The Blurred Line Between Pop Stars and Psychologists

We can all agree that music plays a big part in our lives. Looking at friends’ Spotify Wrapped 2020 (sorry other service users), I saw that there has been a lot of minutes poured towards listening to all sorts of music. Does the current pandemic condition attribute to such stats? Probably. People are doing work and school from home, making music one of the key background aspect of daily life. Some of you might be even listening to something while reading this. As I’m writing this, I’m blasting Christmas songs, hoping it will get me productive enough to write.

Musicians are always considered as artists, mastering the syncing of words, melodies, and harmonies that could spark a spectrum of emotions inside us. They have become significant figures in the popular culture beyond their works. They now have a new role to play: being psychologists to their listeners and fans. People have always been associating certain songs with certain memories they carry, or certain feelings they’re experiencing. Playlists with a particular mood for every occasion is nothing new, and a playlist of “it’s okay to be not okay” or “i feel like crying today” might be something that has become common. Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues are now prevalent, especially in certain age groups and generations. These conditions are further amplified in the pandemic: job losses, job-seeking uncertainties, economic hardships, home problems, difficulties attending online learning, and so on. Now I’ll admit that this does seem like a very metropolitan issue since I believe a lot of us are the ones with subscriptions to streaming services and whatnot, but sadly somehow this is a problem for all of us.

Where do we turn to? Usually, music. We play the playlist or the songs that best fit what we’re feeling at the moment. We dissect the lyrics, finding out how it applies to what we’re going through at the moment. We might even cry a little, and then feel ourselves get broken inside a little, trying to pull ourselves together just for another day. At this point, those musicians are being treated as psychologists. They will get thanked for their music getting listeners through tough times in life. They might even get thanked for saving lives. Maybe there have been such cases among us. A question then arises: should these musicians then continue involuntarily playing this role, or should they then cater to the market and provide more similar songs around the issues of mental health? If it’s the former, how does an artist not get trapped in the pedestal that fans put them in? If it’s the latter, then at what point will it become simply a romanticization and commodification of the struggles that people go through every single day?

Of course, there will be people that will think that musicians should stay artists and part of the popular culture. There would be opinions that musicians should stay as entertainers and express whatever they want to with the artistic freedom given to them. Making music should be a balance of what the musicians want and of what the market desire, creating an equilibrium of supply and demand. These opinions are as valid as any since not everyone might enjoy music with what counts as explicitly heavy subjects for them. Although in the end, you can always choose to just not listen to certain songs or albums created by the artist. Liking a musician doesn't mean that you have to like every single thing that they put out, right?

Music is and will probably always be the most easily relatable art form to consume. The feeling of pouring all your heart out screaming lyrics from the top of your lungs is a feeling so treasured. At the same time, the feeling of crying and sadness while listening to music is also very apparent these days. At the end of the day, whose duty is it to filter the music? How do fans not deify pop stars but still thank these artists for helping them see the next sunrise? How do artists not romanticize and commodify mental health problems that affect so many? The line is very thin and very blurry indeed.

Thank you for reading, trust no one, and see you in the next post.

Bachelor's degree in International Relations from Universitas Indonesia. Football. Cars. Pop culture. Current affairs. Personal rants. Random thoughts.