CATEGORY MUSIC, CULTURE

IS THE YOUNGER GENERATION A BEACON OF HOPE? COULD MUSIC AID THEM?

As mentioned by Karl Mannheim, the concept of generations is "to distinguish social generations from kinship as a group of individuals of similar ages whose members experienced a noteworthy historical event set within a set period". Examples of generations include "Baby Boomers", "Millennials", and most recently "Generation Z". Much of present- day society is aware of the distinction between these generations, the benefits and the challenges each generation have faced, and in the case of Generation Z is to face.

Generation Z is expected to solve the problems of the future, and these problems range from climate change, racism, homophobia, sexism and much more. But considering the oldest of Generation Z are just 24 years, these problems will more than likely not be solved for quite a while since the very institutions and organisations needed to solve these problems are run by "Baby Boomers". Otherwise known by their shorter title "Boomers", they are the generation born after the establishment of the United Nations in 1945.

As a result, their understanding of the world is very different in comparison to "Millennials" and "Generation Z". "Boomers" imagine the world as a place in which looking out for themselves is the most important since others only seek to do you harm. Hence their strict immigration policies, little regard for the environment and persistence in armed conflicts. But even "Boomers" will not hold these positions of power forever, at least in the genuine democratic countries of the world.

"Millennials" will take their place and eventually "Generation Z", and each, as believed by the previous generations, will change the world for the better. But to what extent? In regard to music, in particular, the changes are very evident. Music by "Millennial" artists touch upon sensitive issues such as race and sexuality, whereas music by "Generation Z" goes the extra step and portrays these issues in artistic ways.

An example is Lil Nas X and his music video for his song "MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)," which portrays his sexuality. Of course, in the past, in his song " Lay me down", music artists such as Sam Smith have portrayed their sexuality in the form of a music video. But what makes Lil Nas X unique is that he had done so in a music genre well known for the sexualisation of women by male-dominant artists. Although created by "Baby Boomers", Hip Hop has always been a music genre that glamourises gang culture, violence, drug culture, and the sexualisation of women. Still, fans of Hip Hop have not necessarily been involved with any of these things themselves.

As Lil Nas X has done, he has utilised the prowess and the imagery associated with Hip Hop to adequately represent himself and allow those unable to relate to other hip-hop artists to have someone to relate to, and to some extent, even inspire. Meaning that matters of sexuality will be more prominent in the future, so those afraid of coming out in the way they want will no longer be as afraid, particularly those from ethnic minorities like Lil Nas X, who live in a world that is still institutionally racist regardless of what government-licensed reports are put out to prove otherwise.

Artists such Kendrick Lamar and J Cole are well known for rapping about conscious matters, such as racism. Despite both being "Millennials", they stand out amongst a majority of artists who only feel the need to rap or sing about materialistic matters. Of course, this is not to say there are not music artists who cover conscious matters, but they usually tend to come from different genres, the most notable being "Indie", short for independent.

Declan Mckenna, a British Indie artist, part of "Generation Z", is a music artist that covers conscious matters. Still, in the case of Declan Mckenna, he tends to cover British Politics, most notably in his song "British Bombs", where he states the hypocrisy of the British government and condemns the bombing of Yemen by British warplanes.

Considering the low turnout of young people in the 2016 Brexit Referendum, Declan's Mckenna's song on Spotify alone has over 24 million plays, meaning that young people are more inclined to hear politics through a medium that best resonates with them, in this case, music. As opposed to watching or reading about it since this does not capture their attention or influences them enough to engage with political discourse.

Nonetheless, even "Baby Boomers" had political songs, most notably Edwin Starr and his song "War" or the band Creedence Clearwater Revival and their song "Fortunate Son". Which were both anti-war songs and so, in essence, made them political by default. But considering both songs are still prevalent in society, it shows the younger generation has a rather long way to go before they can be a beacon of hope. But that is not to say they should not try and change the world but rather find ways to motivate others because they too can change the world.


Abdul Mohammed
AIKONIK - Culture Contributor

Image sources: Abdul Mohammed, Teen Vogue, The Times & Financial Times

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