Although older generations tend to frown upon the loss of meaning in our generation’s music, and they are arguably correct, there are still some songs of our day that have a solid message. Found in several genres, the following songs are living proof that meaningful music has not died.
In Our Prime — by The Black Keys
This song is about the promise and joys of youth. The main lyrics that run through the course of the song are “We had it all when we were in our prime” and “We made our mark when we were in our prime”. “In Our Prime” portrays the utter satisfaction felt in youth — it being the “high point” of life. That being said, this song can evoke different emotions depending on the person reading it. For example, this song might stir sentimental or sad feelings in adults, where it promises excitement for teens. This song shows the harsh interpretation that the lyricist has of life after youth: “Friends no longer aid me…I’m praying for some laughter.” Joy seems to disappear and the freedom in youth — “The house had burned but nothing there was mine” — turned to responsibility. Overall, this song contrasts the glory in youth with the sadness of aging.
Cool Kids — Echosmith
“Cool Kids” is an excellent song for high schoolers — it basically preaches about what we deal with every day: the pressure to conform. The first verse says, “She sees them walking in a straight line, but that’s not really her style…Nothing in the world could ever bring them down…they’re invincible, and she’s just in the background.” This shows how the one girl dares to go her own way and, because of this, she’s vulnerable. She’s not “invincible” like the cool kids because she doesn’t blend in with the masses. “Invincible” is actually used mockingly here, as these “cool kids” aren’t truly invincible, they are only protected against society because they adhere so strongly to its restrictions, which, in a way, makes them more vulnerable. It also talks about how the “cool kids” don’t care about people who are troubled, even though they themselves are lost — “they’re living the good life, can’t see what he is going through. They’re driving fast cars, but they don’t know where they’re going.” These popular kids see right through the boy that wants to be a “cool kid” — they don’t see that he is struggling, and they really don’t care. They have an appearance of being important and well-adjusted but they are actually racing to nowhere. Overall, this song exemplifies the age-old tension between the in-crowd and the outsiders.
Oblivion — Bastille
“Oblivion” is about making the best of life — that we do not become “oblivious” to what is going around us and the valuable time that is slipping away. It encourages the reader to make the best of their life and to make a positive impact on the world, as well as embracing the wisdom that comes with age: “Are you going to age with grace? Are you going to leave a path to trace?” It also makes a point about regret. The song asks, “Are you going to age with grace, or only to wake and hide your face?” The song is urging the reader to think about their life in terms of living with no regrets — so that they live a life that they are proud of, not one that they wish they could change.
The Middle — Jimmy Eat World
“The Middle” is a rallying cry for teens in distress — that even if life may have disastrous lows, much like a rollercoaster, it is bound to come back up again. The song presents the allegory of a young girl experiencing a hardship or struggle. Jimmy Eat World assume the role of a familiar and trusted friend counseling the young girl’s stress. Lyrics such as, “Hey, don’t write yourself off yet,” as well as “It’s only in your head you feel left out or looked down on” set the scene. During the repetitive upbeat chorus, the lyrics, “It just takes some time, little girl you’re in the middle of the ride/Everything (everything) will be just fine, everything (everything) will be alright (alright),” reaffirms the troubled young girl that he worries will soon be over. This is particularly applicable to teenagers and young adults because of all of the stress surrounding high school, relationships, etc.
Lose Yourself — Eminem (explicit)
“Lose Yourself” is a hard slap across the face to all those who have passively let ambition loose from their grip. In the intro, Eminem begs the question, “Look, if you had one shot or one opportunity/To seize everything you wanted, in one moment/Would you capture it or just let it slip?” A question heavy on the minds of our generation as they began to think about their future and head off to college or the workforce. Eminem makes the case to follow your dreams; however, no one ever claimed that it was an easy path. The first verse details the struggle that Eminem went through to get to where he is today–“His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy,” “He opens his mouth, but the words won’t come out/He’s choking, how everybody’s joking now,” and “He’s so mad, but he won’t give up that easy, nope, he won’t have it.” In writing “Lose Yourself,” Eminem seeks to serve as a model for anyone who is lost, guided by nothing but a compass of ambition. Throughout the whole song the listener is empowered to go out and try to do whatever they want to do, it doesn’t matter if you fail, so long as you get back up and keep trying. “Snap back to reality. Oh – there goes reality.”
Warriors — Imagine Dragons
Our generation is one that has seen pivotal changes and struggles ripple across the geopolitical scape: Arab Spring, Crimea, Ireland. In “Warriors” Imagine Dragons channels this spirit in an incredibly powerful rock anthem. The introduction: “As a child you would wait/And watch from far away/In youth you’d lay/Awake at night and scheme/Of all the things that you would change/But it was just a dream!” portrays the image of a young child witnessing things beyond you occur. In the uprising chorus: “Here we are don’t turn away now/We are the warriors that built this town” coupled with the ceaseless beat revitalizes the listener with a belief in their own potency and agency. It’s easy to think of the classic greats and modern leaders as almost entirely separate from the masses, but in “Warriors” Imagine Dragons reminds us that everyone is human, everyone had to start somewhere…that we are all capable of doing unimaginable things.