For my 15th birthday, I got two of the best gifts I could ever receive: love and a Spotify Premium account. Spotify is an online music streaming service where most of the trademarked songs in all of history are accessible. I spent a lot of time listening to some of my favorite songs and exploring Spotify’s vast library of both modern and classic tunes. One of the things I realized during my music exploration was that music is something that can change the way you think and affect your emotions very strongly.
While music can be smooth, fun, and joyful, it can also be very powerful. Music can touch on important and controversial topics and speak straight to the hearts of listeners. One modern day example is the song titled “1-800-273-8225” by Logic ft. Alessia Cara and Khalid. When I first saw this song on the YouTube trending page last year, I got very curious about what it was about, especially because of its weirdly long title of seemingly irrelevant numbers. As soon as I pressed the play button, I was surprised, shocked, and hooked.
The music video introduces us to a regular African American teenage boy. The song begins with the lyrics,
“I’ve been on the low I been taking my time I feel like I’m out of my mind It feel like my life ain’t mine Who can relate?”
Suddenly the music video escalates. It is revealed that he is gay, and his dad doesn’t accept him. He is bullied in school and depressed. He wants to die.
“I never had a home Ain’t nobody callin’ my phone Where you been? Where you at? What’s on your mind? They say every life precious but nobody care about mine”
“I don’t wanna be alive I just wanna die today”
Right when he is at his lowest point, he considers ending his life. He has nothing to live for, he thinks. But he is wrong
“I want you to be alive You don’t gotta die Now lemme tell you why”
“It’s holding on, though the road’s long And seeing light in the darkest things And when you stare at your reflection Finally knowing who it is I know that you’ll thank God you did”
He decides to dial 1-800-273-8225, and I find out that the song’s title is actually the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the U.S. He realizes that suicide is never the answer, and that there’s always a better solution than ending his life.
“What’s the day without a little night? …It can be so hard But you gotta live right now You got everything to give right now.”
“I don’t wanna cry anymore I wanna feel alive I don’t even wanna die anymore.”
This song touched a lot of hearts when it was released last 2017, and again when the singers Logic, Alessia Cara, and Khalid performed it at the Grammys earlier this week. Even though I’ve never gone through depression myself, I could feel the pain of the main character of the “1-800” music video, as well as for all the people in the comments section of the video who shared their own struggles with depression and how some were able to overcome it, while others were asking for help on how to fight it. “1-800” really showed me how music can be a powerful force for good. While some songs are full of curse words and only talk about getting with girls or guys, there are rare instances when songwriters use music as an instrument for spreading awareness of important issues, like acceptance, depression, and suicide.
Listening to “1-800” reminded me of another song by one of the most influential Filipino bands out there, the Eraserheads. Even though they’re disbanded many years ago, their songs are still relevant and well loved today. The song I’m talking about in particular is Hey Jay. Although this song was released in 1994, it is still timely 24 years later. While the beat is fun and catchy, it is also about the struggles of Jay, a gay man living in the Philippines, and how the person singing the song is trying to reassure him that there are people out there who accept him for who he is. I appreciated that the lyrics only implied that he was gay very subtly, so the song can have a connection with people going through a rough time even if they aren’t part of the LGBQT+ community.
“Hey Jay, nabugbog ka na naman kahapon Hey Jay ba’t kasi pumunta ka pa sa lugar na ‘iyon? Alam mo namang galit sila sa tulad mo Alam mo namang di ka nila maiintindihan”
“Hey Jay nagaway na naman kayo ng tatay mo Hey Jay wala raw siyang anak na katulad mo Alam niya namang wala kang kasalanan Alam niya na ipinanganak ka ng ganyan”
“Ba’t ba tayo ganito Walang galang sa kapwa tao”
“Jay what you are and wherever you go Isipin mo na lang na may nagmamahal sa ‘iyo”
‘He-he-he-hey Jay Be happy and be gay We still love you anyway’
Both these songs, “1-800” and “Hey Jay”show the power of music and how it can affect listeners positively. These artists could have just made generic songs with a catchy beat, but instead, they reached out to the sad, lonely, and depressed. They made an effort to make art that would have a lasting impact and relevance to the world we live in today and to call attention to issues that need the support of everyone, not just the famous and powerful, but also the everyday human beings that listen to their songs. It gives me hope to see some of the rich and famous using their power for good, instead of how many politicians and celebrities act, and they inspire me to use my own talents to be a positive influence on the world.