How to Enjoy Popular Music When Popular Music Isn’t Pleasant



Graphic by Diamond Pham

CW: Mentions of drug use, mental illness, suicide

The release (and immediate popularity) of the WRLD on Drugs mixtape got me thinking: is everyone around me really as depressed as I think they are?

With the release week of WRLD on Drugs, it became impossible to avoid the collaboration between Juice WRLD and Future. Between Instagram stories, Spotify playlists, and Soundcloud reposts, it was like everyone projected the drugged melodies of the two popular rappers.

The truth is, this week was pretty similar to every other week, because lately it feels like the Top 40 songs are all pretty sad. Gone are the days of carefree moguls like “California Girls”, “Just Dance” or Justin Bieber’s all-time classic “Baby” (feat. Ludacris).

Now don’t get me wrong, I totally agree to go for “feat. Ludacris’ phase of the 2000s, but what happened to having a good time? Lyrics like “Dance, it’s gonna be alright, dance, spin that record, baby” was replaced with: “You let me down and land in my grave, I know you want my death (cough), I’m taking prescriptions for make me feel good.

The aforementioned lyrics come from the third most popular song in America, “Lucid Dreams” by Juice WRLD.

Juice WRLD isn’t the only current artist producing soulful music. Kodak Black’s “ZeZe”, which was No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart on October 27, contains lyrics: “Pills pop, do what you feel, I’m on that zombie.” ”

Earlier this year, the number one song in America was literally called “SAD!” and the chorus said, “Suicide, if you ever try to let go, uh, I’m sad and down, yeah, I’m sad I know, yeah.”

Make no mistake about my rejection of pop culture. Self-expression is more than valid: it is usually the reason behind creating art in the first place. My problem here is the ingenious nature of creating “bangers” on matters serious to the world in order to consume and pay the artists before throwing the song (including its lyrics) out. The media just skips to the next hot song that pops up a few days later.

Rap had a reputation for shedding light on the realities of life (think NWA’s social commentary about being black in America), but now it often feels like the lyrics are spoken for. attract attention with little or no support behind the words.

For example, in a video of Genius Lyric interviewing rapper Comethazine on his hit song “Bands”, where he raps, “I rock Goyard and Supreme,” he admits in the interview, “I actually don’t own any Goyard or Supreme. ”

Full of rappers lie about their money, but these lies are generally harmless. However, talking about mental illness and death may not be so harmless.

The strangest part, however, is that all of these songs are catchy and, quite honestly, fun. How funny a song about suicide can be is honestly beyond me, but the juxtaposition of extreme emotions in situations where emotions aren’t meant to be felt deserves attention, which it certainly receives. The shock factor can be the casual nature of falling lines like these. Songs like “SAD! Are played over loudspeakers for the kids to party. Children go crazy for songs about the desire to die.

Perhaps this interest in the macabre is not abnormal, however. Rap has gained popularity on the mainstream charts fairly recently, but popular music has seen its most moving moments over the decades.

“How am I supposed to live without you”, released in 1989, says, “How am I supposed to live without you, how am I supposed to continue, when everything I lived for is gone?” It sounds a bit like “SAD! Without the suicide element.

So, has music recently acquired the shock factor of occasional drug use and suicidal intentions?

Popular rap, maybe. Rock music, on the other hand, has a history of violence linked to its lyrics. A special case that comes to mind is that of the adolescent whose death was bound to their consumption of the song “Suicide Solution” by Ozzy Osbourne.

Unlike rap, heavy metal and screamo never exceeded the numbers on the American pop charts, although rap songs with similar, heavy themes do today.

But why are these messages which seduce the masses? Surely not everyone is here taking pills and wishing they were dead. In fact, teen drug abuse is statistically lower than ever, and Adolescent opioid abuse at its lowest in 10 years.

Hip hop is what people listen to, and maybe the pessimistic message itself isn’t what people listen to. And because hip hop is doing well on the charts, it turns out that the lyrical content in music leans more into topics that have always been popular in the hip hop community.

Referring to drugs in music gives artists “a certain notoriety … and adds to the attraction and mystique”, reports Davey D, journalist and assistant professor from the State of San Francisco.

Moreover, it can be intensified by the difficulties encountered by musicians trying to stop their addictions. Harold Owens, Senior Director of the MusiCares Musicians Assistance Program, said: “There is a stigma in the hip-hop communityfight to come clean and discuss [their addictions] in a genre that many believe has helped promote drug use.

In a scientific study done by the Academy of Finland, analysts reported that: “Anxiety and neuroticism were higher in participants who tended to listen to sad or aggressive music to express negative feelings, especially in men.

If the Billboard Hot 100 is chosen based on the songs that most people listen to, then we can conclude that Americans have serious problems.

Ella Boyd is a freshman from Maine attending Scripps College. She traded downhill skiing to write for the student newspaper and enjoys creating art through film, music and poetry.



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