Pop music & youth culture

Written by simon fuller
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Pop music & youth culture
The influence of pop music has shaped generations of young people. (Music image by Emil Maga from Fotolia.com)

Right through the 20th century and beyond, pop music --- whether in the form of rock and roll, grunge or rap, to name but a few genres --- has been linked closely with youth culture. With many of the consumers of popular music being young people, it's no surprise that youth have been shaped and influenced by the themes, artists and activities which pop music involves.

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The history of pop music's interactions with youth culture can be seen to stem from the beginnings of the 20th century, where swing music ignited in young people a passion for dance during the 1920s. Crazes amongst the youth for forms of pop music continued into the 1930s and beyond, where young people flocked to concerts by performers such as Benny Goodman. Later, artists such as Elvis Presley thrilled young audiences, while the youth were crucial in the popularity of The Beatles, creating the social craze known as Beatlemania.

The consumption of the music of these artists by so many young people led the music industry to identify the youth as an important market segment all of its own, as the Scaruffi website notes (see References). Some artists --- for example, boy bands including Take That and 'N Sync --- have since been marketed towards youth in particular.

Basis of Identity

Perhaps the largest influence which pop music has had on youth culture is through the subcultures it has created throughout the years. As different styles of music --- punk, grunge, heavy metal --- have become popular, sections of the youth have responded by forming social groups whose activities are based around listening to a particular genre of popular music. Young people have thus constructed their identities around pop music, assuming certain fashions and attitudes. Such groups have included the punks, the teddy boys and the mods.

Everyday Dominance

Music has become a huge part of the everyday lives of youth all around the world. In the U.S. for example, young people spend, on average, four to five hours per day consuming music in some form, according to the Stanford News website. This attachment to popular music can have a considerable influence on individuals, affecting everything from what kind of mood a young person is in to the slang words they use amongst their peers.

Negative Influences

The negative effects of immersion in pop culture for youth have been expressed by various groups, for example the media and parenting associations, over the years. Individuals have suggested that the profanity used in some song lyrics may lead to young people copying this language, while others worry about the lifestyles and themes depicted by pop music artists and how it might influence youngsters. For example, a research group based in Berkeley, California, claims to have found that listening to hip-hop music can increase a young individual's likelihood of taking drugs such as marijuana, as noted by the Journal For Young Scientists website (see References).

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