Currently the monthly poll for Alternative Press Magazine is “Should musicians be held accountable for their lyrics?”. When I clicked on the link to vote a simple “yes”, I was surprised by the explanation. To those who don’t know, for all the AP Monthly Polls, there are a few paragraphs of examples of the question. When I read through it, my “yes” just grew stronger.
Let’s make one thing clear: musicians do have at least some sort of say in their lyrics. A producer did not force Fronz of Attila to use homophobic terms. Robin Thicke was aware of how much Blurred Lines is closely tied with sexual assault. In Love The Way You Lie, Eminem is, once again, promoting domestic violence, and Rihanna is glorifying being a domestic violence victim. Lana Del Rey has multiple songs beautifying suicide, depression, self-harm, and mental illnesses.*
Say, for example, Eminem did hire someone to write Love The Way You Lie for him. Eminem, being the huge star he is, has the power to at least say “no, that sends a very negative message to my fans.” It’s that simple.
Lana Del Rey has a reputation for starting a Tumblr trend in which young girls in particular believe that in order to be loved, they need to suffer from a mental illness to look like a cute lost puppy. Whether that was intentional or not, Del Rey has the power to reach out to her fans and the general public and remind them that no, that is not okay.
Lana Del Rey has mentioned in interviews that she wants to join the “27 Club”. For those of you who don’t know, the 27 Club is a categorization of artists including Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, and Amy Winehouse who died at the age of twenty-seven. By publicizing that in interviews in such a manor that portrays that she does not care, it is telling young people that it’s “cool” to die young. Lana Del Rey’s words need to be taken seriously. She has a problem and she knows it, but she gives her problem to her fans by not using her power as a famed musician to spread optimism.
Let’s look at another example. No matter how much I love them, I have to call out 3OH!3 and Katy Perry on Starstrukk. This particular song didn’t bother me until recently. It came up on shuffle on my phone and I realized how misogynistic it really is. Guys complain that girls only go for the jerks, and then publish songs that say “And I just set them up, just set them up, just set them up to knock them down.” And no, we’re not talking about bowling pins. And then we add in the verse. “Nice legs, Daisy Dukes/Makes a man go [whistle]/That’s the way the come through like [whistles] Low cut, see-through shirts that make ya [whistles]/That’s the way she come through like [whistles].” As if that wasn’t bad enough, Katy Perry being featured in this validates it all. It says that you’ll only get a guy’s attention if you have a “perfect” body and not so modest clothes, and once you have their attention they’ll drop you. But it’s okay because boys will be boys and I mean, they’re rock stars so it’s okay. Right?
In any of these instances, if for whatever reason, the artist wasn’t able to prevent the song from being published, the artist did, does, and always will have the power to make a public statement saying they do not endorse domestic violence, homophobia, glorification of mental illnesses, sexual assault, or misogyny.
While I get that some songs are just so catchy and fun to dance to, we need to recognize the impact music has on the world, especially this generation. We need to be the generation to put a stop to all this. I am saying this as an eighteen year old girl who is tired of hearing about how many girls you’re going to get within a song, seeing suicidal quotes on Tumblr, and hearing jokes about Ray Rice over the media. These are all serious issues and musicians need to recognize that they hold some of the biggest influences over society. Whether it’s writing a positive song, saying no to a negative song, or holding a press conference empowering young people, artists DO have a say in their lyrics and image.
*Suicide, depression, self-harm, and mental illnesses are not cute. They are not glamorous, they are not part of the “artistic struggle”, they are to be taken very seriously. If you or anyone you know are suffering with any of these, get help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1 (800) 273-8255. If there is immediate danger, please call your local police right away.