We know that we live in a pop culture era. Everyone is well aware that the up and coming generation gets a good portion of their advice and influence from media movie stars and musicians. It is curious then, to take it a step deeper and examine what the songs in our culture are telling us about our finances. Pop songs reflect the society and social trends of the times in which they are made, including personal finances and the wider economy.
This post brings together a selection of five songs from recent years that display different approaches to spending and the financial lessons we can learn from them.
1.Cash, Money, Cars, Clothes by Ruff Endz (2001)
At the beginning of the millennium, many R&B artists were using their songs to reflect the mood of their fanbase, and large parts of wider society. This included consumerist desire for money, material wealth and a luxury, bling lifestyle. One such act was Ruff Endz, an American R&B duo featuring singers David ‘Davinch’ Chance and Dante ‘Chi’ Jordan.
Their single of 2001, Cash, Money, Cars, Clothes says it all. The important thing in life is spending cash on luxury goods because, the song goes on to explain, ‘this is how true ballers roll.’ This approach to personal finances and spending helped cause many people to get into debt, and played a part in the financial crisis that occurred later in the decade.
2. Billionaire by Travie McCoy (2009)
On his hit single, Billionaire, Travie McCoy declares just how badly he wants to be a billionaire, ‘buy all the things I never had, I wanna be on the cover of Forbes magazine, smiling next to Oprah and the Queen.’
But along with a desire for all the stuff he’s never had, McCoy also has a more positive message. He explains how if he were a billionaire he would make sure that his friends never went hungry, would visit disaster zones such as New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to distribute funds, and after paying his top-rate taxes would ‘just split it up, so everybody that I love can have a couple bucks.’
This charitable, philanthropic approach to sharing your wealth is an admirable ambition, but one that is easier to fulfil if you are in fact a billionaire. The idea is nice, but the reality is that most people we know will never be a billionaire and will have to dream on a slightly smaller financial scale.
3. I Made It (Cash Money Heroes) by Kevin Rudolf featuring Lil Wayne, Jay Sean, and Birdman (2009)
Kevin Rudolf’s single, I Made It (Cash Money Heroes), is a celebration of artistic and financial success, achieving one’s dreams and making a great deal of material wealth along the way. Rudolf’s fellow Cash Money record label artists Birdman, Jay Sean and Lil Wayne join him on the single to offer their own thoughts on all the great stuff they can afford to buy now that they’ve ‘made it.’
This song, much like others of our time, suggests that when you have made it financially, you have made it in life. Song number five provides a nice contrast to this way of thinking.
4. I Need a Dollar by Aloe Blacc (2010)
In contrast to Kevin Rudolf and his mates celebrating their success on I Made It, Aloe Blacc’s I Need a Dollar is an ode to the desperation of spending the last of your money on whiskey and wine and having to borrow or beg a dollar. The song tells the story of the singer losing his job, taking to drink and pleading with the listener, ‘I need a dollar dollar, a dollar is what I need, and if I share with you my story would you share your dollar with me?’
Since its release in 2010, I Need a Dollar has become an international hit, Blacc has performed the song live around the world and it features as the intro song for the HBO show, ‘How to Make It in America.’ Hopefully the singer’s circumstances have improved, he’s leant the lesson of not spending all his money, and it is no longer necessary for him to beg for dollars.
5. Price Tag by Jessie J (2011)
Jessie J’s 2011 smash hit single, Price Tag, is a rejection of money and materialism, declaring that ‘money can’t buy us happiness…It’s not about the money, money, money/ We don’t need your money, money, money/ We just wanna make the world dance/ Forget about the price tag.’
Jessie J’s lyrics reflect a message of anti-materialism that has been a constant thread throughout the history of popular music. The theme is explored in many songs including Can’t Buy Me Love by The Beatles, Money by Pink Floyd and The Best Things in Life Are Free by Luther Vandross and Janet Jackson. It may seem ironic that these artists should reject money, but perhaps their enormous wealth and success puts them in a unique position to comment on the issue.
There are plenty of financial management lessons we can take from pop songs, use them as a guide on how (or how not) to spend our money, but perhaps the best advice we can learn from these tunes is that money isn’t the most important thing in life. Hopefully, we are taking the bulk of our financial guidance from a more solid source.