How Musicians of Our Time are Dealing with Climate Change in their Own Style

The 18-year-old singer-songwriter, Billie Eilish, who is redefining pop stardom, recently spoke with the LA Times about her climate anxiety, which evolved into bad dreams, spooky lyrics, and even high fashion. A week earlier, Eilish wore a distinctive oversized tee that said, “No Music on a Dead Planet” to the American Music Awards.

We’re about to die if we don’t change,” she said to the paper.

Such a straight forward message from one of the biggest acts in the world would have seemed like an anomaly, a year ago. In April, Ryan Bassil at Vice pointed out that musicians weren’t ready to tackle the climate crisis and wouldn’t be in the near future. Mixing climate activism with a music career isn’t a fruitful move. Bassil called songs from artists like Bono “corny and overly sincere”.

Coldplay announced it will not go for any tours until concerts are “actively beneficial” to the environment. This resulted in the loss of hundreds of millions in ticket sales.

Music is Changing too with Climate

This year has been different since it has become clear that the changing climate began changing music. Many major recording artists streamed their interpretations of the eco-apocalypse through their craft.

In April, YouTube rapper Lil Dicky released “Earth,” a star overloaded and random call to action. In July, The 1975 made an eponymous “song” that is just made up of using a Greta Thunberg speech set to a tinkling piano. In 2019, musicians have discovered their unique way to give voice to the experience of living in-between climate changes.

So far, Eilish is notably the most famous and outspoken artist on the climate crisis. In September, the music video for “All The Good Girls Go to Hell” was released by Darkroom / Interscope Records. For spooky three minutes, Eilish painted the perspective of a fallen angel (with wings) who lands in the sticky tar pit of a La Brea. As the creature stumbles on the scorched streets of Los Angeles, Eilish whispers her refrain, “Hills burn in California / my turn to ignore ya / don’t say I didn’t warn ya”.

The experimental recording artist, Grimes, has also been working on hymns for a horsewoman of the apocalypse. She explained her next album, Miss Anthropocene, as the story of an “anthropomorphic Goddess of climate change”. On “My Name is Dark,” Grimes sings about how “imminent annihilation sounds so dope,” while still pleading the God to “un-fuck the world”.

Now, it seems like you can find climate change in everything. Fans randomly assign apocalyptic meaning to their favorite songs all the time. Consider “Year 3000” by the Jonas Brothers (a ‘Disneyfied’ cover of an earlier hit by the British band Busted) can be taken as a message of climate optimism: your descendants will “live underwater,” but the time-traveling brothers assure that “your great-great-great-granddaughter is doing fine”.

As musicians create new ways to address the climate crisis, listeners won’t get bored, either. And maybe, at Eilish’s decree, fans will continue to take their climate anthems to the streets.

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