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Youth Popular Cultures and Music Analytical Essay


Scholars have reviewed youths and popular music cultures across the globe, and they show that the trend is likely to continue as new genres of music emerge. We note that youth popular cultures and movements have transformed societies by contributing to some progressive forms in terms of sexuality, gender, race, and cultural developments. Most studies tend to look at the impacts of youth cultures and music on society.

We must acknowledge that youth culture has radically transformed and changed the world through different genres of music. Since 1956, social issues like gender roles, race relations, aging processes, and sexuality have taken different turns due to forces of music.

As a result, studies tend to look at youths of today alongside the popular music cultures. Some scholars refer to such youth cultures as unfairly maligned. Youth cultures have influenced social changes for the past fifty years and have instilled values in societies that can never change (Danesi, 2010, p. 13).

Global context

The explosion of compact discs of the 1990s rocked China hard and had great impacts on its youths. The Chinese youths had the opportunity to try the new types of trendy lifestyles and sounds from the music. They referred to this as dakou CDs. These CDs became the new identity of the Chinese emerging youths. In fact, this generation abandoned the culture of the Maoist to concentrate on the emerging forms of leisure activities.

The music of 1990s also emerged and grew with China as it seeks cultural and economic growth in the global scene. Consequently, there were social challenges in Chinese society among the youths (de Kloet, 2005, p. 15). Sociologists have shown interests in studying activities of adolescents, and how they react to social changes in society, cultural issues, and cross-cultural influences in the global scene. However, it is only sociologists and some scholars who have remained experts on youth popular cultures and other social issues.

The study of youth emerged from the West after a period of rapid industrialization and social changes in structures of the society. However, serious studies began during the 1960s with such music as Punks, Hippies, the anti-war demonstrations, Beatles fans, and so on. Studies on the Western youth cultures revealed self-conscious individuals of consistent behavior demonstrated by attitude and trends in lifestyles (Arnett, 2002, p. 36).

This became known as the youth subculture. What stood out in the subculture of the Western youths were their levels of self-consciousness and manner of self-expression. The music was loud. There was a distinguishing hairstyle, fashion, behavior, and a tendency to reject any form of culture perceived as conservative or adult oriented. Though studies of the youths came from the West, analytical methods for researching Western urban youth cultures can easily apply in studying the Chinese urban youths.

Following the adoption of new lifestyles and trends as a result of Western music, Chinese youths became factors of study to determine their self-consciousness in relation to their societies. In the recent past, the growth and transfer of various types of music, such as rock ‘n’ roll, hip hop, and other forms of music entertainment only contributed to the expansion and consolidation of the urban youth style that is different from the old generation and other cultural outcomes.

We have always believed that Chinese had strong cultural orientations based on the wise teachings of their philosophers. Thus, we may think that a Chinese would not easily give up his culture for a foreign one. However, this is not the case as industrialization began to change Chinese society. Chinese youths had the opportunity to interact with the Western music and produce their music based on imitation to reflect their popular culture.

Most urban areas of China have experienced such changes. Consequently, some different forms of youth culture have emerged in urban China due to quick development and industrialization. Even in remote villages, Chinese youths would reflect the urban influence of popular youth cultures through their attires, music and so on. Most Chinese youth cultures originated from the popular cultures of urban music.

These changes are evident in their behaviors. Chinese youths have suddenly increased what were only popular in the Western world, such as materialism and consumerism, demand for self rights, individualism, active premarital sex, rebellion, and experimentation with new lifestyles.

Some scholars have approached the issue of youth popular cultures from a global perspective and view it as a problem of globalization. They argue that the youth is a generation at crossroad. Such is the case of Columbia studies conducted by Dennis. Dennis argues that challenges facing the youths in terms of cultural representation results from negative effects of globalization.

He argues that it is globalization that has promoted imbalances in society seen in socio-political ills, such as poverty, violence, warfare, and income inequalities among others. He further notes that such prevailing social ills in Colombia have great impacts on the racial minorities of Afro-Colombian origins. The youths find means of expressing such socio-political ills through rap music because they do not get any benefits from effects of globalization (Denis, 2006, p. 276).

According to Dennis, the content of the hip hop music expresses frustration and dissent due to inaccessible of benefits of globalization. This reflects broken promises, and such youth know that such advantages cannot be for all members of the society. It is the globalization that has led to changes in cultures and youth identities as seen in Afro-Colombian youths. Some youths have found themselves integrated into the modern economic and cultural trend of globalization.

Afro-Colombian youths can only use their music to construct their identities. These youths can only use hip hop to establish themselves both in the local and international societies. They have turned their music talents into cultural and professional activities for defining their ethnical identities. Their performances also reflect their ethnic-racial identities and cultural importance of their roots.

These artists have learnt the art of combining both the local and foreign elements of different cultures into their music to enable them celebrate their origins, define their black identity, and localities. Such forms of music do not fit in any culture due to combination of different cultures from other parts of the world.

Dennis refers to this culture as autonomous culture and neocolonial dependence. In order to understand the Afro-Colombian culture, we must first understand their histories and cultures. This is because its form of hip hop music keeps on changing in terms of discourse, forms, cultural, and narrations in the global context (Denis, 2006, p. 279). Just like in other societies, the popular music culture has also penetrated the identities of adolescents in Poland.

These are complex changes that affect Polish society over several decades. The popular music of the Polish reflected various aspects of their everyday lives under the guidance of communism ideologies. At the same time, they also experienced economic strain on their musical experiences. However, Polish youths and popular music cultures became complex and fragmented after 1989. This was after the democratic revolution (Kotarba, 2002, p. 233).

The Polish youth music experience shows significant changes in three major ways. First, the popular music culture of the US or Britain has reached Polish youth through various means such as the Internet, and popular music TV channels among others. Second, Polish youths heavily borrow from the popular international music for creating their own local versions.

Third, some Polish artists have remained true to their cultural roots, musical styles, and traditional music. These combinations of music have served the western youths in creating their own subcultures of adolescents.

Hip hop music has influenced many youths across the world. However, the main challenge is how to fuse hip hop and local music among youths. Australian Aboriginals youths are enthusiastic about hip hop music just like any exposed youths in society. Among Australian youths, hip hop has served as a form of expression particularly with regard to expression of socio-political agendas. It is in hip hop music where Aboriginal youths find solid foundations for their self-expressions.

At the same time, hip hop serves them with the purpose of providing youth identification (Morgan and Warren, 2011, p. 925). People blame the rap and hip hop for moral deterioration in Australia. They view these forms of music as purely African-America musical styles. According to Australians, hip hop is the major cause of problems they have in the country with reference to youths. They believe that hip hop and rap music portray violence, pimping, misogyny, sudden wealth, machismo, and brutality.

These bad influences reach the youths through popular music TV channels, music videos, and commercial radio stations. These characteristics of hip hop and rap music have given politicians a chance to blame these forms of music on almost all unrests across the world involving the youths. On the other hand, the Aboriginal hip hop is not like African-American forms of hip hop and rap. In fact, Morgan and Warren observe that most native Australian hip hop music portrays the elements of hip hop as positive.

These elements include MCing, graffiti, DJing, and breaking. In Australia, they see their native, Aboriginal hip hop as a channel through which youths can express themselves, give the disadvantaged youths opportunities for recognition and as a way of encouraging the use of indigenous languages (Morgan and Warren, 2011, p. 927). Aboriginal language is native and unwritten language. It remains a language of expression in terms of arts, rituals, dance, and others.

Given this context, Aboriginal hip hop blends well with this native language. The use of local language has enhanced majority of Australians to know a lot about their native hip hop. The use of local language has enabled Aboriginal elders to encourage young people to participate in hip hop music.

This has also increased the number of Aboriginal youths participating in hip hop music industry. Hip hop has become a means of exploring one’s identity and relating with their traditional ways of life. On the other hand, when we look at Aboriginal hip hop from the educational point of view, we notice that it gives the youths opportunities to express their pride in their roots, anger, join the community through performances, storytelling, and consider their places in the modern society.

Scholars who have taken keen interests argue that American rap, hip hop, or gangsta music provides a way of expressing deviant culture that reflects a message of social criticism, resistance, drug, violence, and empowerment among others. They also note that the analyses tend to avoid the explicit sexist and misogynist contents of such music. They have noted that most gangsta rap music contents are violence, misogynist relation to use of certain terms such as bitch.

Gangsta music has created its documented domain in the study of African-American music and culture. Further studies look into gangsta music and violence, and misogynist tendencies, gender relationships, and crime. These are some the few meanings scholars are trying to link with the explicit gangsta music (Riley, 2005, p. 297). Most sociologists always strive to establish the link between gangsta music and social problems in society.

They argue that it is the gangsta music that is responsible for the promotion of a value-free society through representation of romanticizing themes in the lyrics. These representations usually portray women as celebrating their pimping nature and explicit lifestyle. In addition, they note that the erosion of America values in 1989 occurred as a result of rap music, which tried promoting the lifestyles of gangsters and sluts.

However, the music is becoming tame as time goes. Sociologists look at the role of language in gangsta music. They argue that language acts a form of symbolism for behavior itself. Consequently, they are trying to establish the role language plays in defining interpersonal relations. They note that the use of language influences the manner in which we see what is real. In addition, they note that words are just like actions, particular when practiced instead of expressed (Schneider, 2011, p. 36). We must understand rap music in its verbal form.

This allows us easily analyze the content and interprets the lyrical messages of songs. A comparison of meanings in gangsta music will inform us of what language codes it represents. The music codes have their distinct meanings that sociologists use to interpret lyrical contents of rap music.


Youth popular cultures and music have become established part of everyday life across the globe. This observation is evident from reading some literature across the world. We have also seen how Western music has influenced the entire youth populations in relations to music they consume and what it says about them. Thus, we can establish the relationship between youth popular cultures and music within the context of their identities, and relations in the modern society.

Youths produce and consume their own music in a manner that reflects their self-consciousness, self identity, and society. Societies in which youths operate define their identities. A closer look at Chinese youths and their music cultures show that their cultures emerged during 1990s at the time of globalization. This influence came from the US through compact discs. Chinese youths copied some aspects of the US music for production of their own.

On the other hand, Afro-Columbian youths use music for condemnation of negative effects of globalization, reinforce their black identity, and express their anger and frustration. The Aboriginal youths try to relate with their traditions through their hip hop music. This shows that youth popular cultures and music depend on the social environment of youths. In such cases, the music tends to reflect what their main sources of concern might be.


Arnett, J. (2002). Adolescents in Western countries on the threshold of the 21st century. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Danesi, M. (2010). Geeks, Goths, and Gangstas: Perspectives on Youth Culture. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press Inc.

de Kloet, J. (2005). Popular music and youth in urban China. China Quaterly, 183, 609-626.

Denis, C. (2006). Afro-Columbian hip-hop: Globalization, popular music, and ethnic identities. Studies in Latin America Popular Culture, 25, 276-295.

Kotarba, J. (2002). Popular music and teenagers in post-Communist Poland. Studies in Symbolic Interaction, 25, 233-246.

Morgan, G, and Warren, A. (2011). Aboriginal youth, hip hop and the politics of identification. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 34(6), 925-947.

Riley, A. (2005). The rebirth of the tragedy out of the spirit of hip hop: A cultural sociology of gangsta rap music. Journal of Youth Studies, 8(3), 297-311.

Schneider, C. J. (2011). Culture, rap music, “bitch” and the development of the censorship frame. American Behavioral Scientist, 55(1), 36-56.

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1. IvyPanda. "Youth Popular Cultures and Music." December 26, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/youth-culture/.


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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Youth Popular Cultures and Music'. 26 December.

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