Thursday, October 1, 2020
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MUSIC CREATES A PERSONAL NARRATIVE

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VULNERABILITY IN ITS TRUE FORM 

Writing is an outlet used by people everywhere, in all languages and all demographics. It is known for helping many people manage their stress.

There are plenty of reasons people write music, and there are plenty of reasons that people listen to it. Many artists that write their own music tend to write about topics that could make them vulnerable to the public. These vulnerable pieces could be as simple as writing about a breakup or as complicated as sharing their sobriety journey. 

There are plenty of well-known artists that write about their struggles in their “vulnerable music.”

For example, Demi Lovato has been very public about her struggles with sobriety in her recent music.  This former Disney star even made a documentary about her sobriety, currently available on YouTube. She created it to shed light on what it’s like to be a young celebrity struggling with addiction. She wanted to discuss the fact that anyone can be struggling with addiction silently, even when they’re put on a metaphorical pedestal with fame and fortune. 

Lovato unfortunately relapsed in 2018 but, after two years of recovery, came back into the music scene in 2020 with a different muse. Lovato is known for making music about loving another person, and since her relapse she has released music related to loving herself. Some of her top hits are, “Give your Heart a Break,” “Cool for the Summer,” “Sorry Not Sorry” and many more that you may have heard on the radio. At the 2020 Grammys, Lovato performed her new song “Anyone” which she said was written around the time of her relapse.

In this performance, it is clearly difficult for Lovato to tell her story. She has a hard time beginning the song, and is in tears for the majority of it. Since this heart-felt performance, Lovato has gone on to make other vulnerable songs related to her sobriety experience and self-love struggles.

Vulnerability in the music world could be seen as a risk. The song-writer is choosing to share a private portion of their life, which is risky within itself. Not all fans may enjoy listening to the piece if they haven’t lived in that situation. However, vulnerability can be confused with emotion when it comes to songwriting. In vulnerable music, writers open up to the world and reveal truths about themselves that could be seen as controversial because everyone has different views of what’s “right” and “wrong”. Putting out pieces that relate directly to your life should be seen as a form of courage, because there is the possibility that some fans will not connect with this music the way others would. With the large amount of social media, it’s easy to share your opinions to the world. Artists are able to connect with fans, but they also have the issue of seeing all of the hate comments. These hate comments typically do more bad than good. If people really do not like the song, they’ll share it saying they don’t like it. And, although the artist is getting more listens, the whole point of the song goes down the drain. 

The fact of the matter is that people like when artists are vulnerable with their music if it is something they can relate to. This was seen when Olivia O’Brien’s song “Josslyn” quickly gained popularity on the social media platform TikTok. O’Brien has since said in interviews that she wrote the song about someone she was not dating, and she never thought it would get as much publicity as it did. This song became such a hit because so many people related to the situation she was singing about and wanted to say exactly what she does in the song.

“Josslyn” is a song that is bordering on stereotype. There are rough female stigmas out there that if a female reacts a certain way to a break up she’s the “crazy ex girlfriend.” So, although O’Brien has created such an emotionally driven piece, there’s still the opportunity for it to crash and burn in the media. She even (in the song) goes so far as to say  “Don’t want to fight, I just never want to talk again / I hope that it was worth it f*cking Josslyn,” which could be interpreted as her acting crazy. O’Brien releasing this song seemed harmless, but it would be less of a hit if her listeners hadn’t related to the situation.

Vulnerability can be shown in many ways through music and music artists. Another artist who has spoken out about their vulnerability in their music is Lizzo. The “Truth Hurts” and “Good as Hell” artist has spoken publicly about how therapy has helped her become more vulnerable in the media and given her new success. 

She has expressed that it is difficult to be vulnerable as a Black artist because there are people who still look differently upon her professionally because she is Black. She also is looked differently upon because she is an artist who expresses body positivity within her music. 

Lizzo is a celebrity that receives a lot of social media backlash, especially on TikTok. Since “Truth Hurts” became popular last summer, Lizzo has around 9 million followers on both her Instagram and TikTok. Unfortunately, Lizzo is one of those artists who has seen the worst of what can come out of media popularity. Whenever you visit any of Lizzo’s social media accounts, there’s always a huge amount of rude comments. These comments always seem to be about her weight even though she’s stated that she is happily living in her own skin. These horrible comments typically are people telling her to lose weight, but implying that she eats too much or she doesn’t work out enough.

Although Lizzo’s album “Cuz I Love You” has given her success, as well as a name for herself in the music industry, some people cannot stop posting fat shaming comments on her social media. The whole situation is ironic because anyone who has heard Lizzo’s music would know that she is a body-positive influencer. Most of her music speaks about how she is perfect the way she is and doesn’t need anyone to tell her otherwise. Yet, these people still flood the comments of her videos to tell her that her body positivity mindset is wrong. So, she came back at the haters in a video where she expresses that her body type is nobody’s business. Go Lizzo!

Writing vulnerable music is something that should be seen as courageous. It’s the artist putting themselves out there to their audience in hopes that their fans will react positively to the music. Although some pieces may be more vulnerable than others, people on the Internet should remember that artists are people too. They do not deserve to be looked upon in a certain way just because they’re sharing a very personal song.