Mental health continues to be a struggle within the music industry, for the listeners and the artists alike. Many musicians live by “Dancing Through Life,” a song from the musical Wicked, which encourages little thinking and by simply “skimming the surface” of life as if “nothing really matters.” This carefree lifestyle is worsening the mindset of listeners, especially the impressionable youth. With songs preaching the use of drugs, sex, and alcohol, teenagers will follow their role model’s lyrics to heart, as that is what is “cool.”
The Weeknd, an R&B/hip hop singer, personifies drugs to a woman in his song, “Can’t Feel My Face,” positively singing about the rush and how much he loves it. According to Billboard, the song became a hit with 38 million listeners in just the first week. “Him and I,” by G-Eazy and Halsey, is able to mislead listeners to what they think the true meaning of the song is, two lovers in a “Bonnie and Clyde” relationship, when the lyrics prove otherwise. The two preach about doing “drugs together” and going to “clubs together,” as if that’s what truly strengthens a relationship. In fact, when it’s G-Eazy’s turn to rap about his lover, he calls her his “down b*tch.” This places him higher over her, thus instructing other young men and women as to where they lie in their relationship. The song ends with the phrase “mob and get money, get high wit’ you, yeah” being repeated in the background, telling listeners what they should consider valuable: money and drugs.
However, these creative musicians may be struggling themselves, hiding it behind their lyrics. This past year, Mac Miller died from an overdose. An article from the Rolling Stones describes Miller’s depressing change in music and “lyrics that discussed both his sobriety and his recent DUI.” Another well-known artist who struggled with manic depression or bipolar disorder was Kurt Cobain. In songs, journals, interviews, and even as an option for an album title was Cobain’s consistent saying: “I hate myself and want to die.” He shot himself in the head after overdosing on a multitude of drugs, most likely heroin. Cobain was depressed before his rise to fame, but there is no doubt that fame contributed to his feelings of being trapped. In the book “Remembering Kurt Cobain” by Bob Sullivan, LIFE Book’s managing editor wrote in his introduction that “at the apex of Nirvana’s success, [Cobain] said he wished he could quit that gig.” Maybe truly expressing themselves through their art could inspire young listeners to do so as well.
Twenty One Pilots, a two-person band from Columbus, Ohio, lives by “honesty and authenticity.” The two members have struggled with depression and anxiety, sharing their thoughts, feelings, and fears within their music. Their song “Truce,” is spoken directly towards the listener with the plea, “stay alive, stay alive for me.” It is a phrase spoken at every show, where the crowd yells back that they are proud to be alive. Every lyric is carefully crafted with words that people can relate to on a personal level, teaching that they are not alone in their struggles. In their recent concept album, Trench, the main singer, Tyler Joseph’s anxiety and depression manifests into a world in which listeners can explore. Many of the songs are about hope and escape from Dema, representing depression, into Trench, the place between Dema and beyond. Explore the world visually for yourself here: https://www.imabandi.to.
Many artists in the music industry sing for money and fame; they look out for their own personal pleasures. Teaching others to fully appreciate life and express themselves in everything they do is an important lesson. Creativity is a gift for those to present their beliefs in the world, not to sell themselves out. The music industry often encourages this negative mindset, ignoring those struggling with their mental health. One by one, bands are starting to step up and sing true, honest lyrics to connect to their listeners. This helps encourage honest accountability in music and its effect on individuals.