Mass and Popular Culture
Culture is defined by the unique forms of expression a specific social group connects with, and one of the largest forms of expression is music. There is a large folk culture within all modern culture’s today in which the music of that area was defined upon. How does music fin in with the present day popular culture and what kind of song defines American culture?
Popular Culture and Salt
Popular and mass culture can lead to strong emotional backlash so it is important to be mindful. When I think about Popular Culture a lot comes to mind. There is not just a good side to it, there is a darker, benevolent form where popular culture expands out of the general traditions a culture cultivates over time. Throughout history humans have shown their darker sides in a form that Philip Zimbardo coined as the “Lucifer Effect.” In this theory, exemplified by the Stanford Prison Experiment, he states that situational forces produce outcomes that cannot be controlled. In the case of the “Lucifer Effect” those situational forces are a hegemonic system of power verse prionser and how a human, who possessed an innate ability to do good under normal circumstances, subcumbs to evil temptation. So though Popular Culture is important, it should be treated lightly. Different forms of popular culture have turned large populations into patriotic extremists. This can be seen in the Genocide of Rwanda where the population lived in a society that denounced the Tutsi class from 1959-1994; a downfall in the government pushed the country into an onslaught of their own people due to the Hutu nationalism culture that built around Tutsi hate.
Now that I portrayed my opinion on popular culture and how I take it with a grain of salt; when it comes to music I believe that a song that fits into the popular culture in today’s society fits into a specific mold. Today people consume large amounts of media. It is hard for businesses to pinpoint the middle ground between all forms of media (print, cable, movie, news), so they now focus upon niche groups.
This is the same for music that fits into the popular culture. In fact, ever since the Top 40 was born in the 1950’s, music has made its way towards this trend; since the market shows profit for niche groups, a song generally fits a niche group. A song that breaks the boundaries of niche groups is a song that will define popular culture. People from all backgrounds know it, so they all have a common ground.
How a Song Defines Pop Culture
Next, the song needs to stick in the minds of those who consume media. A catchy tune is a must as well as catchy lyrics. Sadly, the meaning of a song is downplayed for those songs that contain the most catchy style. Look at Oppa Gangnam Style. It had a place in the Top 10 charts in some Western Countries for awhile, and it was not even produced in their native languages.
Last, a lot of music played on the radio is by bands who score a one time hit song. In fact a lot of bands strive to produce the one hit wonder to increase advertising. A song that makes it big means millions of people will hear it by association; this plays back to the catchiness of the song. Catching peoples attention is all that matters when making a big mark in modern popular culture. So to find a song exemplifies popular culture, one just simply has to find a song that is played continuously, has a catchy tune and lyrics, and may or may not have an actual message to its listeners.
Oppa Gangnam Style
Inventing Popular Culture and John Storey
John Story is the author of a book called Inventing Popular Culture: From Folklore to Globalization. An entire section of the book, Chapter 2, is dedicated to class schism, and that the theory that culture is a class privilege, meaning your socioeconomic status determines whether you are a contributing member of the cultural elite.
Chapter 2 Insights:
I disagree with the idea that culture is a class privilege due to the nature of class privilege itself. In Chapter 2 it lists out the characteristics that are abundant in the lower class. This includes envy, violence, and lust for power. These ideals are apparent in the prejudices envisioned by those who believe that a socioeconomic advantage
While they state envy is a just cause to denounce the lower class, they themselves fall victim to envy. They lose what they consider their birthright and become the envious; they envy the old days and live in the past.
The world has seen massive amounts of violence due to prejudice. Is it not prejudice to limit others based on socioeconomic differences? Those who believe they are betters want to remain in power and feed off of prejudices to fuel their continuing reign. Prejudice feeds violence and malevolence, and to further the idea of the social elite’s want for power, the Leavisites believed that the time of Shakespeare was the golden cultural age. This was a time where the natural rights of man were often dismissed and crimes against humanity ran rampant. How can one trust the opinion of those that denounce the idea of natural rights? Were natural rights not the ideals of those who were considered the social elite?
The opinion stated here, that socioeconomic status contributes to cultural worth, is a misguided attempt by those who wish to use their intellectual ability to hinder the masses. Every society has fallen to the ideas of the intellectual. It is, mostly, for the better because enlightened ideas bring about acceptance and altruism. However, any ideas that include prejudice thoughts denounce the ideas of being an intellectual, and, in turn, creates one who is intellectually ignorant. It is also interesting to note that every society is built upon the ideals of the higher class. Government, natural rights, economics, and science are all fields of the higher culture.
Yet there is this division that turns counter productive. Capitalism is a form of economics that fosters the same prejudice that is portrayed in these two chapters, and the foundations of it are formed from the higher class. The manipulation of government and economics is all done by higher class. It is hard to prove that intelligence leads to a more cultured. even life when there are those who are intellectually sound but are, in truth, sociopaths who manipulate the system. And that system is created by those intellectuals and, as intellectuals themselves, they are able to move through the maze of confusion easily, leaving the masses in the dust. There is no worth in prejudice, and there is no worth living in the past. To put it simply, a golden mean of intelligence, pride, and entitlement need to be met for one to be cultured, and prejudice does not fit into this model.