This piece was originally published in Issue 12 of Heart Eyes Magazine (page 40).
To be sure, the past is peppered with a few loveless anthems like one of the best bops of the 90s – NSYNC’s “Bye Bye Bye.” But now, unlike ever before, we hear men and women alike (mostly women) proclaiming their singleness from the rooftops. Although singleness tends to be pitied in social circles, not so in the music scene.
Modern pop culture is increasingly exalting the individual. Celebrities and artists encourage us to cut all the “toxic” people out of our lives for the sake of our mental health and satisfaction. Of course we still acknowledge the pain of losing love. Ed Sheeran’s “Happier” will always be a tearjerker. But modern music is changing the game.
New lyrics dive deeper into heartbreak and explore different stages of grief and loss. Artists like Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande and Demi Lovato move past the tears into a new sense of self. Some tracks from these pop powerhouses wail with devastation. Some seethe with anger. But more recently, they boldly proclaim a never-before-seen confidence — whether real or fabricated, we may never know.
Bold and bad has replaced sweet and sensitive at the top of the charts. Artists no longer beg for the adoration of another – they love themselves. Could this be linked to the third and fourth waves of the feminist movement? This would explain the predominantly female demographic of the anti-love/pro-single sub-genre. Songs like Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” and Grande’s “7 Rings” step out of the female heartbreak trope and fully embrace a me-first attitude.
Whether you agree with the messages of these hits or not, you can’t deny their success. Although tracks like these glorify revenge and plunge over the edge of narcissism, our culture is loving them. Music no longer singles us out (pun intended) – it celebrates us in all of our single glory. And it feels good.
The singles of the world aren’t all teardrops on guitars and smeared mascara. They’re working and having a pretty good time on their own. And they’re not arguing with someone over where to go for dinner. Today’s music recognizes that. And it slaps.