Pop culture always makes depression look super cool. I was talking with someone recently about our mutual hatred of Twenty One Pilots. My critique is pretty basic — I think they’re boring and hackneyed. But my friend pointed out something else: they profit on depression by making it an element of popular music. This isn’t to discredit the songwriters’ and fans’ genuineness or claim that people involved with the band aren’t feeling real things, but talking about sadness and depression is becoming an element of pop style.
I would define pop style as taking a mish-mosh of different styles and throwing them into a tight structure that makes those styles palatable for mass audiences. For example, Chvrches takes synth heavy EDM styles and puts them into danceable verse-chorus song structures. In this case, Twenty One Pilots takes depressing lyrics and puts them over hip-hop-like beats and cool synth lines. The problem with this is it commercializes on depression. Becoming top 40 favorites, Twenty One Pilots’ songs are becoming new popular styles to be emulated in other pop music, and while it is good to bring conversations on mental health into the forefront, it is also dangerous to turn it into a cash cow. My fear is that depression turns into just a style and not a topic written about by songwriters. This strips away the conversation and winds up simply glorifying depression as a popular thing to have and not a serious issue that remains to have a stigma against it.
Your editor in patrician music taste,