Perhaps one of the most difficult areas in music to continually show creativity in is the message – or, the lyrics. While an artist could write about virtually anything, it typically makes the most sense to write about relatable topics (i.e. relationships, anger, faith, etc.). Relationships and breakups have always been, and will always be the most popular lyrical themes; however, the current trend in heavy music is, without a doubt, “hope.”
So when did it all really start to take off? It’s hard to say. Posi-core bands have always been known for bringing hopeful and empowering lyrics to the table, as well as the majority of early Christian hardcore bands. At this point, the idea was still mostly genuine and fresh. The first band I ever got into who pushed the “hope” message was We Came As Romans. Even at this point, in 2009, the message hadn’t been overdone. Contrary to popular opinion, I thought WCAR actually wrote about this subject pretty well in the beginning. It inspired me, and it got me motivated. Then they released the song titled “Hope”. This is when I started to feel that the subject should be laid to rest for a bit. They were running out of ways to write about hope, yet still kept pushing out material that was both unoriginal and mostly uninspired.
To my dismay, this was just the beginning. Let’s say a new movie comes out, and it’s fantastic. You watch it five times, and you still love it just as much as you did the first time. Now this next part is not rocket science, at least it shouldn’t be – if you watched this movie 100 times, it would probably get old. You’d get bored, the plot would lose its edge and you’d have heard all the lines a hundred times before. This occurs more commonly with music – a band drops a new single, you listen to it for three weeks straight, and then you’re sick of it. What musicians in this scene don’t seem to understand is that each time they write about hope, the more bland it becomes. People will quickly lose their passion about something if they feel like it has become a gimmick.
Garret Rapp of The Color Morale will tell every fan and every interviewer that hope is not a gimmick and that it keeps him going in life – I believe him. The band’s 2013 release, Know Hope, may not have been a groundbreaking album, but at least it was honest and genuine. However, just one listen through this album could very easily leave the listener a little weary of the idea of “hope.” Rapp has dedicated his life to spreading hope to those who lack it, but it seems to me that he doesn’t exactly know how to write about hope in a way that is meaningful and effective. For example: “How am I supposed to write about hope / With catchy hooks and melodies, and make you sing along / Well I titled this whole album before I tried to write a song.” This is mere rambling – there is no substance or meaning behind what he is writing. He is driving the message into the ground so hard that some fans might leave feeling nauseous. But wait, it gets better! The band recently announced the title of their next full length: Hold On Pain Ends. Do you see it? Yes, they snuck that pesky word into the title again. And from what Rapp has been sharing on social network accounts, it appears that the lyrics on the new album will be nearly identical to the lyrics on Know Hope. Honestly, if you don’t know what hope is at this point, you probably never will.
Somehow, many fans are still finding inspiration in these bands’ lyrics. I shouldn’t be complaining, because that is surely the positive outcome here. If this regurgitated message it still helping people find the path to a better life, then I am only grateful. Still, I am confident that the day is soon coming when fans of heavy music will despise that word. Not only is this topic getting old, but many bands are sacrificing musicianship for the sake of drilling this message into people’s heads. There is too much focus on the message and not enough focus on actually writing songs worth listening to (or reading, even).
What was the purpose in writing this piece? Honestly, I just like to rant and get these things out of my system. Best-case scenario – prominent names in the metalcore scene read this article and realize that they are slowly, but surely, ruining a very important message. Worst-case…they don’t. Either way, I feel that it is about time somebody speaks out on this issue.
Support good music with your ears and with your wallets. If you believe that an artist is genuinely invested in his or her message and has only good intentions, then support that artist. We can’t expect every band to write the most unique lyrics ever, that’s just the simple fact. Hope, or no hope – at the end of the day, what really matters is what the artist’s heart says. Don’t mind me, I’m just an opinionated kid.