Pain & Pleasure Sells in the 1990s
As times change and our country continues to adapt to its evolution, music coincides with America’s altering state. Musicians of the 1990s apply aspects of their own lives into their lyrics to sell themselves. Whether positive messages or negative, fans envy the lives that musicians in the 1990s sing about. The decade began with an attraction towards street-life, pain and agony in music with bands like the Nirvana and Metallica. Even in other genres like rap music, gang-life and drugs became commonly bragged about. N.W.A, Tupac Shakur, and Christopher Wallace (Notorious B.I.G) all expressed this life in the hood. In addition, pop artists utilize their flawless physical features to sell their music. Madonna and the envious Britney Spears signify this form of lyrical expression. From the early 1990s to today, all of the popular musicians earned their success through their lyrical representation of life. Some found prestige in focusing on life’s hardships, while others chose to express life’s wonders. Either way, artists of the 1990s incorporate aspects of their daily lives into their lyrics to successfully sell their image. In doing so, the artists provide a subject that their fans can relate to and in essence become increasingly fond of.
The decade began with an attraction towards heavy metal rock, a craze carrying over from the years before. Long flailing hair, ear piercing guitars, pounding drums, and loud rambling is what made up these compositions. As rock grew increasingly popular, fans began searching for bands with messages they could relate to. Metallica was a perfect example of the changing attitudes of fans. The band was known for their grungy street look and sound. Head bangers admired their quick pace tone, and mainstream music supporters respected their vocals. They continued to sing about true struggles until, of course, they became superstars with no further troubles to speak of. Their music earned them fame and fortune, but at the same time, money sold out their image. After all, they are the band who tried to bring the free file sharing service, Napster, to its demise. Various rock genres spawned from the changing appreciation of fans like punk rock, a hip-hop/rock blend, and alternative rock. Many of these types of bands, for instance, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and Sublime, sang about similar struggles. The most memorable and noticeable of their struggles was their uncontrolled drug use. Both of the band’s lead singers were known for their heroin addictions. Anthony Kiedis of Red Hot Chilli Pepper’s wrote a song about his use of narcotics titled “Under the Bridge.” Although he regretted his drug use, he still revealed his issues publicly. Anthony Kiedis sang, “Under the bridge downtown/ Is where I drew some blood/ Under the bridge downtown/ I could not get enough…” (RHCP). Referring to his widely known heroin addiction, the artist released his problems to the world and, in effect, augmented his stardom. Sublime’s guitarist and vocalist, Brad Nowell, kicked his album 40 Oz. to Freedom off with a classic song entitled “Smoke Two Joints” with the lyrics: “I smoke two joints in the morning/ I smoke two joints at night/ I smoke two joints in the afternoon/ it makes me feel alright” (Sublime). While marijuana was the least of his troubles, he still supported and encouraged listeners to smoke it. Unsurprisingly, this single was one from an album entitled 40 Oz. to Freedom. Not only did his songs provide messages encouraging drug use, the title of his album implied that the consumption of alcohol brings freedom. Unfortunately, Brad Nowell fell to his heroin addiction at the age of twenty-eight. His lyrical messages may not have been positive for his fans, but both Brad Nowell of Sublime, and Anthony Kiedis of Red Hot Chilli Peppers did not intend to corrupt their listeners. On the contrary, they were simply singing about their own...
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