People listen to music all day every day. Whether they are getting ready in the morning, walking from place to place, driving to work or taking a shower at the end of a long day, they constantly have a variety of music playing.
Why? Partly because it fills the silence, partly because they just enjoy it, but mostly because it is one way humans connect with their emotions in a different manner. When their self-confidence needs a boost, when they need to relax or when they are having trouble with relationships, there is always a song that relates.
In the past, the thousands of songs about enduring tough breakups were enough to satisfy people. This used to be the most significant theme for all genres of music, compared to those about partying or falling in love as a teenager. However, the meaning of music has since evolved to include much larger life issues, such as dealing with mental health problems and abuse.
With many emerging songs, you can find an underlying meaning because of how broad the lyrics are, but some songs are blunt in relaying their message and therefore are more successful in connecting with their listeners.
Certain rap music can make listeners feel what the artist is feeling, especially if the content relates to their own lives. It lets them know that they are not alone in their struggles. The rap genre used to have this stigma of talking about nothing but girls, money and partying, but with the rise of artists like Juice Wrld and Logic, this stereotype is beginning to fade.
“I know for a fact that music is an outlet for people to let their emotions flow,” said junior, Malcolm Duncan. “I think of Juice Wrld and what his music did for people suffering from depression and anxiety.”
Music also acts as an escape for some people. It allows them to reflect on their experiences, sort of like journaling. Duncan can always be seen walking around campus with his beats on looking angry. He assures people that he isn’t; he’s just in a zone.
Likewise, senior Emma Leary points out that music is unique to the human species; it is meant to demonstrate issues of humanity and express a variety of emotions.
“To me, a song’s message is most powerful when it brings about the reminder of the light in life even after touching on difficult topics,” Leary said.
Lyrics are not the only way to bring about an influential message. As a member of the Gonzaga University Dance Team, Leary sometimes choreographs routines to different kinds of music, typically within the Alternative or Indie Pop genres. In the process, it is most common to focus on the beat rather than the words. Some of the chosen songs don’t even have lyrics, but the musicality is expressive in itself.
“I think that sometimes sounds can speak a message in a way that is beyond the ability of words,” Leary said.
Both Duncan and Leary are not fans of country music because they believe it lives up to its stereotype of being solely about girls and beaches, just scraping the surface of emotionality.
“I can’t feel the emotion of the singer, so I feel distant from the song and the message,” Leary said.
Though most country music confirms that stereotype, there are undoubtedly a few songs that go beyond those themes; most of them end up taking on a religious undertone in order to communicate that spirit of inspiration. Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take the Wheel,” Craig Morgan’s “Ordinary Angels” and Brad Paisley’s “When I Get Where I’m Going” are just a few examples.
On the other hand, there are songs that don’t intend to inspire people or make them feel better; their intention is to just let them feel what they are feeling. These songs go right to the heart of a problem, addressing issues that people typically avoid talking about unless they have an appointment with their therapist. For example, Alec Benjamin’s “Must Have Been the Wind” tells the story of an abusive relationship. Sasha Sloan also has an array of songs about depression, self-image and divorce.
Still, the majority of Spotify’s Global Top 50 playlist consists of trap music and dance music that would be featured in a club with strobe lights. The songs have exciting beats, but the lyrics (if there are any) are meaningless. These kinds of songs also describe party scenes with drugs, drinking, dancing and sex. They end up encouraging that kind of lifestyle and could potentially lead people into dangerous situations.
“I think messages that promote the use and abuse of drugs are stupid, even if the song is big tough,” Duncan said.
Leary agrees that this kind of music is overrated, especially if the songs are demeaning toward females.
There is an unbelievable amount of variety in the music that has been produced over the past several decades. With the millions of songs that exist in the world, it would seem impossible that there is anything left to create. However, as society develops, music evolves. There will always be pointless songs that are released into the world, but if music continues to become more of an outlet for people’s deepest emotions, it can serve a greater purpose than simply being a soundtrack for poor dancing in a room full of sweaty strangers.