Meaning in music: Lost or misinterpreted?

Allison Blaszak, Staff Writer

Music is prevalent in everyday life, whether on the radio, in commercial ads or in television shows.  Though musicians are using the principal components from some past musical methods, a voice and some instruments, today’s changing music does pose a question: has music today lost the implied meaning it had in the past?  Ultimately, the answer is a matter of listener opinion and their choice to find meaning.

Two key aspects illuminate the meaning within a song: personal preference and experience. Individuals inform their beliefs based on those two aspects.  Neuqua choir director and AP music theory teacher J. Ryan Rimington further defined this thought. He placed the answer in the context of the “way music is used in a culture” versus the preference among people, and his response is the use for music is the same “while it might sound different now than it used to, the use of music, the purpose and the substance hasn’t changed”, implying the meaning is still the same. The meaning is to produce something with a purpose of reaching an audience.

There is a certain stigma around pop artists that their music is  “simplistic.” “We’ve gotten into this very predictable musical age,” explained Rimington,  but “people are trying to go against the grain a little bit… people are being probably very discerning with the music they’re choosing to listen to.”

Ariana Grande has been an artist for more than 10 years, producing many songs, such as “Dangerous Woman” and “Side to Side” in 2016 . Both songs had many plays on the radio, and placed on the play charts.  People may disregard Grande’s work and assume that it is simplistic because she is a pop artist. While some pop music may be musically simplistic, the lyrics can still have meaning. In Grande’s recently released album Sweetener,  the closing song “get well soon” informs the audience that they are not alone with the lyrics, “When you need someone to pull you through the bubble, I’ll be there just to hug you, I’ll be there.” People may disregard the song’s message because of the musical simplicity often present in popular music.

While artists may be producing music that sounds similar, it is evident that the purpose of music is still included in these songs. It is the public biases that have changed in the music industry. Personal opinion is important to highlight, but in the end the listener needs to separate preference from meaning, in order to not misinterpret what the artist is trying to say.