Out with the old, in with the new?

How music messages have changed from the old generation to the new

Above: We Are the World singers in 2013 (1). Below: BTS at MelOn music awards in 2018 (2). Sources: (1) Miraclemusicinc.com; (2) Youtube



Music has been shown to hold great power in the way that it can change the mind, whether you know about music therapy or even simply how a song makes a person feel.

In multiple instances, fans tell their favourite artists that the music the artists produced changed the fans lives for the better.

By helping people out of depressive states or making fans feel confident to take on any day, it is almost as if music is what saves lives. 

However, music is not always a peaceful subject as people’s preferences bleed into what genres are deemed acceptable or not.

These thoughts are subjective, yet fans still attack other artists and their fanbases.

A popular case of this is the old vs. new movement. 

Older generations (about 40+) are known to dislike newer songs as they claim that current music has no meaning or message. Hence the nickname ‘oldhead,’ as the current generation believes that the older generation is just bitter, refusing to move with the times.  

Considering this, music enthusiasts Toro Fawehinmi, 60; and Faye Grant, 21, spoke about their views on current and old music and why they like these sounds. 

Music from the older generation

For Fawehinmi, growing up in Nigeria, she mentioned a popular Nigerian form of music called ‘juju,’ which is not common in the UK. This kind of music uses ‘yoruba percussion,’ to make music that she said made her feel “joyous and warm,”  

Pictured: King Sunny Adé performing in concert. Source: Flickr. Licensed by: GNU FDL courtesy of Afropop.org

Fawehinmi also mentioned an artist named King Sunny Adé, who made positive Yoruba juju music (Yoruba being a popular tribe and language in Nigeria). In one of his songs, Sunny and another artist called Onyeka Onwenu sang about sexual responsibility. 

Fawehinmi had heard of the song and spoke highly of it as she said that, “He [Sunny] really influenced people to not act promiscuously because everyone respected him. Now I never really hear about much else but money, sex, and drugs,” which is a common sentiment among those her age.  

Another common sentiment was in Toro’s love for Michael Jackson. Among hits such as ‘smooth criminal,’ and ‘Billy Jean,’ one of her favourite songs was ‘We are the World.’  

Once again, Fawehinmi was enamored with the message and called the tune, “A beautiful song.” The song uses massive star power from many high profile singers from Stevie Wonder to Lionel Richie.

Furthermore, the song was used to bring Americans together to raise money for a struggling Africa, hence the name ‘USA for Africa.’ 

In the end, the song raised about 50 million USD and won song of the year at the Grammys. 


Music from the newer generation

It is important to note that not everyone will agree with the representation of the current generation of music listeners.

This is because there are a lot of younger adults who still appreciate music from a previous time.

However, there are still other genres of music who have an enormous following and whose fans care little for older music. 

Enter Faye Grant, a 21-year-old with a love for the popular K-Pop boy band, BTS. 

Pictured: Faye Grant holding two BTS images. Photo taken by Eri Ojewale

“I listen to them all the time and I love them. They even helped me get through mental health issues as a teenager,” said Grant. 

Debuting in 2013, BTS did not necessarily get off to a great start with songs such as war of hormone containing sexist lyrics. “The lyrics were definitely not great, I cringed a little when I heard the song,” said Grant. 

For many, this became an easy BTS write-off as they became just another boy band talking about women.  

However, for fans like Grant, this was not a reason to completely write off the band. This appeared to be a good decision as the backlash from this and other songs sparked change within the group. 

Currently, one of the members (RM) takes his lyrics to a women’s studies professor to avoid derogatory lyrics. Additionally, BTS issued an apology about misogynistic songs with a promise to do better. 

Nowadays, they have songs like “Life goes on,” which championed strength through the pandemic. This song helped BTS become the first Korean group to break the language barrier in the US. Grant said that, “This song brought me great joy and made the pandemic that much easier to live through.” 

Other BTS songs also have positive messages, and BTS are now on hiatus to do military service. It is safe to say that they have come a long way and have changed their brand to reflect good values.

King Sunny Adé and Michael Jackson, exhibited good messages to young people, whether it’s to love yourself, or support others. People love this about older music, which is reflected in older songs representing 70% of the music market.  

However, it must be said that there are still groups such as BTS who are changing the industry positively. This is done through language infusion into western society, and by spreading positive values which also influence the youth.