When people have power, they use it to their advantage. I may be writing an opinion piece, but I know that. I also know that the music industry has been notoriously manipulative for decades, but this time it’s different. It’s no longer a problem with managers and pop superstars. It is deeply rooted in the music that teenagers and young adults listen to today, the same music that they cling to and use for support. I know this because I am one of them.
Where have we been?
Pop-punk is polarizing and has been criticized for its lyrics, musical simplicity and troubled community since its split from punk rock in the late 1980s. After enjoying about a decade and a half of commercial success, pop-punk has been on the decline since the mid-2000s. Although some bands have gone on to become wildly successful and known around the world (think Green Day and Blink-182), pop-punk isn’t what it used to be, especially after being replaced by its own emo-derived rap and pop genres.
Most punk rock subgenres are known for their passionate, angsty songwriting and can often end up in whiny and “nice” territory. Pop-punk is unique among punk rock derivatives because it takes a lighter approach to songwriting; it’s borderline cartoonish in its brash depictions of hometown boredom, high school sweethearts, and teenage rebellion. The fundamental relativity of these themes makes the genre appealing to its teenage and young adult audience, which is where the trouble begins.
Pop-punk has always been raw, honest songwriting that explores the difficult emotions experienced growing up, which easily exposes the songwriter’s unconscious biases; what a writer says he feels is how he feels really To feel. On top of that, the scene is also overwhelmingly white and very masculine. There’s a nagging sense of entitlement in pop-punk, a product of the “I’m troubled but still able to love” attitude fostered in some songwriters from their own experiences growing up. It’s one thing to show these attitudes in the lyrics, but these attitudes are often physically manifested in sexual misconduct, which creates huge scandals and disrupts the community; When it turns out that the men behind the mic are sending unsolicited photos to underage girls or are guilty of child grooming, fans don’t know how to react or who to believe.
Complicating the issue, many of these accused musicians are quick to blame anyone other than themselves and manipulate their impressionable audiences into a campaign of self-absolution with no prisoners. If you’re even a casual pop-punk fan, you know one example: Brand New.
Brand New started in 2000 as another bland band trying to break into the then-competitive pop-punk scene, but gained notoriety with their critically acclaimed band. Already heard and The devil and God are raging inside meenjoying their rise with each successive album.
A twirl review of the band’s last and probably last album Science fiction– released in August 2017 – said Brand New had transcended the status of just a group; over their nearly two-decade career, “they have become a lifeline and sanctuary for thousands upon thousands of messed up kids”. That frenzied support came to a dramatic halt in November 2017 when news of accusations against frontman Jesse Lacey surfaced, including years of manipulation and sexual harassment of two unrelated teenage fans.
Sadly, and perhaps predictably, there has been no tangible justice for the victims, just a Facebook apology post from Lacey blaming her actions for her “dependent and addictive relationship with sex.” “. For what it’s worth, the band has remained publicly inactive since the incident.
Where are we going?
Over the past few years, emo rap has supplanted pop-punk and conventional emo as the newest vessel for these and other harmful attitudes, and fans have latched onto these artists with equal frenzy. they did with pop-punk bands like Brand New. Lil Peep and XXXTentacion had and still have massive followers, with over 8.5 and nearly 24 million subscribers respectively on Spotify, and songs with hundreds of millions of streams; XXXTentacion’s posthumous title “SAD!” has well over a billion streams on Spotify.
A product of the internet, these artists have gained their massive following at an unprecedented rate; X released their first official EP in 2014, and Lil Peep released their first SoundCloud mixtape in 2015. By comparison, Brand New’s 18-year career has garnered them less than a million subscribers on Spotify.
Lil Peep died of an accidental overdose of fentanyl and Xanax in November 2017 with blood tests showing evidence of seven other drugs in his system; XXXTentacion was shot and killed leaving a motorcycle dealership in June 2018. The abrupt end to these artists’ young lives rocked the emo-rap community, but both acts became even more popular after the deaths, their posthumous growth shaping and perverting the culture into what it is today.
Both artists have been celebrated for bringing attention – which was not always positive attention – to mental health through their music and for reaching such a wide audience, especially since their music is anything but. traditional pop. However, especially in the case of music this emotional, the music is intimately tied to the artists, and those artists have issues: think of Lil Peep’s fetishization of drug addiction and mental illness in his lyrics or the XXXTentacion domestic violence story. With sensitive lyrical themes and impressionable audiences of teenagers and young adults, shouldn’t these artists have been held more accountable?