Every now and then when I am driving, I like to turn on the radio, and enjoy the diversity of the song selection. After awhile, however, I hear the rhythm and beat of the song I heard earlier that day. If I were to return to my car the next morning, I would more than likely encounter that same tune, yet again. Why? What is it about a particular song that makes me have to listen to it so much? Once is fine. Twice is okay. But to hear the same chords, chimes, and movements a few times throughout one day? Is that really necessary?
What I’ve found out is that what is popular is what is played the most. What is at the top of the charts is what gets blasted through the speakers of my car. What is “hot” at the time is what I have to engage with if I want to keep in step with what is going on in the music world.
The question becomes: who determines what is popular? What qualifications does a song have to meet in order to be played over and over again? Many people would say, we, as the consumer have the right to determine that. Yes and no. Yes; there is the occasional request hour; and yes, consumers are asked to poll what they believe is popular and what is not. More likely, though, what is played is determined by the power structures: the corporations that run the studios; the recording studios who find ways to get their client’s songs played; the promotions that are offered which necessitates quid pro quo arrangements. Consumers think they have the power, but their power is limited in relation to the power structures in place.
With all this said, we, as consumers must deal with what is deemed popular, whether we agree with its popularity or not, whether we enjoy the song or not, whether we think the song is worthy or not. We have to hear the same song over again—whether we like it or not.
On July 5th, 2016, Alton Sterling, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was senselessly murdered outside of a store, selling CDs. Subsequently, Philando Castile, of Falcon Heights, Minnesota was shot while riding in a car. We needn’t go into their backgrounds to drudge up past issues; we must focus on the their lives ending so carelessly. But this isn’t new in America; it’s the same old song on the radio. We’ve heard this tune before; it was called Sandra Bland and Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and Walter Scott…the Charleston Nine (and then some).
It is a song habitually played by a power structure that believes nothing is wrong, a song played by the hegemony that seem to voice their core constituents’ ideals: black is inferior, and always will be. This song has been played so much it is on top of all the charts. One body of hearers turns down the volume or changes the stations, because it can afford to do so. Another body of hearers is forced to hear the same tune played on the same medium for generations.
“Oh, it’s not that bad,” says the group who has the choice to change the station. But they do not understand that they are a part of the hegemony, directly or indirectly perpetuating the problem. Those of us who have to listen again are forced to hear the eerie, wretched sound of blood being excommunicated from yet another God-made creation.
It’s the same old tune. Some are not as bothered by it like others. But—I am. I am tired of hearing the same song on repeat. It is clear the powerful do not mind. They seem to enjoy it.
The only consolation right now, and the only point of peace in the midst of anger, is knowing that God is able to give us a new song. And He will one day.