White Paper-RowanRat

My hypothesis:

Songs consisting of dark or emotional tones and themes may be a result of mental illness among the musicians creating the lyrics.


Chan, A. (2020, May 04). Musicians who have opened up about their mental health struggles. Retrieved March 06, 2021, from https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/9367924/musicians-mental-health-struggles/

There are many more artists than you could imagine who suffers from some type of mental illness. For example, some artists who suffer from anxiety are Ariana Grande and Ellie Goulding. Artists dealing with depression alone are Bruce Springsteen, Janet Jackson, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Lizzo, and Logic. Further, some who deal with depression and suicidal thoughts are Billie Eilish and Kendrick Lamar. Some of those who deal with PTSD are Elle King and Lady Gaga. Lastly, those who deal with bipolar disorder are Demi Lovato, Halsey, and Mariah Carey. These artists have used music as an outlet and their disorders may reflect in their music.


Mental illness and CREATIVITY: Singer songwriter Meg Hutchinson on bipolar disorder and medications. (2019, August 12). Retrieved March 06, 2021, from https://talentdevelop.com/3949/mental-illness-and-creativity-singer-songwriter-meg-hutchinson-on-bipolar-disorder-and-medications/

There is a common link between creativity and mental illness. Many songs reflect the type of life an artist has. Further, one’s mental health is a significant part in one’s life. Therefore, it is more than likely that if an artist suffers from some type of mental illness, it will show in the songwriting of those artists. Meg Hutchinson describes her experience with mental illness and how it affects her music. Hutchinson suffers from bipolar disorder. She explains how in her song, “The Living Side” she expresses how she promises to stay on the living side. This proves that mental illness is commonly displayed in the lyrics of their music.

Pick up the numbering from here. It gets confusing.

An interview with The Singer-songwriter and mental Health Advocate, X.ARI! (n.d.). Retrieved March 06, 2021, from https://music.allaccess.com/an-interview-with-the-singer-songwriter-and-mental-health-advocate-x-ari/

X. Ari suffers from anxiety, depression, PTSD, and insomnia. Some lyrics she’s created include, “There was no dim light at the end of the tunnel and every part of my being thought this was the end. If I only knew that so many people have similar struggles, I would not have felt so alone. Perhaps I would been able to recover sooner had I not been so ashamed.” As you can see here, she is openly discussing her mental illness in this song. This is an example of lyrics that describe the current state of their lives. There isn’t much digging needed to find examples of some sort of mental illness here. However, this is a good example of how music is used as an outlet for mental illness and has a significant impact on the lyrics created.

Additional informationNotes on contributorsMichael ViegaMichael Viega. (n.d.). What’s in a song? Combining analytical and arts-based analysis for songs created by songwriters with neurodisabilities. Retrieved March 06, 2021, from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08098131.2016.1205651

A form of therapy for those suffering with some sort of mental illness is music therapy. With this form of therapy, one is able to analyze the type of music created to understand an artist’s self-concept and rehabilitative needs. Further, one is able to see those issues in the lyrics of their music. By examining an artist’s work, a professional is able to notice psychological and developmental processes where they may have not been able to notice in other ways. Because of this, there are great benefits for the artists combining analytic approaches of song analysis with an experiential, arts-based investigation.

/* custom css */.tdi_98_160 .tdb-author-name-wrap{ align-items: baseline; }.tdi_98_160 .avatar{ width: 20px; height: 20px; margin-right: 6px;, Bartleet, L., By, & Bartleet, L. (2020, December 08). 50 songs about depression. Retrieved March 06, 2021, from https://www.nme.com/list/50-songs-about-depression-1109

There are many songs with dark lyrics that are a result of the artist having mental illness. Eminem suffers from depression and his song, “Stan”, writes “You coulda rescued me from drowning / now it’s too late, I’m on a thousand downers now, I’m drowsy / and all I wanted was a lousy letter or a call.” Another by Eminem, “Rock Bottom” writes “My life is full of empty promises and broken dreams / I’m hopin’ things look up; but there ain’t no job openings / I feel discouraged, hungry and malnourished” Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day suffers from panic disorder and his band’s song, “Basket Case,” writes “Sometimes I give myself the creeps / sometimes my mind plays tricks on me / it all keeps adding up I think I’m cracking up / am I just paranoid or am I just stoned?” Morrissey of The Smiths suffers from depression and his band’s song, “I know It’s Over” writes “Oh Mother, I can feel the soil falling over my head.” All of these songs demonstrate how mental illness affects and is apparent in the lyrics of those artists who are suffering.

Current state of my research:

Not only have I found my first five sources, but I’ve also set myself up for having much more research. Some of the articles I have read gave me more information and avenues for my research. I have a list of many artists to examine as well as more topics to read into further.

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1 Response to White Paper-RowanRat

  1. davidbdale says:

    I like your topic, RowanRat, and I’m glad you’re enthusiastic about it. For now, you’re on track to assemble a huge list of songwriters whose lyrics explicitly indicate they are suicidal, or depressed, or suffering anxiety. You could carry on this way for a long time and never come to the end of the list. Is that a hypothesis?

    How does it differ from a list of 50 songs about Summer Vacation?

    Suppose I suggested to you that I was writing a research paper on this proposal:

    Songs consisting of lyrics celebrating carefree outdoor enjoyment of summer vacations may be a result of a sunny disposition among the musicians creating the lyrics.

    Would you argue with me? Would you be surprised?

    I do not for a moment disagree that Kendrick Lamar, Billy Joe Armstrong, Eminem, Michael Hutchence, Morrissey, Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, and countless other songwriters have used their lyrics to grapple with their demons, maybe just to howl, or maybe as a way to process and alleviate their mental illnesses.

    (I wonder if you could mine the lyrics of a decidedly upbeat pop performer like Karen Carpenter for evidence that she too was deeply mentally ill? It would be a more surprising revelation to discover that her songs contained clues to the desperation reflected in her anorexia nervosa, the condition that killed her at 32? How did Brian Wilson manage to write 100 catchy upbeat surfer songs as truly sick as he is?)

    Do you see what I’m getting at? Your connection is too neat to result in true revelation. Sick people write songs about their sickness is not really shocking.

    I’m happy to enthusiastically endorse your continuing research, but I hope you’ll be on the lookout for aspects of the topic you weren’t expecting.

    Keep this conversation going, RR. I want to see your avatar in the Recent Comments section of the sidebar.


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