Music has long been a determiner, not only of social mood, but ideological philosophy and the state of a generation.
It has defined generations’ actions, as seen in the ‘60s, as well as helped serve as an outlet for frustrations in troubling times, as seen in the late ‘70s and early ‘90s.
Music is all of these things, but it is also an artifact that can be preserved and help define different time periods for future generations. That being said, what is our generation’s music going to say about us, our political beliefs, and our values?
Although music has played a major part in American culture since the early twentieth century, it was not until the rise of the Baby Boomers and the ‘60s that it began to define generations and help define their moods and attitudes.
The music of the 60’s represented anger towards a commonly perceived unjust war and mass social and civil injustices. It served as a way for young people to come together and stand against these issues, in unison, and helped portray their moods and attitudes.
The mid-to-late 70’s saw the rise of glam and punk rock and represented the rebellion of a young generation who had not only been betrayed by the government thanks to the Watergate scandal but who also found themselves unable to find jobs thanks to an economic period that mirrors ours today.
It was a dark time filled with doubt and uncertainty, in which few trusted the government and many were craving to find a way to express that anger.
The 80’s saw the rise of pop and hair metal, which in many ways were polar opposites, but both represented the rise of excess and consumption that was beginning to play a larger and larger role in American society.
With the rise of malls and MTV, the 80’s was a time of expansion and a “carefree” philosophy towards the future, represented by both the hair metal and pop movements.
The early 90’s saw the rise of grunge music, which spoke for a lot of young people who were tired of the “traditional” American lifestyle and excess and, like the youth of the 70’s, wanted a way out.
The music of the early 90’s went on to define “Generation X” and they are seen as a generation who tried to break the mold and create a world that was very different than the ones their parents created.
That leads to where we are today, the post-grunge era. It has been the dominant theme and mood for the past 20 years. It portrays a message of mindless excess and indulgence, mixed in with a “me first” attitude.
It mirrors much of the national mood through the 90’s and much of the 2000’s. Although the mood of the country changed after the economic downturn, the music stayed very much the same or moved even further towards self-indulgence and a “me first” culture.
The question is do we want our generation to be defined by our music? Do we want to be seen as the generation of excess and mindless indulgence, especially as the world is rapidly changing around us? I, for one, hope to be seen in a better light.
Jordan Posner can be contacted at