As a avid music lover, I am usually quite critical of today’s music.  In fact most of the time I’m completely oblivious to the new artists and songs that are popular.  And I don’t believe I’m missing anything.  

I have also written a lot about empathy–how to increase the skill, the benefits, and the importance of relating to others and what they are going through.

I recently read an interesting article regarding the evolution of music and how it has been progressively moving to be all about “me”.   I share an excerpt below:

An interesting new study highlights the way music has evolved over the last fifty years. You know, from genres like classic Rock and Roll, to Blues, to Disco, to Grunge and Funk, to Rap and Hip Hop—and ranging from Boy Bands to solo artists. The numbers were very interesting to analyze. The rise of female artists, the move from bands to solo artists and the expansion of profanity in lyrics all seem to relay how society is changing.

Here are a few intriguing highlights.

Healthy Changes

Increase in female artists.

Increase in collaboration between artists.

Increase in diversity among artists.

Increase in mixed generations within artist groups.

Unhealthy Changes

Increase in lyrics about loneliness.

Increase in songs about violence and substance abuse.

Increase in profanity and sexual perversion.

Increase in songs about lust over love.

But there is one discovery that is worth talking about here.

The tangible rise in the word “I” or “I’m.” We’re singing more and more about “me.” Between 2005 and 2015, “I’m” was the number one term in song lyrics. In fact, not long ago, I flipped through stations on my car radio for a few minutes on my drive to an appointment. It may not surprise you that the four songs I heard were:

“Because I’m Awesome!”

“The World Should Revolve Around Me”

“Tell Me I’m Pretty”

“Don’tcha Wish Your Girlfriend Was Hot Like Me?”

This shift seems a commentary on our culture. It’s been noted before that we live in a time of self-expansion. When I play sports, I am not as concerned about the team this year as I am about my own playing time. (After all, I am playing for scouts.) When I perform on a theatre stage, I’m counting my lines in the script more than paying attention to the plot as a whole. When on the job, I’m obsessed with getting noticed or being recognized; I’m building my personal brand. In life, I am about building my platform: my followers, likes, shares and views. When it comes to music, I’m obsessed with me. The report noted that while musicians are collaborating more these days, there are fewer bands. In other words, artists are singing solo, but will do a “gig” or a group collaboration with other performers as long as they don’t lose their individual identities as solo artists.

In fact, while fifty years of music have always included themes like love, partying, sex and loneliness, 2015 produced a whole new category: “being awesome.” Never before has there been so much sung about “me” being so awesome…

When Dwight Eisenhower was ten years old, his older brothers were permitted to go out trick-or-treating on Halloween. (It was a more adventurous activity than it is today). When young Dwight asked if he could go, his parents told him he was too young. He pleaded with them, watched his brothers leave, then went into a fit of uncontrollable rage. He screamed and yelled and beat his fists against an apple tree in their front yard. His father disciplined him and sent him to bed. It was a night he’d never forget. After sobbing in his pillow for a while, his mother entered his room and sat quietly beside his bed. After he grew quiet, she spoke a Proverb softly to him: “He that conquers his own soul is greater than he who takes a city.”

As she began to bandage his hands, she told her son to beware of his anger and hatred inside. Of all her sons, he had the most to learn about mastering himself.

For Ike that night was a turning point: “I have always looked back on that conversation as one of the most valuable moments of my life,” he said. The concept of “conquering his own soul” became a significant one in his leadership in both the military and his presidency. It’s the acid test of growing up.

Let’s get beyond ourselves…


I thought the Eisenhower story was remarkable.  The phrase “conquering his own soul” is almost magical.  It really made me think about how much I think about myself versus others.  I like to think I’m a grown up and practice empathy often.  However I think I can do better, and I challenge you to do the same.  Let’s all practice getting over ourselves a little more.  I think we will be pleasantly surprised with the outcome.  

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