Music is inherently heavy. Songs are designed to move people, physically and emotionally. The more enthusiastically an audience responds to a song, the more effective the piece of music.
Music is also a direct form of social commentary. Social revolutions have been built of off music — counter-cultures, anthems and intense social statements can all channel themselves through song. Put simply, music is designed to convey meaning and has the power to spark change through an artist’s perspective.
Logic, a social commentary-centric rapper from Gaithersburg, Maryland, performed at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards. His song of choice, “1-800-273-8255,” outlines the journey of one subject from the edge of suicide to a place of strong mental health. During the performance, the phone number, which happens to be the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, was plastered across jumbotrons in stark, white writing.
Assembled around the rapper were suicide survivors, wearing shirts with the number streaking across their chests, and the triumphant message “You are not alone” printed on their backs. Aside from the immediate crowd being moved, America responded with resounding support of the artist’s message.
Logic emphasized at the conclusion of a universally impactful performance that mainstream media is consistently hesitant to address difficult issues like mental health, and that it’s his duty to support everyone in their pursuit of equality, saying, “I don’t give a damn if you’re black, white or any color in between. I don’t care if you’re Christian, you’re Muslim, you’re gay, you’re straight, I am here to fight for your equality. Because I believe that we are all born equal, but we are not treated equally, and that is why we must fight. We must fight for the equality of every man, woman and child regardless of race, religion, color, creed, or sexual orientation.”
In times like these, when division, debate and destruction reign outright, this message should be at the center of our values. Logic’s message is meant to affect the mind, to get people passionate about equality, and I can’t think of a more beautiful thing.
What’s more, apart from intellectual impact, Logic’s performance resulted in a 50 percent spike in calls to the suicide prevention hotline. John Draper, director of the hotline, had nothing but positive things to say about the performance, emphasizing the lasting impact the song has even without the call spike.
“The calls don’t even begin to count the number of people who, just by listening to the song and hearing the lyrics, feel more hopeful and less alone. There’s really no measuring that impact,” Draper said.
These are the types of people and subsequent messages we must keep in the forefront of our consciousness during times that challenge our trust in others. Additionally, this performance should not be forgotten within a few weeks of its occurrence, for the message does not expire.
Rather than enjoying the emotion that the song brings momentarily as you scroll through Twitter, try and access its core values the next time you’re faced with a social situation that challenges your comfort level.
In a second example of similar thinking, Minneapolis singer/rapper Lizzo preaches body positivity and acceptance as the central themes of her work. Her message is straightforward — take pride in yourself in all facets of life. This includes appearance, accomplishment, and identity, all central facets our day to day existence. Life can deliver a nasty right hook, and if you can’t take pride in yourself, it’s sometimes hopeless to dust yourself off.
What’s important to remember is that these artists are trying to make issues of mental health and acceptance mainstream issues, and by doing so, extending a loving hand to those who feel neglected. So next time your head is cloudy, remember these artists and their anthems of care, because they truly are trying to reach you. Listening takes courage, but the rewards can be game changers.
Lucas Johnson ([email protected]) is a sophomore intending to major in journalism.