Rock ‘n’ roll used to be about empowerment and having a good time. It made people feel alive and free. It was uplifting and feel good. Then somewhere down the line, rock music took a tortured turn that’s been bitter-sweet. We got incredible music out of the changes, but we’ve also lost plenty of brilliant souls because of it too.
Music began to take a dramatically depressing turn by the 90’s. I’d say it really kicked off with the grunge scene which had a dark atmospheric sound to it and lyrics of regretful personal reflection.
By the mid to late 90’s into the 2000’s with the nu-metal scene gaining traction, bands became increasingly dramatic about expressing their personal pain and demons. A “life sucks, it’s pointless and isn’t worth living” attitude became the norm in the heavy music scene during those times.
The nihilistic trend of hopelessness continued to be prevalent in the modern era. Metalcore, deathcore, death metal, and progressive bands continued to hold dark personal themes as the staple for their music.
This trend isn’t exclusive to metal alone. Pop and hip-hop music have fallen into the trend of writing dreary lyrics too. It’s being written by artists who seemingly “have it all”, yet are still living terribly depressing lives. From Justin Bieber to Mike Posner, Charli XCX to Rihanna. These people make poppy music yet still sound so down in the dumps.
They don’t have stable romantic relationships, engage in rampant drug abuse and spend their money on trivial material items. These are some of the topics that are expressed in modern pop songs and it appears to be reflective of the pop star lifestyle as well. These people are openly empty.
My message to all upcoming artists out there is this…you kids are young. You have your whole lives ahead of you. Just because your girlfriend or boyfriend of two weeks recently broke up with you doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. It happens and that’s life. You’ll get over it.
Artists from Kurt Cobain to Layne Staley, to Michael Jackson and Amy Winehouse, to the recently departed Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington all wrote about their issues. They also all became famous and successful before they had a chance to overcome their demons.
I think the problem with a lot of these musicians who find success early on, is that they don’t get a chance to grow up and move on from their pain. Fame and fortune are suddenly thrown at them in the midst of their personal struggles. Life can become overwhelming under those circumstances.
They don’t end up going through the motions of being a regular adult and end up developing a distorted perspective on reality. They preserve their youthful and angsty worldview and carry it with them for the rest of their lives.
In extreme cases, some of them either come from abnormal childhoods where they engaged in drug use, were victims of abuse or were experimental with their sexuality, which only makes their situation worse and causes them to have a misinterpreted understanding of the world and what adulthood means.
Negativity begets negativity. If you surround yourself with negative people, if you are focusing on negative thoughts, if you are writing negative lyrics and if you are singing those lyrics on a frequent basis, it will eventually catch up to you.
That’s why it isn’t uncommon to hear about metal musicians from the past three decades or so struggling with their personal demons in front of the public’s eye. Their lives are open books for all to see and it’s sad. It’s seeing somebody you admire suffer, while you can’t do anything about it.
Listen, it’s great to express yourself and whatever it is you went through. Nobody can ever fully understand how someone may feel or understand exactly what they went through, but you have to write the next chapter of your life.
You can’t keep on revisiting what happened to you years ago. It’ll consume you. At some point, you have to move on and away from the things that haunt you.
I believe that bands need to get back to being empowering. We need heavier music that is also uplifting. We need bands to be writing more about themes of redemption, overcoming the odds, surviving, no longer being the victim and life being worth living.
Life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but isn’t all fire and brimstone either. Find the balance that works in your music and in your personal life.
Money and fame clearly do not buy anyone happiness. You can have it all yet still feel nothing inside. You can’t be filling your emptiness with vanity. Attention, admiration and wealth are meaningless pursuits when it comes down to it.
They will never satisfy your urge for self-validation, because there is no limit to such pursuits. They never end. You will never be satisfied with a thirst that never ends, you will only be led to more suffering and pain.
You have to find and accept your inner peace.Whatever it is that keeps you going in this life is what you have to hold onto. You have to realize that you and everyone around you is here for a purpose. Your life does have meaning and you are meant to live it until it’s your time to go.
How do you do that?
Everybody’s answer is different and you honestly have to figure it out on your own. But for me it’s simple, I have faith. I have faith that God, the universe, destiny, fate, whatever you want to call it will make things right and turn things out the way they are meant to be. My faith drowns my demons and gives me inner peace.
What else is a big help? I give myself a steady routine. Just like personal hygiene, a proper diet, fitness, work and relaxation are parts of people’s daily or weekly routines, I include prayer, writing and music into my own. My routine helps me balance out my life in a positive manner.
When I get up, I pray, I make my bed, brush my hair, prepare something to eat for breakfast, eat, walk my dog and head out to work. That’s an example of my standard morning routine.
After work, I eat again, head to the gym, write, work on music, or take some time to relax. I rinse and repeat. I always have something to do and I’m never bored thanks to it. Consistency is key.
It may seem trivial, but my advice is to include prayer or meditation into your own routine. Prayer gives me the chance to focus, reflect and to re-calibrate my thoughts into a positive mindset. It may sound silly or unnecessary to those who do not pray, but it personally gives me a sense of calmness and self-control. It gives me peace.
Listen, you can’t be telling yourself that your life has no value or purpose. You have to keep yourself focused. You will always be your greatest critic. You just have to tell that Devil on your shoulder to pipe it down.
Don’t get so caught up in your thoughts that you forget to enjoy yourself. We all have one life to live. Make the most out of yours and be the best you can be. We don’t have the luxury to be wasting our time wallowing in sadness. This world is beautiful and your life has meaning.
Perhaps if we stopped glorifying death, sin and sorrow and focused more on life, modesty and happiness, the world would be a better place?
You have to put the past behind you and move forward. You can’t be anchored down by all your mistakes and faults. You must learn to forgive yourself and others. Holding onto hate and regret does nobody any good.
We take things that have nothing to do with us way too seriously. It seems that we’re so caught up in politics, differences and social justice problems, that we’re forgetting to enjoy ourselves and simply have a good time. Cut it out and live a little. That’s what rock music’s supposed to be about, letting go and having fun.
As we move forward, I believe that the overall mood will change from a depressing tone to an uplifting one. If people are good at one thing, it’s adapting and surviving. We always overcome. That’s what makes us human.
With all this being said, don’t wait for things to change tomorrow. Work on fixing your mindset today. You’re here right now in the present. Ask yourself, what steps will you take next to get yourself to where you want to be?