As much as I love artists like Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande, who will undoubtedly be the pop king and queen of my generation, at some point, these celebrity singers just run out of originality. The lyrics literally fall flat – “Focus,” for example, is one of the WORST singles put out by a talented person… ever. (Source: me)
Ariana Grande proved her talent on SNL, and Bieber has to remind the world time and time again of his musical ability on countless instruments and of his surprisingly classic voice by stripping down his techno-laden hits to acoustic versions. But are either of them doing anything that challenges modern music?
I’m going with no.
And for that reason, neither of them will ever be my favorite artist. Sure, I will enjoy seeing them live – they are talented, as I said before. But will their albums be timeless because the lyrics relate so strongly that I set them on repeat years later? Still no.
But I think there’s hope for the music industry. And three artists are giving ME that hope.
3. The 1975
The 1975 hit American radio with “Chocolate,” which ironically became the song of the summer in 2014. The British band is known for their eclectic style and satirical songs that criticize American culture in a way that only Americans could glamorize. The band’s first big hit in the states even boasted the words, “We’ve got guns hidden under our petticoats. No we’re never gonna quit it, no we’re never gonna quit it no. Well I think we better go, seriously better go. Said the feds are here you know.”
It’s a mocking of youth, and it’s brilliant because it was such a hit. We’re violent, criminals, lusters, and yet – we love chocolate, and we’re adorable, and we don’t care what we’re singing about anyways. It was my ringtone. Point proven.
“She’s American” is by far the best track of the band’s second album, I Like it When You Sleep, for You are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It.
“If she likes it ‘cause we just don’t eat, and we’re socially relevant, she’s American/ If she says I’ve got to fix my teeth, then she’s so American.”
In just a few lines, the four Brits call out our eating disorders, desire for relevance and vanity. And the best part about it is that I agree with every bit. I absolutely do appreciate the English for their social consciousness and I’ve always wondered what their vendetta is with braces. Which makes another great point about me/Americans – we live by stereotypes. If you want some even cooler epiphanies that I didn’t think of, check this out.
Not only am I questioning my social identity when listening to The 1975, I’m truly inspired by their insane talent to merge electronic dance music with absolutely beautiful lyrics, an alternative and somehow edgy vibe, and a pop-punk look.
The 1975 are a singing and white-boy dancing satire, but that’s not why you should love them. You can love them because they make damn good music – that’s a perfectly good (and accurate) reason.
If you think you haven’t heard of Halsey, you’re probably wrong without knowing. “New Americana” hit most big radio stations late 2015, but Halsey has been on the festival circuit for a while. And if you’ve been a fan since then like me, you know that she hasn’t changed a bit. If you want to hear a goosebump-evoking voice with absolutely haunting lyrics, listen to the “Hold Me Down” Vivo Lift session she did. Her raw talent is ridiculous – in a way that I just haven’t seen or heard in my lifetime (albeit short).
But what sets her apart from other “sexy feminists” in her realm like Haley Williams or the lesser known Niykee Heaton? Halsey has so embraced her sins, her mistakes, her extremely flawed youth, that she has a way of mocking herself and this generation in a way that many mistake for glorification – which is exactly the point she is trying to make.
“Survival of the richest, the city’s ours until the fall. They’re Monaco and Hamptons-bound, but we don’t feel like outsiders at all. We are the New Americana, high on legal marijuana.”
I don’t even have to explain the greatness of that lyric. How sad it is to live in a culture damaged because of something we legalized? The rich rise, and we all fall. It’s all good, and she sounds out-of-this-world singing it. Not to mention, her style is so mysterious, so haunting, unlike anything outside of the punk industry. She’s breaking through genres and breaking down walls of conversations we are all afraid to have.
How abouta little politics too? She makes a statement about self-esteem, social media and capitalism in my personal favorite – Gasoline.
“You can’t wake up, this is not a dream,/ You’re part of a machine, you are not a human being,/ With your face all made up, living on a screen,/ Low on self esteem, so you run on gasoline.”
Can I just say – BOOM? (For more BOOM, click here.)
This girl is riding a wave that won’t be crashing anytime soon. And if you appreciate good artistry, great singers, and even better songwriters – you need to get on this Halsey bandwagon. Just let me sit front row. Because there’s a line.
1. Twenty One Pilots
I’ve known about this band for years. “Car Radio” was my jam in college, but I had never gone face-first into the fandom. In fact, I knew absolutely nothing about Tyler and Josh – the two men who make up the entire band – until last weekend when I saw them VIP at the NCAA Coca Cola Music Festival. And I have never been more amazed. (And that’s saying a lot. My concert-count is nearing 100.)
Houston’s heat was overwhelming as usual, and these two guys came out in full jumpsuits and masks, banging on the drums and piano to “Heavydirtysoul,” in a way I was not expecting. The skeleton images, gas masks, jump suits, ski hats, blankets covering their heads, microphones dangling from the ceiling – they all made a statement – a statement I wasn’t sure of at first. The conservative Christian in me felt apprehensive initially, but knowing the songs – I knew I was missing a piece.
“Guns for Hands” and “Lane Boy” are the two songs you need to understand this band, and it completely opened my eyes to the glorious irony these two guys are displaying to make a point. All of the show – the outfits, the masks, the production – serve both as a “disguise” from modern fame (think of it as Sia before Sia was cool) and a protest against everything the music industry is about. Tyler Joseph, who sings, raps and screams for the band, didn’t want to “stay in his lane” and just do one thing. Music isn’t a “highway,” so he and Josh did what they wanted –and they created a band that has no genre. The talent the two of them have is astounding. Tyler can rap with the best of them, jam on a ukulele like he belongs in Mumford and Sons, mix a ridiculous techno beat, and he even screams now and then. The kid has pipes, and his thoughts run deep.
Their latest album -- Blurryface -- gives flesh to a metaphorical character of the record's name, illustrating Joseph's insecurities with himself and the spotlight he has found himself in. Blurryface appears in almost every song, in one way or another as fear, as doubt, as an alter-ego that might even suggest fighting bipolar disease. Regardless, it's a concept so compelling and relatable, Joseph creates an undeniably poetic piece of work, and actually points to a Creator the entire time.
The best part of this band is that they don’t shove their religion down the throats of their fans. Both are professing Christians, and their lyrics have a darkness that points to a belief in a Savior. But that’s not why Twenty One Pilots makes number 1 on my list.
Twenty One Pilots is changing the face of music because they have established a fan base so dedicated – a fan base that doesn’t love them because they’re cute or because they’re country or because they’re “popular.”
This band sells out arenas in seconds because they blend everything good in music to create brilliant pieces of art, both in sound and in lyrics. They constantly point to something more – something more creative – something more important – something bigger than just music. And that, is what makes their music the BEST music.
“And I will try with every rhyme/To come across like I am dying/To let you know you need to try to think” - Car Radio
For more insanely inspiring word vomit, check out some of the best Twenty One Pilots lyrics here.