Leibee: Rethink ways we criticize music

Katrina Leibee

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board. 

One of the biggest cultural markers of generations is music. Anyone can go on Spotify and search for the most popular songs of any decade, and they’ll immediately be transported back in time. They’ll hear the political and social climate in the music, and they’ll hear about what dating and relationships were like in every note and lyric.


We will always have the cultural markers of this generation. Drake saying, “Kiki, do you love me?” will take its own place in musical history — somehow describing the intense excitement and confusion of dating in our generation perfectly — despite its somewhat simple lyrics.

When you go into social events or house parties in college, you’re pretty much guaranteed to hear rap songs and R&B music, and if you don’t like it, you’re out of luck. There’s no question that R&B is one of the most popular music genres with college students.

The point of this isn’t to criticize R&B music because a lot of it is great music with smart lyrics. The point here is to rethink the way we talk about music in this generation and rethink the way we criticize it. Criticizing other people’s music taste simply because it doesn’t match yours or because it’s not a popular genre is unfair, but it happens all the time.

House parties in Fort Collins look like a low budget R&B video consisting primarily of white people, some of them still believing it’s okay to say the N-word because it’s in a song. Naturally, anyone thrown into this environment would try their best to blend. One thing R&B music is known for is its intense sexual themes and lyrics that objectify women.

Everyone will identify with different artists, connect with different songs and experience their own relationship with music. It’s not up to anybody but the individual to decide what good music is.

Everyone goes along with this narrative of being young and singing the songs of this generation, even if the songs aren’t something we should proudly sing. Yet, songs from other genres are left out and criticized.

My friends and I go from having a conversation about how women are treated as less in society to a house party where we’re singing the lyrics that perpetuate just that so easily. It’s never been talked about because no one wants to be the one to say, “Hey, are the songs ingrained in party culture really a positive addition to this current political and social climate?”

People that like country music are shut down and belittled, despite the popular and evergreen music that country singers like Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash have produced. The 2018 album of the year at the Grammys was modern country singer Kacey Musgraves’ “Golden Hour.”

Taylor Swift fans are labeled as too white and uncultured. Listeners of modern pop singers, including fans of Ariana Grande, Katy Perry and Selena Gomez, are judged for a bubble gum pop or bland style of music. 

There is no right way to listen to music. There is not a lot of music that is necessarily “better” than others, but that is the best part of it.

Everyone will identify with different artists, connect with different songs and experience their own relationship with music. It’s not up to anybody but the individual to decide what good music is.


In this generation, the rap songs played at parties threaded with curse words and painted with messages opposite to the ones we promote during the day will stand as the songs relationships and friendships were born from. Yet, the songs we so often overlook and are quick to judge serve as cultural markers as well, and they deserve as much credit as R&B music.

Musgraves’ “Golden Hour” serves to describe the different characters and personalities everyone feels while they’re young that all come together to create a person as they arrive at the golden hour of life. Taylor Swift’s last album, “Reputation,” details the scary endeavor of trying to find real relationships in a generation where a person can be characterized by false media reports and rumors online.

Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy” shuts down toxic masculinity and tag teams Ariana Grande’s “God is a Woman” in the feminist uproar this generation has created. These songs may never be played at house parties, and they may always be labeled as uncool by some, but hopefully they’re still remembered as important additions to the culture of this generation.

Music heals people; it defines people’s personalities, and it accompanies everyone in times of sadness or happiness or loneliness or fear. It paints people’s lives, relationships and emotions — defining every period of time. No one should ever apologize for the songs that saved them from something or the music that makes them fundamentally themselves.

Katrina Leibee can be reached at letters@collegian.com or Twitter @KatrinaLeibee.