The image of the angsty teen is ever-changing. Modern day teenagers can pride themselves on their wokeness and vintage clothes but, in reality, teenagehood remains largely the same.
One thing that hasn’t changed is that feeling of “For the love of God, does NO ONE UNDERSTAND ME??”.
Music has always been a source of solace for lonely adolescents who throw all the firsts they experience in the corner like they’re nothing but dirty socks. Kissing posters of your favourite singer, screaming at handsome boys and gorgeous girls, begging your parents to bring you to see them, it’s a whole trope. In an era where gen Z rule, it’s important to look at emerging teen musicians and artists. They are not to be left behind or thrown away, disregarded as just some kids who have used their MacBooks to make lo-fi jams.
Soundcloud has nurtured many infamous rappers. However, it has also been the playground for talented bedroom pop teens. They use the platform to show off their creativity. Bedrooms are DIY studios and songs are produced with little more than Bluetooth microphones and GarageBand. Self-taught, these teens have taken the initiative, combining internet resources with sappy lyrics to express themselves. Instead of punching holes in the walls, they’re transforming their four walls into pop anthem factories.
When listening to the likes of Gus Dapperton, Rex Orange County and Cuco, one thing is apparent — they are lovesick indie babies. They have fallen down the rabbit hole of obsession, enamoured with feelings of being in love, disgusted at the sight of couples. With a beat in the background, they are unstoppable, hurling teenage truths down your headphones. Their overtly sentimental, emotional lyrics will have you crying into your pillow at 3am — trust me. It may sound melodramatic but that’s exactly what this music is. They’re telling you to strap yourself in for the next part of the woke rollercoaster. It’s time to get sad, angelface.
Conan Gray epitomises exactly what sad boy hours are. On his EP Sunset Season, he taps into his innate moodiness and disgust at love. He pleads “just let me be sad and lonely”. As Conan croons about fake friends and bravado, he’s capturing the unique experience of angst. He’s taking his listeners by the hand and saying, “hey look I’m lonely too, let’s get through this together”.
Giving this sense of community to teenagers, especially those who are struggling, and letting them know they’re not alone has allowed artists like Clairo to grow. Speaking to i-D, she said:
“I need to let the world know that whatever they’re feeling, in their small town, lots of other people are also feeling”
The relatability goes further than the melancholy lyrics. After going viral with ‘Pretty Girl’, Clairo proved that you don’t need to have top-of-the-range production. Like any other teen, she is making music because she wants to, creating powerful pop in the process.
Boy Pablo and Girl in Red drag you backwards through a forest of your emotions. By the end of it, you want to do it again. These Norwegian artists deliver raw songs, painfully to the point. Boy Pablo’s ‘Feeling Lonely’ pairs upbeat, warped guitar with devastating lyrics in a crushing contrast. Likewise, Girl In Red’s ‘Girls’ is beautiful in its honesty about navigating sexuality. This openness shows that teenagers are more than happy to share their feelings and should do so. For them, nothing is too dramatic or over the top. With everything so heightened, emotional turmoil is an inescapable constant. Life is unrelenting, so giving teens space to air their thoughts is vital.
Dreamy tracks by mushy teens are revealing what the future of music could be. As streaming services become the main way people consume music, we’re not having a false image of a perfect musician shoved down our throats anymore. The freedom we’re afforded with our listening has contributed to the rise of these sad teens. Above all, just by being normal teenagers, they’re pushing boundaries. They’re the next generation that the music industry didn’t see coming. They see each other making music and band together. As a result, being a successful artist isn’t a faraway, naive dream.