Much to my chagrin (and those who frequent my place of work), they recently switched the radio station at work from a classic rock mix to a top 40 loop. It goes without saying that I don’t care if I never hear the likes of Adele ever again.
However, being forced to listen to the mainstream sound caused me to notice a distinct pattern in music today; namely, the lyrics are getting much more depressing. While I can’t speak for pop radio in other states (I’m sure what’s popular differs from region to region), the most frequently played songs here in my hometown seem to be focusing on darker subject matter.
Just to list a few examples, the aforementioned Adele’s Hello is a tale of regret after realizing how poorly she treated her ex now that they’re gone and too hurt even bother listening to her.
Meanwhile. Alessia Cara’s Here seeks to identify with the less social, high-minded crowd by recreating a feeling that many of us college folks can relate to – being dragged to a party by your friends and having no fun what-so-ever because everyone’s too drunk/high/vapid to carry on an intelligent conversation.
Even the more upbeat stuff like X Ambassadors’ Renegades and A Great Big World’s Hold Each Other have a hidden edge to them when you realize that we wouldn’t even need an anthem celebrating bold thinkers and the many forms of love respectively if they weren’t horribly undervalued already.
Probably the most soul crushing though has to be Stressed Out by Twenty One Pilots; a song about the endless stream of so-called ‘adult responsibility’ robs us of the chance to follow the dreams of our youth.
So, the question now is, “why is this happening now?”
Well, speaking personally, I believe that the transparency of the world has reached an all-time high. For what is surely the first time for many of us, we are seeing everything wrong with everything. Wars rage across the globe, environmental degradation threatens our lives, ignorance still drives the hatred of whole metaphorical oceans of people, and the corruption in our government is at its most blatant in years.
Art is reflective, not just of its creator, but of the world that created the creator. So many of us are so fed up with how sloppy and mismanaged our world has become, that we need to react to it. Art like music is our way of spreading the things that we see to others that can’t see it. And when enough people start seeing something together, that’s how revolutions and movements start.
Incidentally, this all ties into the recent wave of 80’s nostalgia that we’re experiencing in pop culture as a whole. Speaking as someone who grew up through the 80’s and early 90’s, very few of us expected to live past our early thirties. Now, the landscape of war, pollution, and political corruption seems to mirror that same age. But instead retreating back into sex and drugs to escape the problem like we did back then (the thinking being that we were going to die anyway, so we might as well enjoy ourselves), we’ve taken a less nihilistic approach and willingly face the problem head on.
So, you know what, I welcome this Blue Age of pop music. Who knows? Maybe some people will actually become famous for delivering a meaningful message instead of shaking their ass at the camera.