What Modern Pop Songs Can Tell Us About Millennial Values

by Mahendra Samsu

I believe the music we hear growing up has an impact on how we perceive the world.

Some song lyrics resonate well in our minds and shape us into who we are, instill some belief in the backs of our minds and inject some meaning of life into our subconscious’.

We feel like we can tell our stories and our struggles with the songs we used to listen to growing up.

They became one of the most important factors in making us who we are today.

I remember growing up with a lot of teen pop in the 2000s — the glory days of MTV.

I was still in middle school, and my exposure to these pop songs shaped me into a different kind of teenager.

Tantrums and rage suddenly became normal, thanks to popular profanity-littered ramblings of Limp Bizkit and those "Parental Advisory" albums that were so prominent at the time.

Pop song themes have changed from generation to generation and they express various, different messages to each separate generation.

Today, we’re not jamming out to 60s psychedelics and we’re not relating to the emo-melodies of the early 2000s.

I wanted to understand what modern pop songs could tell us about Millennials, so I worked on a research project using nVivo and some statistical modeling software.

I Googled every song lyric I heard on the radio and lyrics of the songs I found on the last decade's annual top charts.

With all the lyrics I found and fed into the software for analysis, here is what I found:

1. We like to believe everything is okay.

While pop music from a decade ago often analyzed heartbreak, life struggle and crying your heart out, the pop music of today is all about "everything is okay."

The catchy tunes filling up our top charts worldwide are all up about "being in the zone" or "we're good; we're up for anything."

We like to make fools of ourselves. We like being lied to. We like it when people around us say the world is a fine place to be.

We always learn to live our lives to the fullest. We learn to accept our identities and accept ourselves, and we strive to be happy with our lives, no matter the circumstances.

Although we're a generation of unrest and uneasiness, we're also a generation with the potential to show more gratitude for what we have.

"I could lie, couldn't I, couldn't I? "Every thing that kills me makes me feel alive. "Lately I've been, I've been losing sleep "Dreaming about the things that we could be "But, baby I've been, I've been praying hard "Said no more counting dollars, we'll be counting stars" — One Republic, "Counting Stars"

2. We tend to be hedonistic, in a good way.

We hear many songs that describe partying and getting drunk. The number of dance music singles released on iTunes hit a five-year high, and most of the songs talk about the same thing.

However, we're doing more than just partying and getting wasted.

I believe we're a generation of constant inner struggle.

There's not a single second of our lives when we don't reflect on our own worries. We turn to those modern pop songs in order to seek self-gratifying moments of bliss.

As we're continuously thinking about our inner struggles, we strive for ways to be free of them.

So, we drop that bass and infuse our subconscious with heavy beats; we bang our heads and seek those single, carefree moments.

Even after wild nights of partying, we wake up the next morning just as uneasy as the morning before. We know we should move on, but at least we've got a release.

"Party rock is in the house tonight "Everybody just have a good time "And we gonna make you lose your mind "Everybody just have a good time" — LMFAO, "Party Rock Anthem"

3. We express ourselves.

Today, we no longer internalize our life struggles.

We externalize them, and then we materialize them. I'm not really sure if we're more self-reflective compared to young people 10 to 15 years ago.

Millennials seem to be a little more expressive. Social media is just a finger tap away, and an emotional release just needs some WiFi.

Distraction is just around the corner, and we make full use of it.

We're a generation that actively shares with the world. We post our favorite tunes with #nowplaying in order to share our emotions with people in our networks.

Today's pop music also revolves around this particular theme. It talks about sadness and heartbreak in a more expressive narrative.

The cause of our pain is depicted more clearly and honestly.

Now, we cope a little better because encouragement is just around the corner. We understand that feeling upset is a part of being human.

We're no longer shy about expressing the troubles in our lives. We share our doubts and fears without hesitation because insecurity is an acceptable phase in life. We're not ashamed of it.

"You say I'm crazy "'Cause you don't think I know what you've done "But when you call me baby "I know I'm not the only one" — Sam Smith, "I'm Not The Only One"

4. We have short attention spans.

We're always on the move, you know?

We don't take much time sitting on front porches, listening to some CD collection.

We put our music on our iPhones, and we listen to it on the move.

We don't think we have the attention span to hear much variety, so we just listen to easy and repetitive stuff.

I learned most words in modern song lyrics aren't meant to tell stories or share messages.

Rather, the use of synthesizers and other electronic noises in modern pop songs are engineered to blend with the day-to-day noises we hear in the real world.

So, a fraction (if not most) of the modern songs we hear every day are actually engineered to blend in with the noises from our own surroundings.

It's engineered that way, and I believe it shapes our attention spans as well.

"I’m talking about errybody getting crunk, crunk "Boys trying to touch my junk, junk "Gonna smack him if he getting too drunk, drunk "Now, now we goin’ ’til they kick us out, out "Or the police shut us down, down "Police shut us down, down "Po-po shut us down" — Kesha, "Tik Tok"