If we needed to play the video game of “state something nice” about 2021, we could say this: There was a lot to take note of! Not a dull year. So you would be forgiven for missing out on the fact that the generally staid and difficult topic of environment modification appeared in a rather unforeseen place: pop music. The type of artists who frequent Coachella and Lollapalooza attempted to make our squashing state of global uncertainty into– well, if not bangers, then at least something you might sing along to. A venture, to say the least!
Environment change might appear like an odd choice of musical inspiration, however this trend has in fact been a long, steady time coming. In the last a number of years, a growing lineup of musicians have actually tried to communicate this particular existential crisis in their work. In 2016, there were the Iceberg Tunes, a collection of tracks, funded by the environment modification department of the United Nations, that consisted of the noises of melting and crashing icebergs. ” Icarus in Flight,” a piece of chamber music made up by Richard Fetsinger and premiered in 2018, equates climate data such as carbon emissions and land utilize into musical notes and progressions.
And then, drifting a bit more mainstream, world-renowned soprano Renée Fleming launched an album of songs about environment modification previously this year that the New Yorker described as “more about wonder than admonishment.” (Note: this is hardly the first time opera has used international warming as a source of artistic motivation.) And there is more classical environment music to come: The Bangor Chamber Orchestra in Maine announced the premier of a work called ” The Warming Sea” in the spring of next year.
However these are all relatively specific niche genres. What about popular song, the stuff of the masses? My coworker Miyo McGinn wrote in 2019 about what seemed to be some stirring of a “environment pop” category, where Billie Eilish, Grimes, and Lana del Rey all worked allusions to hotter atmospheres and rising seas into their songs. This year, artists from Ariana Grande to Bootsy Collins released music referencing the climate crisis, in forms both oblique and obvious.
So what would make such a track … great? Instead of rely entirely on my own sensibilities, I asked pop musicologist Nathaniel Sloan for his insight. He stated that the success of a pop song in general is connected to its ability to convey “a specific feeling in such a way that will be universally comprehended,” especially when its “musical options strengthen the lyrical message, in ways that can range from the obvious to the subtle.” The special challenge of making a truly great pop tune about environment modification, he added, is that “it’s more difficult to link to the climate crisis on an individual, emotional level” than, state, breakups or substance abuse. And when you drift too far into preachiness, you have actually entirely lost the point.
I would venture that another marker of pop success– although not in seclusion– is whether the music itself is enjoyable and sticks with you.
Just Look Up (Ariana Grande, Kid Cudi)
This Disney-esque disaster ballad is performed in the movie Don’t Look Up, Adam McKay’s new film that is indicated to be a satirical representation of the environment crisis I can just assume that it is indicated to exist within the fictional universe of that movie. In said universe, there is a meteor speeding towards Earth and nobody will do anything to address it.
The duet is a cross in between a love song and a warning of impending doom. Which, when you think about it: Isn’t that any love song? However, when Grande sings: “Listen to the goddamn qualified scientists/We truly fucked it up, fucked it up this time” and “Turn off that shit Box News/ ‘Cause you will die quickly everyone,” you sort of wish for the basic subtlety of her previous hits, like this line from “Wit It This Chrismas”: Are you down for a few of these milk and cookies?
Does it get stuck in your head? Yes, all early morning. But so has “Wit It This Christmas.”
Are you happy about it? I have actually had worse.
Fallen Fruit (Lorde)
My coworker Emily Pontecorvo reviewed Lorde’s long-awaited third album Solar Power when it was launched at the tail end of August– sort of odd timing for a 14- tune ode to summertime lightness. Listening to the titular track, Emily had wished for “a chorus into which to channel all of my climate-related grief, aggravation, and hope,” but did not discover it.
What she– and everyone else preparing for some climate anthems from the New Zealander songstress– did find on the album was much less galvanizing product, a series of sort of mournful meditations on leaving a fatally problematic world.
Does it get stuck in your head? No.
Are you delighted about it? I believe if it were stuck in my head I would feel quite melancholy.
The Kid Will Rise Up (Nandi Bushell and Roman Morello)
What can you truly state about a song composed and carried out by kids? Are you able to critique it without being an asshole? I am 32 and I can’t write a tune, so who am I to evaluate the musical stylings of somebody a 3rd of my age? To that end, here are the great things I can say: It appears that Rage Versus the Device frontman Tom Morello’s 10- year-old child, Roman, is intimidatingly good at guitar; the drummer and singer, 11- year-old TikTok star Nandi Bushell, possesses a forceful and charming presence, and I like her choice of armbands. And despite the fact that the opening lines– “They let the earth bleed to feed their dirty greed/stop contaminating politicians, poisoning for earnings”– are more than a little preachy, they actually do get to the heart of the issue.
Nevertheless, the unusual looming presence of ebullient actor/musician Jack Black and Tom Morello throughout the accompanying video produces an ambiance that, eventually, is more “aging rock fathers approve of children playing ill riffs” than “this is a compelling tune about an unprecedented existential risk.” And the Troublesome Truth- esque presentation on the science of environment modification that follows the video appears to gild the lily, for all its earnestness.
Does this get stuck in my head: Yes.
Am I pleased about it? Hmmm.
Music4ClimateJustice (Bootsy Collins, Steven van Zandt, Chew Fu)
I really do not enjoy funk music and in that respect do not feel that I can be an excellent judge of it, so I turned to somebody who does: My dad. Upon listening to the bit of the song, he stated, “Honey, we do not have a lot to go on here.”
We are allowed merely a minute-ish sneak peek of this song, since the complete variation can just be acquired by buying an NFT of the song, which is meant to benefit the Music4ClimateJustice nonprofit. On principle, I don’t want to engage with this form of art circulation, but I couldn’t anyway due to the fact that it is offered out. According to Wanderer, much of the tune is comprised of ” an excessive guitar solo” by Van Zandt, however in the sneak peek we are mainly entreated to Bootsy Collins whispering about “Environment delivering.”
My father states that “funk tunes need to be listened to a lot prior to you really like them,” and because you can not listen to this one even when without purchasing it, I guess we will never ever understand whether my daddy would like it or not. (I am confident I would not.)
Here’s just one small little grievance to think about. If you acknowledge climate modification as a problem that’s at least somewhat involved economic inequality and lack of gain access to, maybe releasing it in such a minimal and exclusive fashion– even to benefit an element of the cause!– is not the move.
Does this get stuck in my head: No, thank god.
Am I delighted about it? See above.
Respectable Mention: Blue Banisters (Lana del Rey)
We have actually added this tune here due to the fact that, although it is not overtly about environment modification, our warming world appears in such brilliant, intimate detail that it sticks in the mind and haunts you:
I said, “I’m scared of the Santa Clarita Fires, I want that it would drizzle”
I stated, “The power of us 3 can bring definitely anything
Except that one thing, the diamonds, the rust, and the rain
The thing that gets rid of the pain”
Del Ray goes on to paint an image of basic bucolic delight– cake-baking and porch-painting and chickens. All of which seems to recommend that, yes, even if the Santa Clarita fires burn, life will continue and happiness will still be discovered.
Does this get stuck in my head: Yes, however most likely because I have actually listened to it 150 times (a conservative quote) considering that it came out.
Am I delighted about it? Yes! I like fantasizing that I am a dreamy meadow wife-poetess.