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Pop Culture by Jeanine Chiu

Mainstream music, bubble tea and blue jeans (a.k.a. pop culture) are ruining society, especially the younger generation.

Case in point: Those hopelessly mushy love songs by those hopelessly cute boy bands, played over and over the radio, that basically all say the same thing - 'I love you', or 'I love you, please come back to me' - just in different words. Their sing-along tunes are addictive; hear it once and remember it for your next two lifetimes. Those songs sell. Those bands sell. Girls swoon over their favourites, buying every CD, poster and postcard sporting the band's images. They attend every concert, no matter the sky-high price. It's all one big marketing stunt-- get a bunch of cute guys (air brushing can erase any slight blemish) who can sort-of sing (don't worry, if they can't, the newest technology will help smoothen all those little mistakes out), write songs for them, publicise them on every TV network, sell them hard, and make millions of dollars out of young impressionable teenage girls.

And then you have those angsty rock songs, claiming that life is horrible, terrible, evil and assorted other degrees of "bad". I, however, feel that life is beautiful, however clichéd that may sound. Whatever goes up comes down, and so whatever that's down has to go up sometime. Life will improve, just wait. Maybe you might agree with these doomsayers (I wouldn't be surprised, with all that homework we get), but listening to angsty songs will only get you all the more worked up. Filled with senseless shouting and no tune to speak of (yet with a world-wide base of fans), the world of angst-ridden heavy metal/punk/alternative rock is one of pink hair, black skull shirts, clanging metal dustbin lids, tattoos and money.

As you might have guessed, I am biased against pop music, especially teenyboppers like Britney Spears. They appeal to our senses, especially the sense of sight, but if you open your eyes wider and look beyond their looks, you won't find much. Just some noise, throwaway "I love you"s and a simple though catchy tune. I prefer thoughtful songs with proper melodies like Simon and Garfunkel, the folk rock duo of the 60s. Most of you have probably never heard of them, but their songs inspire you the way no pop song can. Each tells a story, beautifully crafted.

Admittedly I am a stickler for oldies, but to show that I'm not completely biased - I have recently taken a liking to Jewel. She's made it on her own, and writes her own songs, unlike most 'manufactured' singers / bands of today. In addition, Jewel's songs are much kinder to your eardrums, and they inspire you so much more.

To give another example of how the marketing industry has come after us impressionable teenagers - there is the most recent ( albeit dying ) trend, bubble tea. The sugar-saturated brink, studded with tapioca pearls, took over Singapore just a few short months ago. All the 'cool' kids started to drink bubble tea, and the rest of us followed suit. Queues for this new drink grew as long as those for 4-D and Toto, and to keep up with consumer demand, the list of different flavours grew longer than the combination of 4-D numbers available! Bubble tea shops sprung up like mushrooms all over the island (remember that M1 commercial? 99.9% of the island is served by bubble tea). We teenagers were thrilled and fascinated with the new flavours and exotic-sounding names (e.g. Blue Coral), and just had to try every single flavour out. (I swear there's an addictive substance in there that makes us crave for more.)

Blue jeans, unlike bubble tea, have been part of the pop culture for as long as I can remember. 40-odd years ago, bell-bottoms were the item everyone had to own. Studded with the trademark sequins of that era, bell-bottoms were accompanied by shirts in varying hues of neon orange, pink and yellow, adorned with tons of flower-like motifs. Now, bell-bottoms are no longer in fashion; instead, they have been replaced by the super-low-riding jeans made popular by the likes of Britney Spears. To me, they look as though they are going to fall off any moment!

Pop culture has infiltrated our society. And it has infected not just the younger generation, but also our elders. You can spot middle-aged aunties queuing up for bubble tea or pointing at the newest CD by Westlife excitedly. Or old grandfathers wearing sunglasses and watching (Chinese) MTV. Pop culture is here to stay, and there is no way to escape it.