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Leonard Bernstein once called Elvis Presley the “greatest cultural force in the 20th century,” and historian David Halberstam accorded Presley “revolutionary” status for his effect on the youth of America and the world. During the 1960s, rebellion and rock ’n’ roll went hand-in-hand, and resistance to the Vietnam War drew on popular music, and vice versa. Today, kids and their parents listen to the same songs, and the only thing Justin Bieber seems to rebel against are the paparazzi. Sure, a risqué new video or a political statement by the likes of Lady Gaga makes headlines, but are today’s artists courting controversy for controversy’s sake? Or, worse yet, are they just selling us their product? KCRW “Morning Becomes Eclectic” host Jason Bentley, Occidental College cultural critic James Ford, and music critic Evelyn McDonnell visit Zócalo to explore whether popular music today—from gangster rap and club beats to teen pop anthems—is an agent of cultural change or merely money-making entertainment.
Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Carlo Allegri.