WHY MUSIC MATTERS
By Alex Cole
For many people music can be an escape. Whether they listen to it, write it or go to gigs, it can be a pathway to happiness, freedom and pure enjoyment. Recently I read an article on Vice about the emo genre in the 2000s and in particular focused on the band My Chemical Romance. Despite their break in 2013 (if you’re as ridiculously excited about their comeback as I am, let me know) they’re still one of my favourite bands. Through their dramatic music and powerful lyrics, they had a huge impact on me at all ages.
The article mentioned the topic of the press’ reaction to the group during the height of their success, which was less than positive. Through their image and lyrics, they branded them as damaging towards their listeners. Despite that emotional music already existed due to bands like ‘The Cure’ in the 1980s and Nirvana the following decade, this new genre was the ‘cause’ for a generation of poor mental health. Although these were “pre existing illness’” the media still believed that these musicians were the issue. Rather than write articles on important matters (it was the 00s, there was many a political issue) or accept undiagnosed and untreated mental health as a real problem, they still chose to target music.
What people didn’t understand is that "mainstream emo did more for promoting awareness and understanding of mental health amongst young people, during an era of high stigma, than most cultural movements could ever dream of". Ironically, people assumed the movement encouraged negative behaviour, whereas it actually addressed mental health and created a space for people to belong. For example, Gerard Way has frequently talked about his battle with depression and addiction. His brother, bassist Mikey Way, also dealt with mental health issues and (according to sources that I obviously have no idea who or what) Gerard wrote the extremely popular song ‘Famous last words’ about him.
These bands wrote about mental health because they too experienced it. They wrote music that audiences needed in a time when the stigma around the subject was at its high. MCR’S music was relatable. It was reflective. But overall, it was different. They challenged stereotypes and the “existing codes of masculinity”. They’re one of my favourite bands because they created art not just for themselves, but for those who needed guidance. Their lyrics remain powerful and still speak to adults who were once the kids who needed them. Now another generation of kids are finding the help they need through them, proving how truly powerful their music was. The skinny jeans and heavy eyeliner might have disappeared over time, but the emotion created by musicians such as My Chemical Romance will never fade. Through music, people can find hope, happiness and understand that mental health is real.
So whether you’re still an emo kid or you find yourself listening to the best hip-hop records of all time, remember music matters. It has the power to change minds and change lives.
If you want to read the Vice article, click the link below!