The money making in misery music

Alison Clair

A new worry facing our music industry is the rise of the genre “misery music”. 

The term misery music itself refers to artists whose lyrics mainly focus around mental health issues like depression and suicide.

The rise in reporting of ‘misery music’ has resulted in a lot of backlash from online readers saying that good music often revolves around sad themes and heartache. This is true, however, this is not where the problem lies. The problem with the rise of popularity in this type of music is that the artist themselves end up promoting self-harm and suicide.

It is widely known that artists like this, by their own description, are trying to create awareness and discussion around mental health issues. Unfortunately and inadvertently they are creating a huge problem amongst their impressionable, and often very young following.

One artist that has been accused of contributing to the rise of misery music is Billie Eilish. This 16-year-old rose to stardom with her debut single Ocean Eyes. Eilish is famous for her haunting and angelic voice, her music which is sad and melancholy, often with references to depression throughout her lyrics.

The young singer with an old soul has been both commended and criticised for her portrayal of depression and mental illness. Some critics saying she is glamourizing it, almost to the extent of making it cool amongst teenagers.

It is understandable that in order to write good songs and create an impact your lyrics need to be genuine, and most artists lyrics come from personal experiences. Again this is not where the problem lies. The problem lies amongst the impressionable teenagers who follow these artists religiously and in many ways look up to them.

At just 16, most of her following is around her age, still teenagers. They look up to her, especially since her style is grungy and different and in her own words “judge me please”. Eilish has a self-deprecating nature, which often leaves her vulnerable in front of a camera. This type of honesty is badly needed in the music industry however, some might argue that this view of herself can translate into her fans thinking this way too.

Another similar example of the problems misery music are creating is the famous death of the young rapper XXXTentacion. While XXXTentacion’s career was dedicated to the prevention of suicide, and the promotion of discussing your problems, the #cutforX hashtag started trending on twitter following his sudden death.

Most people do believe that the artists themselves are writing these lyrics from personal experience, to ultimately create an awareness towards mental health issues and suicide,  and are not trying to promote it. However, it is important to remember that not everyone is in a healthy place in their mind, or are old enough to differentiate between how they should, and should not support their favourite artist.

Another example of this is how fans were competing underneath Billie Eilish’s music videos on who is self-harming more, for example, “I can’t stop cutting”. The problem begs the question are artists like this purposely making their depression their “aesthetic” in order to appeal to vulnerable teenagers?

Misery music has been criticised in many ways to be romanticising death, and in many ways making mental illness ‘cool’. This trend is one that has been growing year on year with many new artists coming onto the scene, and rapping about taking drugs, overdosing and committing suicide.


Alison Clair

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