In 1778, Thomas Jefferson wrote the following about music: “This is the favorite passion of my soul, and fortune has cast my lot in a country where it is in a state of deplorable barbarism.” If only he were to hear the music that college students currently listen to. Long gone are the days when artists such as Aretha Franklin and Nat King Cole produced music full of beauty and inspiration. Today’s pop artists boast none of the qualities that make music worthy of our ears. Euphony has been substituted with electric thumping, natural vocals with autotune and meaningful lyrics with gibberish about sex, money and drugs.
The greatest offender that I have thus far had the displeasure of hearing is Elizabeth Eden Harris. Known by the stage name CupcakKe, Harris’ greatest talent is the sheer amount of vulgarity that she can fit into a single song. Her songs are beyond crude; they’re vile. To give you a taste of CupcakKe’s lyrical genius, her masterpiece, titled “Deepthroat,” includes the lines “ballerina that d*ck when I spin” and “my panties stuck in my ass.” Lovely. These, however, are not even the most disturbing lines. The majority of the lyrics are so explicit that I dare not type them out lest I send any readers into shock. But perhaps most troubling, is that CupcakKe is not irrelevant, unbeknownst to the public. In 2018, Yale University, ostensibly a beacon of higher education, invited her to perform on campus. One Yale student at the time described this decision as “one of the greatest practical jokes in the University’s history, if it weren’t also so tragic.” If this really is what Yale students enjoy listening to, then it is quite tragic indeed.
While CupcakKe is not as widely known as some other mainstream rappers, she represents an alarming trend of a music industry that no longer values dignity. Some stars of today include DaBaby, a rapper who recently received backlash for his homophobic rants, during which he told fans “fellas, if you ain’t sucking d*ck in the parking lot, put your cell phone light up” (you can only imagine what kind of “music” he produces) and Megan Thee Stallion who is widely known for, among other things, her line “Hands on my knees, shakin’ ass, on my thot sh*t.” I haven’t even touched on Cardi B and Nicki Minaj. The list goes on. How so many young fans manage to be enticed by such performers is beyond me. Are we really supposed to pretend these people are decent role models for teenagers who listen to them?
Compare the artists of today with those of past generations and you will notice a spectacular devolution. Beethoven’s iconic “Fur Elise”, even in the absence of lyrics, possesses an elegance that is non-existent in today’s music. Listen to Frank Sinatra’s “My Way,” and you will find that meaningful music does exist. Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” is another, more recent, piece worthy of praise. All of these songs possess a deeper meaning and a harmonious touch unlike anything we see nowadays. This kind of music possesses an inherent beauty, and it is not only pleasing to the ears, but also enriching to the soul.
It is a shame that so few young people today care or know of these works. They are missing out on something that is difficult to attain elsewhere. Of course, it is an arduous task to explain this to them. The rise of cultural and moral relativism in our universities has deprived us of the ability to distinguish good from bad, beautiful from ugly. Oftentimes people will respond with “it’s just a matter of taste,” but this view operates under the assumption that nothing can possess objective beauty. It denies the idea that music is able to influence and touch us. Art, however, is in fact a greatly influential part of society. It is not only a form of expression, but also a representation of ourselves, and has the capacity to inculcate values and life lessons. Famous artists, who are often glamorized, are looked up to by millions of children and young adults. When the music we listen to becomes rife with corruption, it transposes into our lifestyles. It can, consciously or subconsciously, pervert the values of listeners. Simply put: The music we listen to affects us and the society we live in. The music we listen to actually matters. So no, the shaking of the coffin is not Thomas Jefferson dancing to “Body” by Megan Thee Stallion, it’s him rolling in his grave.