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The Cheerful Pessimist

Aptly titled 'all the kids are depressed', Jeremy Zucker’s not-so-cheery 2018 hit seems to read our minds. The sentiments he sings about are ones that we all, as a generation, like to joke about, laugh about and, clearly, listen to music about, if my 2020 Spotify Wrapped was anything to go by.

‘Cause all the kids are depressed
Nothing ever makes sense
I’m not feeling alright
Staying up ‘til sunrise
And hoping shit is okay
Pretending we know things...

Aptly titled 'all the kids are depressed', Jeremy Zucker’s not-so-cheery 2018 hit seems to read our minds. The sentiments he sings about are ones that we all, as a generation, like to joke about, laugh about and, clearly, listen to music about, if my 2020 Spotify Wrapped was anything to go by.

Beyond my own taste in music, though, just one look at lyrics sung by the most popular artists today might be enough to paint our whole generation blue. ‘Negative’ lyrics or imagery about depression seem to be key voices in today’s mainstream youth culture, as we embrace heart-wrenching tunes by singers like Billie Eilish and other top-charting musicians, and welcome the discussion of darker themes with open arms into modern popular conversation.

Outwardly, we apparently appear cynical.

Older generations often call us complainers, collectively unappreciative, and perhaps, at face value, the lyrics we choose to listen to may warrant such judgements.

But let’s take a look at why we are the way we are, beyond the idea that we’re just an ungrateful bunch (because, at least I hope, there’s more to us than that).

Our youths are unique. Facing an adolescence inseparable from the repercussions of social media, and, now, with a global pandemic keeping us locked up and isolated in our prime, it is no wonder that we are growing up nurturing complicated relationships with our emotions, so it’s not hard to see why sadness and pessimism are themes that overwhelm our artists’ discographies.

Despite confronting themes, however, several studies have shown that music driven by darker imagery has no real correlation with having negative emotional effects on listeners. This is an official, empirical conclusion. I came across this in a Music & Health assignment, and it got me thinking why it might be, and the reason I came up with is, ironically, a more optimistic one.

In our acceptance and appreciation of music that tackles mental health and artists’ most difficult experiences, we are also accepting and appreciating the same struggles of the everyday listener; ie, all of us.

Rather than causing us to dwell on negative emotions, or internalise our pain, which surrounding ourselves with darker music may logically be expected to do, it instead acknowledges struggles in people who have never had their internal struggles acknowledged before.

The Weeknd reminds us that “In my dark times I’ve still got some problems I know” .

Eminem admits “my life is full of empty promises and broken dreams...I feel discouraged, hungry and malnourished”.

Ed Sheeran confesses that “life can get you down so I just numb the way it feels”.

Whether you’re a fan of their music or not, it’s hard to disagree that these are some of the biggest names in the music industry of this era, and through their music, they remind young people that these feelings are valid feelings; feelings that are perfectly okay. And, if their success on the charts, albums and Spotify streams is anything to go by, we love them for it.

Music like this, for many of us tackling the ups and downs of youth, has become a way to connect and validate the feelings we wrestle with, a pathway to discussion, and eventually, growth. After all, these songs are not only sources of relatability, but are also messages of support and strength.

Ariana urges us to, while “the sky’s fallin’...Just keep breathin’ and breathin’ and breathin’ and breathin’”.

SUGA of BTS, reminds us to “Never mind. It’s not easy, but engrave it onto your chest. If you feel like you’re going to crash then accelerate more, Never mind how thorny the road is.”

Just by admitting to their own struggles, by not ignoring feelings that are deemed ‘negative’, these artists acknowledge that your pain is normal, and extend a hand to hold through the microphone.

So maybe it’s not so bad to be blue sometimes, or to sing blue, think blue or surround ourselves with blue. As young people, growing up in a world that seems to be becoming ever more complicated, it might be through expressing our pessimism, acknowledging it, discussing it, and sharing it, that we can face life with a little more cheer.

 
Farrago's magazine cover - Edition Three 2021

FARRAGO MAGAZINE EDITIONS FIVE AND SIX AVAILABLE NOW!

Our final editions for the year are jam packed full of news, culture, photography, poetry, art, fiction and more...

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