Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation has sparked new interest in embracing diversity and is teaching how to “combat youth bullying, meanness, and cruelty.” This is an encouraging start to changing paradigms and empowering our youth. But there needs to be more. I suggest a new movement of musicians to inspire and challenge Generation Y-ers through song. If songwriters utilize their gifts toward creating music and lyrics that inspire people, they can help change the world.
From the minstrels of the Middle Ages singing of heroes and love, to African American slaves singing of faith and the Underground Railroad in the cotton fields, music has been a tool to motivate and enlighten generations. Today, music scores set the mood in movies with subtlety and drama. Clothing has reflected style changes from Madonna’s lace to MC Hammer and the parachute pants. Don’t forget about the influential 80’s hairstyles (I think I’ve hidden all my photos)! But lyrics are used to make special connections with the listener. The latter is where I pose my challenge to new and current artists alike.
Depeche Mode sang, “People are people so why should it be; you and I should get along so awfully.”
In my day, Depeche Mode was popular with “People are people so why should it be; you and I should get along so awfully.” Whitney Houston touched us with “Hero.” Timbuk 3 rocked us with a “Future’s so bright I gotta wear shades.” And, Michael Jackson clearly directed us to “Heal the world.” Even Coca-Cola tried to “teach the world to sing.” After 9-11 an emergence of patriotic songs such as Toby Keith’s “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue” and Alan Jackson’s “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning” filled the airwaves and inspired us to come together as a country. The beat of the music was not entirely different than what we had heard before but the lyrics moved us into a different direction.
Michael Jackson's "Heal the World"
A recent article in the New York Times called Generation Y the “Go-Nowhere Generation.” The article furthers that “tough economic times breeds complacency.” It would be sad to think that a whole generation full of potential would be remembered that way. This is not just an American issue. The UK discusses the Age of Entitlement as having “an over-inflated sense of entitlement” and “lack the work ethic to achieve their goals.” I beg the differ seeing a non-guided sense of creativity waiting for a little inspiration and direction. When I see my niece writing her own songs and performing at concerts, I think about how gifted she is…if only she would use her gifts to inspire others to lead and make effective changes instead of repeating the dark themes that are so prevalent in some music today.
So, what do we do to overcome complacency? “You replace complacency with something more powerful…with joy and energy and commitment and passion, and engagement with each other, and listening, and all the great things that human beings are gifted to do,” explained Benjamin Zander, Conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra. Instead of reliving bad relationships, despair and depression, artists in this era should become re-inspired to shift our culture toward a productive movement filled with the concerns and issues of today. This type of supported project or even individual effort would empower youth (and actually all ages) to be a part of solutions to issues that impact all of us. YouTube and Facebook are already widely used forums for expression. Perhaps they could be used to inspire.
Can artists inspire us to start 'Walking on Sunshine' again?
Whether or not you were “born this way,” crafting a new style of music may be a special way to find your own niche, make a difference in the world and help get this country “Walking on Sunshine” once again. “Art,” Zander explains, “after all, is about rearranging us, creating surprising juxtapositions, emotional openings, startling presences, and flight paths to the external.” It truly is “A Wonderful World” if we just get up and re-discover it.
Photo Credit: Flickr