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Does Music Have a Color?

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Next Monday, January 21 is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a holiday that is supposed to celebrate the life and legacy of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I think that it is also a day to take time out and think about how we can honor Dr. King’s dream of equality through not only civil rights, but through things we enjoy everyday. For instance, music.

Last summer, I came across an article on the Huffington Post entitled, “Does Music Have a Color?” The article discusses a social project that involves interviewing black and white residents of Brooklyn in order to see if music truly has a particular color. It reminded me of a conversation I had with my Dad once.

We were talking about music and I asked if he knew that I listened to rock music most of the time. He replied, “Yeah. I listen to some white music sometimes too.”

That reply disturbed me. Why should rock music be considered “white music”? Furthermore, why any of the music my dad listened to (i.e. blues, funk, old school r&b) be considered “black music”? Is it because rock musicians are mostly white and blues, funk, and r & b musicians are mostly black?

The thing that bothers me about the social project mentioned in the Huffington Post article is that only black and white people are interviewed. I understand that it is easier to just interview two races, but it is a flaw when it comes to its purpose. In order to truly answer the question we must take the musician, the everyday music listener, and every race possible into account.

A few weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised to hear a Japanese singer named Mika Nakashima show up on my online J-rock station. Japanese rock and japanese pop is considered the norm for most contemporary japanese musicians. Only, Nakashima wasn’t singing J-rock or even J-pop music. She was singing a jazz song  called “Love Addict”. I thought “A Japanese singer doing jazz?” for about thirty seconds, then just enjoyed the music. The singer and the music sounded so good, nothing else mattered.

A thing I think would have made the social project more interesting is the age demographic. If it had been done among young people ages thirteen through eighteen, I think the answers would have been more black and white. I feel this way because of my personal experience with music as a teen.

At that time, I felt like I had to listen to what my black peers were listening to because I was black. This consisted of hip-hop and contemporary r & b music. From sixth grade through ninth grade, I did that in order to feel accepted. It made me feel so fake, because I couldn’t personally connect to the music and yet I felt like I had to listen to the music because I was black.

Eventually, I met a Hispanic girl who introduced me to alternative rock music and soundtrack music and I fell in love with both genres. I also realized that this was a girl who liked these genres enough to tell others about them and not care what they think. If she could do that, then why couldn’t I?

When it comes to listening to the music, your race and the musician’s race shouldn’t matter. When it comes to appreciating the music, it is okay to take race into account somewhat.

I take pride in knowing that rock music would not have existed without black musicians like Chuck Berry, BB King, and Little Richard. Without them, The Beatles may have never been formed. However,  just because I take pride in this, doesn’t mean I get snobby about it. I don’t listen to the Beatles cover a Chuck Berry song and say, “The Beatles are trying to steal from Chuck Berry.”  Like it or not, I listen to what original songs the Beatles have created before I judge them.

To sum up everything, let me borrow a few words from Dr. King. Let the musicians not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their music. Let the listeners not be judged by the color of their skin or music taste, but by the content of their character.

Written by Serena Zola

January 14, 2013 at 9:00 PM

The Truth About Goth and Emo

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When I was in high school, I didn’t know anything real about teen stereotypes, because well, they were stereotypes. It wasn’t until I befriended a goth girl, became labeled a nerd, and read books and a couple of teen newspaper articles about teen stereotypes that I became more knowledgable. Over time, I realized that while stereotypes can be a way for teens to identify themselves, they could also be used to misjudge others. While I was a nerd in high school, I also developed a goth and emo side to myself. Yet, others didn’t know about these sides about me for two reasons. The first reason is that I didn’t look goth or emo; I only looked like a nerd because I was smart and wore glasses. The second reason is that there were little to no goths in my class. The only reason I befriended a goth girl was because she was in a different grade from me.

Due to circumstances beyond my control, I did most of my self identification alone. Because of this, I didn’t develop my goth and emo sides until after I graduated high school. It was during this time that I was starting to figure out what the goth and emo stereotypes were. Goths seemed to be kids who were happy, wore all black, worshipped the devil, and were extroverted. On the other hand, emos wore all black with bits of color and were depressed kids who wrote dark poetry, self injure by cutting themselves, and were introverted. Emos and goths were also outcasts in school;  goths take pride in it, but emos hate themselves. It is the style of emo and goth that causes teens to confuse goths with emos and vice versa. During this time, I was more emo than goth. While I didn’t dress like one or self injure,  I was depressed and insecure and I wrote poetry as a hobby and outlet.

Another thing that defines a teen as emo is the music they listen to. The music is usually rock and contain lyrics that show hurt & comfort or upbeatness. Some examples of bands that have been called emo are My Chemical Romance, Black Veiled Brides, and Tokio Hotel. As I developed my emo side, I began listening to Tokio Hotel. Most of the songs I listened to were hurt and comfort, but I also listened to a couple of upbeat ones too.

It is the hurting side of emo music as well as the self injury that causes the emo stereotype to become controversial. It causes emo kids to be seen as “whiners” by their peers and dangerous to themselves by parents. While the hurting side of emo music can cause some emo teens to wallow in self pity, it doesn’t mean that all emo music is bad. In fact, it is the upbeat emo music that makes things better. A year after I got into Tokio Hotel, I started listening to another band called FallOutBoy. While their music covers different rock sounds, their album Infinity On High has an emo vibe to it. However, the songs I listened to were more upbeat instead of self pitying. Songs like The Carpal Tunnel of Love made me get up and dance. They also made me feel better about myself.

As for the self injuring, depressed, and self-pitying side of emo, these things have been around before this stereotype appeared.  As I’ve already stated, a person can have these issues without looking like they are emo. Self injury is just an unhealthy way for teens and other people to find release from overwhelming emotions or circumstances. Emo teens, like any other teen, can feel depressed and overwhelmed for a variety of reasons. It can be as a result of school problems, family problems, personal problems, or any combination of issues. If they are not dealt with properly, then the teen can have a pessimistic outlook on life, which is what causes them to be seen as “whiny” by their peers. They feel as if they are stuck in whatever circumstances they are in, and that nothing they do can change it.

Not long after I got into FallOutBoy, I began to develop my gothic side. First, I started listening to gothic music. Most people think gothic music is just heavy metal with screaming, but that’s not the case. While gothic music is usually a sub- genre of rock, it can also be classical. An example of this is the music of Adrian Von Ziegler. Furthermore, the goth I befriended in high school played cello in the school orchestra. In addition, classical music and rock music have formed a genre known as symphonic metal. Since most of the bands in this genre are international, it isn’t well-known to most people in the United States. Some examples of symphonic metal bands are Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Apocalyptica. According to comments I saw on YouTube, some people who listen to symphonic metal are called goth or emo.

Another thing I did to develop my gothic side was read gothic literature. Most teens today count paranormal books like Twilight as gothic literature. Some teens even go further and call fans of the series goth or emo. While I did read a similar vampire themed series, I do not count neither this nor Twilight as gothic literature. By gothic literature, I mean the works of Edgar Allan Poe. I loved his poetry the most, but his horror stories were entertaining as well.  Even the goth I befriended enjoyed his dark poetry, and wrote some of her own as a hobby.

It is the music and literature of the goth and emo stereotypes that contain the true definitions, my definitions of goth and emo. Goths or gothic things find the beauty in darkness through creativity. Emos or emo things are introspective and self-aware. Depending on your definition of words such as “beauty”, “darkness”, and “creativity”, these two stereotypes may overlap each other. Yet, both of these stereotypes have valuable characteristics that teens need in adolescence and beyond. It is these characteristics that identifies a teen as a person instead of a label.

Music Links:

Tokio Hotel-


Adrian Von Ziegler-


Written by Serena Zola

October 8, 2011 at 11:18 PM

Posted in Youth Op-Eds

Tagged with , ,

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