These are the pop anthems of our generation, and their collective message is perturbing. The lyrics in individual songs may be innocuous when they stand alone, but when irresponsibility is perpetually glorified in the public eye (or ear, rather), we cannot help but feel these social pressures to revel in our youth. However, we owe it to ourselves to not become products of the pop culture industry. The message our age group needs to hear is this: It’s okay to strive toward tomorrow instead of living purely for today.
A cultural expectation exists for us, as college students, to toss caution to the winds come weekends, thanks to a plethora of songs like Drake’s “The Motto” (of YOLO fame), Avril Lavigne’s “Here’s to Never Growing Up,” and pretty much anything uttered by Ke$ha or Miley Cyrus. Young people are encouraged through these compositions to live solely in the moment and without regard to potential consequences, which is, needless to say, a dangerous mindset. Keeping tomorrow in mind is imperative for people our age, since we are on the verge of becoming active participants in the real world.
The expectation of irresponsibility perpetuated by the pop music industry is frustrating. We, as a generation, are working diligently in our classes and at our part-time jobs in order to secure successful futures. While relaxing after a long week of classes or labor is undeniably necessary on occasion, our early adult years are not always, as today’s pop anthems suggest, solely devoted to carefree bouts of experimentation.
Though Lavigne sings, “We’re never gonna change…we can stay forever young,” we, unlike the perpetually juvenile vocalist, are constantly growing and changing—it is our versatility, our current ability to work toward ideal futures that should be celebrated, not our temporary freedom from adult responsibilities.
Refusing to face the future, as the music of our culture advocates, is cowardly. Today’s music condones a fear of growing older with its lyrics like “we’re gonna live while we’re young” (One Direction), “Young hearts, out (of) our minds, runnin’ like we outta time,” (Ke$ha), and “we are only young if we seize the night” (The Wanted). The music itself is harmless, even catchy; it’s only when these lyrics are examined en masse that our cultural thirst for eternal youth becomes overwhelmingly apparent.
Growing older should not be feared, though—we may gain responsibilities, but isn’t that what we want? We’re in college to gain the experience necessary to ensure that we will move forward from this temporary state of not-quite-adulthood. We should, of course, enjoy being young, but desperately clinging to these more carefree years like so many of today’s artists is not healthy for us or for our society.
The future holds great potential. Why, then, would we follow the mantras of sheltered musicians when we are continuously working in favor of our futures?
The lives of the artists who endorse happy-go-lucky lifestyles simply cannot be compared to our own. Celebrity musicians acquire more money in their lifetimes than we’re ever likely to see, so their personal responsibilities and spending habits are vastly different from the average twenty-something’s. Young talents are prematurely successful, so of course they want to avoid maturity. If we were to closely mimic the actions described by the music of our society’s pop culture icons, we would quickly find ourselves broke and jobless. Though these song lyrics insinuate that carefree attitudes can lead to happiness, the disparity between celebrity and ordinary lifestyles cannot be ignored.
The songs of our generation are correct in saying that youth should be celebrated, but not because growing older is something to be feared. Rather, we should revel in the opportunities provided by youth to grow and mature into better versions of our present selves.
September Symens is a junior English and journalism major from Omaha, Neb.