The melody of the Aretha Franklin song “Respect” taught women across the country to be confident, strong and powerful in the movement of equal rights.
Bruce Springsteen’s bold tune “Born in the USA” ironically declared patriotism to protest against the problems Vietnam War veterans faced when they came back home.
Lyrics are the windows behind each decade’s events. Either a social movement or a form of modern technology, music — and especially lyrics — are some of the colorful representations of life.
Now in 2022, lyrics with less joyous emotions are gaining traction.
Research done by Science Daily indicated that songs have become increasingly sadder and angrier, after an extensive analysis of songs ranging from the 1950s to 2019. This analysis considered tones, definitions and phrases.
Music producer Jeff King at Scottsdale Music Company has also noticed an increase in artists with a focus on “emotional issues” in recent collaborations. He recounted his experience tutoring Staytus, a young female musician who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome.
Her pop music held lyrics that King described as “dark,” hidden behind an upbeat melody. Staytus’s dejected lyrics and alternative rhythms created songs that allow listeners to feel a “rollercoaster of emotions” in as little as a verse, according to him.
King said that younger artists are charged with emotion from the frustration characteristic of adolescent and young adult years. He’s reported an influx of artists asking to portray those emotions in their work as of late.
“A lot of it is a phase of people who are artistic that they go through at a younger age, but then they grow and evolve. I think there is a frustration at that age,” said King.
He also related the sadness and anger in modern music to the use of technology from a young age. He even saw changes in his own children with their phone use.
“Everybody is more alone now,” King said. “Everybody is more isolated. This technology that was supposed to bring us together in the real world, the physical world. It isolated us.”
Whatever the message, King guides his artists when it comes to lyrical writing instead of putting the words into their mouths. He asks questions and gives advice to bring out those feelings, however dark or light.
King discussed the importance of writing lyrics that portray a singer’s real emotions to ensure that genuine emotion is captured, comparing it to a director’s role in leading an actor.
“If the actor is good, you’re sucked into the story,” he said. “You’re feeling what they’re feeling. The microphone is the camera, I’m the director … the skill is really being able to put yourself into that emotional place in the vocal booth”
The trend of sadder songs is even evident in mainstream pop. The Guardian reported that pop music has grown less diverse, as there has been a trend that “patterns and metrics have been consistently stable.”
And with this, pop music has “sonically decreased in happiness and increased in sadness,” according to Insider.
Some reported that the cause of the general shift may lie in modern problems like increased phone usage, certain politics and the industry at large.
For lyrical “geniuses,” motivations and muses can differ. To find what drives this, look at musicians to see what really motivates them to connect with this new music style, predominantly with newer artists in Arizona.
New Jersey rapper 973Tony took a big leap in July, as he packed up his belongings and moved miles away to find musical success in Arizona. Now, the young artist puts his struggles into his lyrics, which are partly rooted in the reason he ventured to the Valley.
When writing his music, 973Tony relates his sound to that of Trippie Redd and smaller Soundcloud artists, but his biggest inspiration is himself.
“Lil Wayne said in an interview that he only listens to his own music. Now, I’m really trying to get into my own lane with things and just have my own sound,” he said.
After losing his mother at 16 and having difficulty with his other family members, 973Tony really dived into music, though he has always felt a love for the craft.
“I be tripping most of the time, so that’s my outlet, my ugly outlet. Now, I’m in a career where I can no longer be doing drugs no more, so is my only form of healthy outlet. It’s personal but it’s what I’ve been through,” said 973Tony.
He channels that energy and emotion into his work, which conveys the sensitivity and anger in his lyrics. It’s in watching others listen to his work that he finds real joy in what he does.
Jan. 1, 2021, marked the date that the “Midwest-emo-indie” band Bethany Home, another group of local musicians who follow this solemn lyrical trend, came to be.
The Mesa-based band of four has focused some of their recent songs on touchier subjects, like family loss and addiction. They write their work to highlight the emotions tied to these topics.
“I mainly want to dance. But the way I listen to music, I get the lyrics and I try to see myself in that situation or relate it to something else that is going into my life. I think that’s what I would want people to take away,” said Jaden Jones, guitarist and singer for Bethany Home.
“Charpit”, an unreleased song by Bethany Home, focuses on the nostalgic feeling of family, based on Jones’ memories with his family at Lake Tahoe. The lyrics center around the feelings of the past while also honoring his uncle who recently passed.
Another unreleased song called “Stress in the Jar” highlights the general topic of addiction, but focuses mostly on nicotine addiction. The band described it as one of the heavier tracks in their upcoming releases.
“You can put in a different kind of energy when you know what your song is about,” said Daniel Fenn, Bethany Home’s drummer.
Though the songs may lean more sensitive and sadder, Bethany Home still pushes the message of loving those around you and cherishing every day to its fullest.
“We will write sad songs and stuff, but like, that’s just how life is,” said Cameron McGregor, guitarist for Bethany Home. “You’ll hear a sad song and you can relate. But then you realize, it’s going to be better. I think that’s the main thing that we want to tell people.”
Editor’s Note: Rubyanne Moley is a student reporter at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.