Apocalyptic music, so what?

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Summary and Analysis

So what does contemporary music say about the end of the world? As we have seen the answer to this question varies from genre to genre. For the two examples in rock music we saw that bands like Slayer use apocalyptic imagery and themes to express their dark vision of life. Other bands such as Rage Against The Machine see apocalypse as a possible result from a battle between good and evil. Rage's music deals with issues of how American society operates and they rebel when they interpret it as a dystopia of corruption and oppression. Los Angeles becomes the battle ground for them in their album 'The Battle of Los Angeles" and we once again see how L.A can be characterized as the future focal point for the end of the world.

In the genre of rap we saw how an environment of violence and death, such as the ghettos of the U.S., can seem apocalyptic to rappers like Busta Rhymes and Nas. The solution to tribulation is to either make the public aware of the situation or by rising above the fight and acting like a prophet or savior. Thus, we see that artistically these rappers take this theme as the backdrop in which they prove themselves to the world. In their lyrics they suggest that even if the world ends they still survive. This too can be seen as way to inspire their listeners to get through their dangerous environment and survive.

In the examples of pop music it was made evident that the higher selling artist have a more positive view of the millennium. For artist like Will Smith and Jennifer Lopez the millennium is nothing but a party and time to celebrate. Their music calls for the listener to have fun and not worry about things such as Y2K. We also saw however, that the millennium hype was used as a marketing tool for selling more albums, as the example of The Backstreet Boys album "Millennium" proved. Thus, it seems as though this genre had a more economic spin on the millennium which each artist used to their advantage. Similarly, with the example of Michael Card, we saw that an artist of higher social standing had a more positive view of the apocalypse. People of worship find hope in the book of Revelation and don't see the apocalypse as the end but the beginning of life through the salvation by Christ. Therefore, instead of mayhem and destruction being the focus, spiritual music emphasizes the positive side of apocalypse as a way to be united with God and Jesus. Finally, Richard D. James and the Aphex Twin project showed us that in a genre like electronic music a vision of both utopia and dystopia can be expressed on an album. Therefore, expressing that many of us often travel between these two ideas of society in the future as a utopia or a dystopia.

We can conclude that modern music is an interpretation of how different social classes reacted to the millennium. Generally speaking, for those on the higher end of the pay scale the millennium was a time to celebrate and look to future in a positive light. On the other hand those that are lower in social standing saw the millennium as a time for tribulation, a battle of good versus evil, and a time for the little guy to rise up and survive. It goes without saying that different social classes can listen to all types of music. Many rich kids in suburbs across the U.S. buy Rage Against the Machine albums. Poor people alike often buy the music of The Backstreet Boys because it expresses a more hopeful view of the future and perhaps because they are inspired by the fame and fortune of the artist.  However, we can say that for the most part the artist represent the views of a specific social class in our society. I leave you with the following questions to consider:

What type of music did you listen to before the millennium?

Does your taste in music represent your social standing?

How does your taste in music relate to your view of the apocalypse?

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