The tone of that song — mournful, dazed, sullen, traumatized, self-absorbed, defensive, remote, morbid — was pervasive in the pop of 2017. Hit radio and popularity-driven algorithmic playlists lingered on bleak, bummed-out sounds and scenarios, stringing together music that shares the feeling of being alienated, unprotected and besieged.
And why not? Consider the pressures on the millennial and younger listeners who are clicking to choose a song. They’re making their way into an era of accelerating income inequality. They’re awash in social media that nationalizes peer pressure, that expects intricately maintained self-branding and that shows — with photos — how just about everyone else is having a better life.
They are on college-education tracks that could leave them with a staggering debt burden, or they face the prospect of working in a dead-end retail or service-sector job under the ruthless exploitation of a gig economy. Social safety nets are being shredded, environmental protections are being reversed. For young listeners, there’s no guarantee of a fulfilling career or even of nontoxic food, air and water.