Yesterday I was minding my own business and I happened to hear yet another melancholy song by a young female singer songwriter named Phoebe Something. The lyrics danced around the morbidity of depression:
“Jesus Christ I’m so blue all the time”
Oh for God’s sake why are you so depressed all the time? I mean you could have gone to that hypnotherapist Ryan Ada…er…your ex-lover gave you that 1500 bucks for sessions. But you only went once!
The melancholia continued several songs later with someone named Mitski lamenting on a similar, and similarly generic, theme:
“My God, I’mso lonely/So I open the window/To hear sounds of people
To hear sounds of people”
Dear goodness. What are these girls going to do when they get older and they are stuck in a loveless marriage or, horror of horrors, lose that youthful glow? When those music blog accolades have all dried up?
A few songs later. Another young lady from the UK with a first-name-only moniker who lives at home with her parents in a tony section of London, with a “voice that could heal the world” as per the ever hype-adverse Pitchfork, sang some decent lyrics of love lost in the most downhearted, glum vocals. I could barely understand her. It’s been said she could be the new Amy Winehouse, but I don’t hear a single glimmer of the power of genuine hurt in her voice. I don’t hear her living a life beyond an internet romance that never leaves the phone screen.
Masters Of Lived-In Depression
These girls could learn a thing or two from Sia. On the haunting “Breathe Me” she eviscerates in pain, a guttural vocal that makes you feel her heart being ripped in two. I think the song was actually about her struggle with alcoholism, because she was out living a life no matter how badly.
Natalie Merchant once crafted a song about depression, “Like The Weather”. If you really don’t dive into the lyrics “Well by the force of will my lungs are filled and so I breathe. /Lately it seems this big bed is where I never leave. /Shiver in my bones just thinking about the weather. /Quiver in my voice as I cry” The song has a peppy, danceable vibe. Merchant was always a wonder at coloring songs with a hint of snark to alleviate the dark.
Aimee Mann is also a master at writing about heartache and breakups. In “Save Me” (that title alone!) Mann croons in her signature slow rolling vocals:
“You look like a perfect fit /For a girl in need of a tourniquet/ But can you – save me”
You crave more of this song, and it doesn’t disappoint with an overarching bridge that rises high then drops you back to reality. Her last album from 2017 was simply entitled “Mental Illness” and instead of waxing poetic about being depressed and anxious in this age of general anxiety and overmedication, she makes you want to plunge right into the fits of mania she croons about in “RollerCoaster”. The woman has talent and truth and she builds on life experience.
Barry Walters once eloquently observed of Aimee:
“Mann fills her songs with ordinary people struggling against operatic levels of pain.”
The issue with these young girls I was hearing on the radio that day was that they were full of dread and angst and the innate inability to forge forward in real relationships, leaving them lacking the essential power of candid ache.