Listeners seek real meaning

By Amanda Smith
n an era when the pop-music airwaves are saturated with bubble-gum happy music from songbirds like Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Mandy Moore, many young people in their teens and early 20s are looking for more meaningful music.
Julie Battison, 16, of Liberty, likes older rock, bands with names like the Eagles, Boston and Neil Young.
"They sing about real stuff," she said. "[Modern music] is mostly about stupid stuff. Older rock is more meaningful, and it's much better music."
Battison is not alone. Although she also likes Fuel, Sublime and Incubus from the more modern scene, if you ask her what type of music she listens to, she'll name the older artists first.
Michael Keinsey, 23, of Lowellville, said he listens to music by Jimi Hendrix mostly because it's original material, but also because "At that time, the artists hadn't been copied artist after artist after artist."
What professor said: According to John Turk, a professor at YSU who has taught a rock 'n' roll history class at the university for 11 years, people who contend today's Top 40 hits all sound the same aren't too far off base.
Technology has advanced to the point where it almost all sounds the same, Turk said. "Back in 1967, when there was also a lot of music around, it wasn't all necessarily good, but then, it didn't all sound the same.
"Bands like *NSync are just about making money. There's no inner soul for anything other than making money and to be famous. Whatever sells, you get more of."
According to Jake Aubel, 17, of Niles, today's pop music pushed him to turn off the radio and look for music on his own.
"The music, the lyrics, it all sounds alike," he said. "I can't tell *NSync from 98 Degrees from the Backstreet Boys. There's just no originality to it."
At the beginning of each rock 'n' roll history class, Turk asks his students to name one Beatles' song. About half, he says, sometimes more, raise their hands. How about five? 10? 15?
Even at the high demand of naming 20 Beatles' songs, some of the students still have their hands up. And Turk believes them.
Many of his students are listening to the art rock bands of the '60s and '70s like Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. The harmonic language in the bands' music, he said, is much more developed than in any Top 40 hit today.
"You really have to work to enjoy their music. Music is supposed to make you think, to conjure images. I listen to Madonna, and I just don't get it," he said.
Mood counts: Crystal Sharrone, 25, of Lowellville, agrees. Topping her list of favorite acts is someone she refers to as "Uncle Ozzy" -- Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath.
"It's the mood, you know?" she said. "It's very dark and mysterious."
Turk said the current trend in music might be due to a stable economy. That and a lack of out-and-out social change, he said, "you're just not going to have the kind of music present in the '60s."
"The economy is good, there's no real threat of military action, no rush on banks. There's an overwhelming feeling of complacency. There may be a need for music that is revolutionary and anti-establishment," he said.
Some modern bands like U2 and Rage Against the Machine have a lot of anger in their lyrics. But, Turk said, when you compare their songs with some from Bob Dylan or the Beatles or the Rolling Stones, modern protest songs sound fake, flat and phony.
"There's a theory that [young people] have to have their own music to use as a weapon against adults. But I just don't see any real teen rebellion right now. Sure, there are people who have piercing all over their bodies, tattoos and hair that is every color of the rainbow, but when they come up to talk to you, they are among some of the nicest people you'll ever talk to."
For some young people, however, the choice of what to listen to isn't so much a matter of bands with crusading social anthems or complex harmonies. They just want to listen to something that sounds good.
Degrees of mumbling: Robert Shipley Jr., 21, of Youngstown, listens mostly to Led Zeppelin, the Doors, Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles and Aerosmith. He's working at Cedars Caf & eacute; in Youngstown, and points up to the loudspeakers that are playing a song by Hootie and the Blowfish.
"I can't understand what they're saying," he said. "With the older rock, you can understand what they say. Most of the music today is just mumbling."
Someone nearby points out that Jim Morrison of the Doors mumbled a lot in his songs.
"Yeah," Shipley said, laughing, "but it was a much more meaningful mumble."

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