The Political Influence of Pop Music. An Analysis of Michael Jackson's "They Don't Really Care About Us"

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2015

11 Pages, Grade: 2.0




Definition of pop music

The lyrics of pop music – Can poetry become pop music?

Model of the relation between pop culture and politics

“They don’t really care about us” by Michael Jackson – A political provocation?




“The idea that these lyrics could be deemed objectionable is extremely hurtful to me, and misleading. The song, in fact, is about the pain of prejudice and hate, and is a way to draw attention to social and political problems. I am the voice of the accused and the attacked. I am the voice of everyone. I am the skinhead, I am the Jew, I am the Black man, I am the White man. I am not the one who was attacking… I am angry and outraged that I could be so misinterpreted.” [1]

Everybody knows pop music. It is a genre of popular music that found its way into the Western world during the 1950s and 1960s deriving from rock and roll. Its big influence in the Western world is quit remarkable. It is so remarkable that when it comes to the definition of what music in general is people start to think automatically about Pop music. This genre has become one of the most influential music forms in the world. But still there are songs like “They don’t really care about us” from Michael Jackson that show the political side of Pop music. The statement from above from Michael Jackson concerning his song clarifies how the message of a song can be misunderstood. The necessity to deal with this phenomenon scientifically is obvious because it found its way to our society and has a great impact on different cultural processes. The relation between pop and politics can be clearly found in the media. The pop culture is a voice that communicates within the mainstream of the Western culture. It contains ideas, perspectives and attitudes towards the everyday lives of the society. The thesis of my work is that pop music can be used as a medium of political messages. But what is actually pop music? Can this genre be used to spread a political message? And why is the influence of the media so important in this case? In the following I will introduce the phenomenon of pop music and try to give a definition. Furthermore I will discuss the question whether the lyrics of Pop music can be considered as poetry or not. After that we take a closer look on a model that illustrates the relation between pop culture and politics. At the end of my work I will discuss the political role of pop music with the help of the famous song “They don’t really care about us” by Michael Jackson.

Definition of pop music

Before I try to give a definition of pop music I have to mention that it is quit complicated to define Pop music in order to get just one final definition. That’s because of the fact that Pop music is related to many forms of music. This makes it more difficult to get to a simple definition or give general characteristics of this particular music form. With regard to the term “Pop” we can clearly say that it means popular which means a form of music that is made for the whole public:

“Begriffsgeschichtlich läßt sich “Popmusik” in seiner etymologischen Genese anhand der Orientierung an dem englischen Wort “popular music”, welches eine Musik benennt, die sich nach lexikalischer Definition als “suitable or intended for the people at large” charakterisiert, d.h. als massenhaft verbreitete Musik wie etwa Schlager, Tanzmusik, […]”[2]

Still there is a difference between pop music and the term “popular music”. Pop music does not mean popular music although it is often used in this sense in sociological literature. In the 60s when the art movement pop art was accepted in society the people also started to use the term “Pop” as an abbreviation for it. But speaking of pop music we have to distinguish between the music genre itself and the term “popular music”. The term popular music refers to all kind of music that has reached a great popularity in society like for example rock and roll or Jazz while pop music stands for its own as independent genre. Furthermore we have to take in account the language use of the public that plays a major role when it comes to the definition of a phenomenon because they determine the characteristics of it. The audience already tried to give a definition of pop music:

“[…] eine überwiegend stark motorisch stimulierende “progressive” Musik – am reinsten wohl in den Kreationen des Jimi Hendrix verwirklicht - , bei der sich der Akzent der schöpferischen Kräfte von den musikalischen Primärkompenenten wie Melodik, Rhythmik, Harmonik, Form hinweg zu den Sekundärkomponenten der klanglichen Form hinweg zu den Sekundärkomponenten der klanglichen Aufbereitung und Wiedergabe verlagert hat.”[3]

All in all it is very difficult to find a definition for pop music because it is a phenomenon that made its way into the mass media appearing in different artistic shapes. It is a universal musical voice that opens the door for ideological ideas:


[1] Willa and Joie: Some Things in Life They Just Don’t Want to See. URL:

// Last access: 31/08/2015

[2] J. Schneider, Norbert (1978): Popmusik – Eine Bestimmung anhand bundesdeutscher Presseberichte von 1960 bis 1968. Band 11. München-Salzburg. p. 12ff.

[3] Hartwich-Wiechell, Dörte (1974): Pop-Musik – Analysen und Interpretationen. Köln. p. 2

Excerpt out of 11 pages


The Political Influence of Pop Music. An Analysis of Michael Jackson's "They Don't Really Care About Us"
University of Wuppertal
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Michael Jackson, Pop music, Music, Pop, Politics, World music, Media
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Mohamed Rhounan (Author), 2015, The Political Influence of Pop Music. An Analysis of Michael Jackson's "They Don't Really Care About Us", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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