

“Damn, this is the life
Exclusive sh*t with all access granted
In the country where the accents are grand,
And they landing on top of foreign mansions”

However, it’s not only Iggy’s lyrics that influence the idea of living the life but rapper T.I.’s as well, who is featured in the song:

“I get you everything that you need
I’m talking ’bout red bottoms LV”
“You fly over in coach and fly back in a jet
Hustle gang got your chest,
Ain’t no time for stress”

Iggy Azalea also lets it be known that she is something rare and new to the rap game but yet she has a throwback style that is similar to those like Tupac and Andre 3000 (her favorite rappers) which is apparent in the title of her debut album The New Classic. Iggy also implies this in the “Change Your Life” lyrics:

“You used to dealing with basic bitches
Basic shit all the time
I’m a new classic, upgrade your status”

One thing for sure is that Iggy doesn’t like to be compared to other female rappers but with our society it’s inevitable. Iggy works to separate herself from other white, female artists such as Kreayshawn (who she has been compared to relentlessly) because she is nothing like them, as she claims in this interview (time 1:55 – 2:20). She’s not your average white girl and she certainly makes that clear in her music and lifestyle.


Just like in her “Work” video, Iggy does a good job of giving her viewers an image that directly correlates with what her lyrics are portraying in the “Change Your Life” video. Here is a behind the scenes clip of the making of the “Change Your Life” video and the personal inspiration of Iggy that went in to making it complete perfection.


Behind all of Iggy Azalea’s songs there is a deeper meaning. Whether the song is humbling like “Work” or flashy like “Change Your Life”, the true meaning can be seen in Iggy’s lyrics as she constructs raps and beats that reflect her thoughts and ideas as a growing artist. Iggy Azalea sends messages to her listeners in a unique way through rap and for those who actually listen, we here it!

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The New Classic has reached number 1 on the iTunes list.

Everyone should be rushing to stores or buying the extremely down to earth debut album The New Classic on iTunes that released on April 22, 2014! In this video below, Iggy Azalea refers to what her album is all about. So take a listen to the already chart topping album and indulge your ears with the deep bass, smooth flow and incredibly engineered lyrics of Iggy Azalea.







Just in case you needed a different way to interpret the true meaning behind Iggy Azalea’s songs “Work” and “Change Your Life”, here is a small pop-up video pointing out the most important aspects of both songs!



Mainstream Hipster Music? Oh, the Irony.

In a world with many different eclectic groups of people, those who associate with unconventional styles, irony, decadal throwbacks, facetious personalities and bioethical standpoints listen to music that is not popular. These hipsters do not enjoy nor generally support the fame and success of well-known bands today. “They are too mainstream,” or “I knew them before they were cool,” are two phrases often associated with the type. Rather, hipsters support “indie” bands. Indie means independent or up and coming, free of large contracts with multimedia companies, hit songs on the top charts, and fangirl.

Source: Tumblr

The support for newly emerging bands exists due to a hipsters desire to help the underdog. (Take thrift shopping for example. Hipsters do not make a habit of supporting mass consumerism, and therefore find thrifting, or spending at mom-and-pop stores as a hobby.) But are some mainstream bands any different in sound and style from the unknown bands featured in the obscurely titled playlists

Source: Verbal Vomit

of a hipster? Or are hipsters just too cool for the bands that are too cool?

Indie music can vary from pop to hip-hop, to rock, to alternative. Specifically, one indie genre that has recently been in the spotlight in the hipster world is indie folk. Indie folk music combines mellow acoustic sounds with catchy melodies. Started in the 90’s, this musical phenomenon usually features instruments like the banjo, mandolin, upright bass, harmonium, acoustic guitar, and keyboard. The lyrics generally set a mellow tone with lyrics that have a deeper meaning than most popular songs today. Instead of talking about money, sex, and cars typical to much of the music in trendy genres today, these songs usually include metaphors or tell stories in a detailed fashion. The music is soft, with an older, more rustic sound. In addition to their sound, indie folk bands usually have a certain appearance to them as well. Usually clothed in rugged, but formal wear, these artists sport dressy vintage clothing, again setting a more laidback mood.


The appearance of a folk band is grungy usually wearing straggly facial hair and real hair. As for setting, indie bands usually play in underground obscure venues that do not hold many people. These places are “hip” known by few, but popular among those who support the less well-known music scene.  There are no flashing neon lights at a show by an indie folk band, but rather dim yellow and brown lights, setting an atmosphere to match the songs tempo and lyrics. All of these components set an extremely relaxed vibe for this music division. Indie music is not very “in your face” A few common (but still less well-known) indie folk bands include Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, Johnny Flynn, and Sea Wolf.


A New York Times article has recently stated that indie rock and folk music are becoming increasingly popular. This genre controls 25.8 % of the music industries’ business, and is 50% of what is played on Pandora over the past fourteen years. Since hipsters do not enjoy the mainstream music, does this mean that once a band reaches a certain number of hits on YouTube, followers on Spotify, or makes it on the radio, a hipster suddenly does not enjoy the band’s acoustic sounds anymore? Even if they sound and look the exact same in comparison with other indie folk bands also on their iTunes? Take Mumford and Sons as an example.

Source: Tumblr

This British folk band was virtually unknown at the start of their career, when releasing their first EP. However, on this disc, was Little Lion Man. Catchy, while still holding true to the roots of folk music, this song skyrocketed in the charts reaching number 1 in US Alternative Songs. Suddenly this unknown band became mainstream, not as good or acceptable as the bands showing in underground music venues.


Mumford is no different from what they were before becoming famous, except for in their popularity. In the music video for Little Lion Man, they prove this to be true: they are the exact same in style. At the start of the music video, the scene is set with dim lighting, warm, earthy colors, and rough, faded focus on the instruments and band members. The venue is a vintage and abandoned theatre, characteristic of both the underground obscure venue prerogative of indie folk music and also the hipster’s love for vintage style items. The instruments included in Little Lion Man and other songs by Mumford and Sons include the banjo, the acoustic guitar, the harmonium, the keyboard, the mandolin, and the upright bass. These instruments are all used characteristic of an indie folk band.

Source: NY Daily News

The band dresses formally but with a rustic, almost disheveled look, once again giving a vintage vibe. There are camera in-cuts to focus on the emotions of the band members while playing their instruments, matching the sounds and lyrics of the song. In addition, there is also a soft melodic string portion of the song that suddenly erupts into a loud, climactic portion, similar to a large portion of indie folk songs. Finally, the ending of the video fades to black, concluding the mood of the song. Sounds familiar to indie folk music right? Exactly. So why do most hipsters not enjoy this band that is almost exactly like other indie folk bands?

As dissected above, Mumford and Sons’ music still holds to the acoustic vibes and their style shows a rustic vintage look that matches the genre! Therefore, the mainstream argument is solely about popularity and has nothing to do with the sound or look of a band. Being hipster is almost a race to see who can be more hipster. Who is going to discover the next band? Who will know more obscure indie bands than others? Because Mumford and Sons, and other bands like The Lumineers and Foster the People, have top hits and have become popular on a worldy scale, hipsters claim to not enjoy their music, due to their need to keep a reputation of only enjoying the unknown bands. If hipsters were to enjoy these bands of progressive fame their entire look and passion for supporting the underdog is ruined. However, these bands were once the independent bands supported by hipsters for the obscurity. Essentially, hipsters are supporting the development of these artists, pushing them to the mainstream music scene.  Indie bands are on the way up in the music world becoming increasingly more popular, causing a never ending cycle

Source: Tumblr

of hipsters having to recycle their musical interests into new unknown bands, and away from the well-liked ones. With Mumford and Sons specifically, an article on the website Saving Country Music states, “then it was announced that Babel was the best-selling debut so far in 2012, selling 600,000 copies and outpacing folks like Justin Bieber. Really? Has the “roots” revolution reached such a point that it is the most popular, mainstream thing going in music these days?” Mumford was virtually unknown at the start of their career. Now, they are competing with Beyonce! So what lies in the way of fate for unknown indie bands today? Because indie music is up and coming, hipsters are out of luck if this habit continues. How ironic.



About the author: 

Meg Hopkins likes Mumford and Sons AND obscure bands.

Sex and Pop Music: Carole King’s Relevance among Contemporary Female Artists

Beyoncé performs in the music video for “Partition.”

We only have to look at reactions to Beyoncé’s video for “Partition,” released in late February, to see how uncomfortable many are with overt references to sex in music, especially when these references are made by women. Jennifer Lopez, with her recent video for her single “I Luh Ya Papi,” addresses some of this hypocrisy by flipping gender roles generally found in pop and hip-hop music, where men are portrayed as aggressively sexual beings surrounded by gratuitous, scantily dressed women. It’s safe to say that pop music artists and their listeners are very familiar with songs about sex, explicit or not. However, the public has repeatedly treated female artists who sing about sex in a liberated way differently from their male counterparts. Although women have been doing it for a while now, the idea of women in the music industry embracing an independent sexuality through their songs and videos is still controversial. In exploring how this phenomenon plays out in the contemporary music scene, it can be helpful to look at its origins, particularly with singer-songwriter Carole King.

You might be wondering where someone like King, a pop artist most active in the ‘60s and ‘70s, fits in with women like Beyoncé and Lopez. King wrote the song “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” in 1960 with her then-husband Gerry Goffin. The song was originally recorded by The Shirelles later that year, who with the song became the first girl group to reach number one on the Billboard Top 100. King later recorded the song on her 1971 album Tapestry, which stayed number one on the Billboard Top 100 for 15 weeks. When The Shirelles first recorded the song, it was actually banned from some radio stations because of its (admittedly pretty tame) sexual themes. In a 1997 article by Francis Davis, he has this to say about the song:

It isn’t nostalgia that makes me think of the Shirelles’ 1960 recording of Gerry Goffin and Carole King’s “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” as a great record. It could be the way the song combines the identities of the young white woman who co-wrote it, the young black women who sang it, and that era’s teenage girls, who fretted over the consequences of surrendering their virginity and for whom “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” became a sort of anthem.

Female pop music today has this same power—to create “anthems” for young women (and in some cases men) who are searching for validation of their own sexual identities within the music they listen to. Many women in the music industry today, including Lopez and Beyoncé, are still working towards being able to express themselves sexually through their music and videos without experiencing backlash.

First, let’s look at an example of men escaping the judgment often assigned to female artists for including the same content in their songs and videos. Watch Justin Timberlake’s video for “Tunnel Vision,” released last year in July. The explicit version of the video constantly shows images of naked women. In the Rolling Stone article linked to earlier about Bill O’Reilly’s reactions to the video for “Partition,” O’Reilly claims that Beyoncé’s “steamy” video is a bad influence on teenage girls who idolize the pop star. He also argues that the video’s sexual themes take away from its artistic value. Why would O’Reilly be so quick to criticize Beyoncé’s video, but stay silent about Timberlake’s and others like it, which could be said to contain many more explicit images? Maybe it makes O’Reilly uncomfortable to see the sexuality of a woman under her own control, instead of under that of a man. Even all of the positive reactions to Beyoncé’s video are telling. Beyoncé’s video in general has gained significantly more media attention than Timberlake’s—positive or not. Granted, Beyoncé is without a doubt the more popular artist currently. But it could also be argued that an explicit video released by a woman is news-worthy and controversial, while one released by a man is the norm.

A still from Beyoncé's video for "Partition," released in February.
A still from Beyoncé’s video for “Partition,” released in February.

It isn’t only “Partition”’s video that O’Reilly had a problem with.  He also took issue with the song’s lyrics. Passages like this describe sexual encounters:


Driver roll up the partition please

I don’t need you seeing Yoncé on her knees

Took 45 minutes to get all dressed up

We ain’t even gonna make it to this club

Now my mascara runnin’, red lipstick smudged


O’Reilly said the lyrics along with the video “glorified having sex in the backseat of a limo.” Even if the song does “glorify” sex in a limo, why does O’Reilly care so much? Beyoncé is literally singing about having consensual, adult sex with her husband. It doesn’t seem like he’s reacted so strongly to the countless songs by men talking about sex. And these songs are usually not describing sex in the context of marriage or even a loving relationship, anyway. As a random example, see this excerpt from 50 Cent’s song “Candy Shop”:


If you be a nympho, I’ll be a nympho

In the hotel or in the back of the rental

On the beach or in the park, it’s whatever you into


I may be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that these lyrics, like many similar lyrics sung my men in the music industry, didn’t cause nearly as much of a stir as Beyoncé’s. One of the only reasons I can see for this is the fact that Beyoncé is a woman.

Beyoncé is not the only female artist igniting controversy. 2013 and 2014 have, in general, been good years for many female artists’ expressions of sexuality in their work. In March of this year, Jennifer Lopez released a video for her new single “I Luh Ya Papi.” In the video, Lopez and her backup dancers take over the roles usually held by male artists in rap and hip-hop videos. Instead of a man and his entourage being surrounded by mostly naked women doing pretty much nothing, Lopez surrounds herself and her dancers with nearly nude men being objectified in a fashion typically reserved for women.

J. Lo is surrounded by men in their underwear in the beginning of her new music video for "I Luh Ya Papi."
J. Lo is surrounded by men in their underwear in the beginning of her new music video for “I Luh Ya Papi.”

An almost-too-perfect example of the kind of video Lopez is parodying here is the video for Enrique Iglesias and Pitbull’s single “I’m a Freak,” released at the end of January. In the video, Iglesias and Pitbull are almost the only men in a crowd full of people. The women are in various states of undress—some wear shorts and tank tops while others are in nothing but underwear. It is not explained, of course, why the women are undressed in the middle of a crowded party. And Pitbull and Iglesias are significantly more dressed than pretty much any of the women in the video. When the male artists in a video are more dressed than the women around them, it creates the illusion that the women are vulnerable, exposed, and under the control of the men. The lyrics of the song also suggest a kind of control or sexual aggression, especially with the line “I’ve got a one track mind”:


Yeah, I’m a freak

Baby, I can’t lie

When you move like that

I’ve got a one track mind


Female nudity, as we can see, is often used as an instrument of oppression or objectification of women. However, nudity can also be used as a means of empowerment. Notably, we see this in Miley Cyrus’s video for “Wrecking Ball,” released in September. In the video, there are parts where Cyrus is completely nude, and at some points Cyrus suggestively licks a hammer. The video, perhaps predictably, received heaps of criticism from the media. Many said that Cyrus was sending the message to young girls that it’s acceptable to exploit one’s body and sexuality in the name of success. But again, why exactly does the “Wrecking Ball” video infuriate people over its supposed exploitive properties, but videos by male artists featuring nude women remain largely unscathed by critics? At least Cyrus is dictating her own exposure in her video. She is becoming nude on her own terms, and her nakedness serves a legitimate purpose—it mirrors the vulnerability she expresses in the lyrics of the song:


 I came in like a wrecking ball

I never hit so hard in love

All I wanted was to break your walls

All you ever did was wreck me

Yeah, you, you wreck me


King’s ballad about sex outside of marriage might have opened the door for other female artists to sing about their sexuality. But even 54 years later, women in the music industry cannot do so without facing backlash. It is important to look at songs like King’s in comparison to contemporary music in order to see how far we’ve come, and how far we still have to go, to gain gender equality in the music industry. Pop music’s sexual, liberated, female-powered “anthems” are more essential now than ever.

Claire Nielsen is a first-year student at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is studying English and French and is interested in feminist issues.