Is Today’s Music Actually Good?

Jacky Oasay, reporter

Music is my forte—perhaps not in playing perfect pitches and rhythms, but definitely in listening. I have been a fan of various genres since I have been out of my mother’s womb. I spend most of my time with AirPods in my ears listening to music; the instrumentals, vocals, and lyrics are all top notch. Although music is subjective, a good mix of these factors is my definition of music.
I have noticed that modern music is effortless and accessible; throw some angsty lyrics and a good beat and it’s a number one hit. I noticed this when I’m in restaurants, where a song plays and I absolutely dread it because of how many times I’ve heard it online. Which made me think—is today’s music actually good or just trendy?
In the video essay, “The Olivia Rodrigo Effect + TikTok Music,” YouTuber Madisyn Brown touches on the new genre of music that Rodrigo has supposedly created. Rodrigo contributed to the pop-punk rebirth with her single, “good 4 u” which was heavily influenced by the Band, Paramore. This song supposedly influenced hits like “Twinkle Twinkle Little B****” by Leah Kate. Brown claims that instead of this being “The Olivia Rodrigo effect,” it is more fitting as “TikTok music.” Release after release, the music I hear daily on TikTok has become increasingly atrocious and annoying.
In the video essay, Brown talks about how these TikTok musicians are creating songs with the intention of a viral 15 seconds. Listeners may be attracted to the small bit they’ve heard on social media, then listen to the song and think, “why isn’t this as good as the part I’ve heard?” The rest of the song sounds like an emotional word vomit; they put so much thought into one part that the rest felt like a completely different song. It’s like I’m watching a movie that is the complete opposite of the synopsis, I feel cheated!
Music is an art form that should be enjoyed and shared for a community. Musicians may be in it for fame and money, but at least make it sound good. Objectively, these songs aren’t that horrible. They fit into their designated genre, but aren’t enjoyed by many, including me. I see comments on these musicians’ videos that say, “unrelease this” and “how do these artists get famous”. I discovered the answer—industry plants.
“Industry plant” is a term used to describe musicians that are signed to major labels, but claim to be self-made and independent. Singer songwriter, Clairo, has been accused of being an industry plant. Yet, I still listen to her and find her songs enjoyable. Her lyrics have depth and meaning. Her instrumentals are more than just a looped beat made on GarageBand, they are mystical and have personality. That’s the difference between viral TikTok musicians and artists like Clairo. They are both considered as modern music, but one is musical.
However, this comparison may be seen as unfair as these artists are in different genres. Therefore, comparing “TikTok” musicians to artists like Taylor Swift may be more suitable. Swift has recently released her album, “Midnights,” and the domino effect of modern music has hit her. Lyrics like, “draw the cat eye sharp enough to kill a man,” “it’s me, hi, I’m the problem it’s me,” and “sometimes it feels like everybody is a sexy baby” can be taken as parts of the song used for TikTok trends or fun audios. I have seen many videos commenting on these specific lyrics, saying that they are childish and that Swift has lost her lyrical flare. However, I cannot completely diminish Swift and her song-writing abilities. She is an amazing artist and lyricist, so her lyrics still have meaning despite being seen as corny. In comparison to these one-hit wonders who have an obsession with angsty breakup songs, Swift will always be superior.
Furthermore, Swift and many “TikTok” musicians are obsessed with writing angsty breakup songs. Swift is known for her hits like “Blank Space” and “All Too Well.” However, Swift is diverse. The discography of TikTok musicians have repetitive, outdated lyrics. Sooner or later, their fans will get bored. If I listened to a song they’ve released recently, I could listen to it again in a few months and think “this is so October 2022…”
My strong opinions on “TikTok music” may be extreme to those who enjoy this genre, but all things considered “subjective” deserve criticism. Whether or not they are implemented into the industry for a label’s personal intake or their own, there should at least be improvement or something good to come out of their music. Although I am raining on multiple parades, music in this “genre” to me is just slam poetry on an Electronic dance music track beat. I hope for better sound, instrumentals, and lyrics as I scroll through my feed in the upcoming weeks.