millennial anthems
Twenty One Pilots have become a hit among millennials because of their honesty when regarding issues the generation faces. (Image via Highlight Magazine)
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millennial anthems
Twenty One Pilots have become a hit among millennials because of their honesty when regarding issues the generation faces. (Image via Highlight Magazine)

When Chapel sang, ‘I’d rather be broke than brain-dead,’ I felt that.

In addition to serving as a lightning rod for outlandish criticism, millennials are also tasked with navigating the changing attitudes and expectations of their generation. Somehow, millennials are striving to live up to the idea that members of the generation should not only have everything but be everything as well. Of course, this sounds great in theory, but is not exactly feasible in the economy that has been forged by the generations before them or in the current political climate.

The woes of the generation can be found woven throughout movies, TV shows, books and even music. The following four songs are millennial anthems. The music captures the pressure weighing on millennials — you know, when they’re not too busy destroying industries.

1. “We’ve Got Soul” by Chapel

Though this song has a tech-y ‘80s vibe, the lyrics are perfect for modern listeners who struggle with the idea that being successful means becoming a commercialism robot, out for money rather than fulfillment.

The opening line declares, “I’d rather be broke than braindead.” The song goes on to state, “I’m working all week but my ends don’t meet. It’s all the same, I could use a break.”

The first verse reflects the ever-present battle between financial prosperity and emotional satisfaction. Millennials are expected to somehow achieve both, which does not really bode well for the creative types out there. While it’s not impossible to find a job that makes you both wealthy and happy, it’s unrealistic to act as if that should be the standard for millennials.

As a generation that seems to be fraught with existential crises, there tends to be a looming pressure to make a difference or to do something important, which can be found in the song’s chorus: “Hey we know we’ll never see the money. So we go, we’re better on our own. ‘Cause we’ve got soul. ‘Cause I just wanna chance to break the mold.”

Finally, perhaps the most relatable lyrics of all time (at least for me) express the utter lack of motivation that can overpower everything when the second verse claims, “My skin is sewn to my bedsheets. I haven’t washed clothes in six weeks. What’s wrong with you?”

2. “Migraine” by Twenty One Pilots

Twenty One Pilots’s lead singer Tyler Joseph is masterful at conveying millennials’ overall struggle with mental health. While the wars with depression and anxiety (among other illnesses) are certainly not unique to the generation, mental health awareness has become something of a rallying cry among millennials, and Twenty One Pilots lends an astute voice to the issue.

Migraine” is a one of my favorite millennial anthems, one of the quintessential millennial anthems for that matter, because Twenty One Pilots uses their eclectic pop-alternative-rap sound to capture the isolation and pain of mental health struggles, though the music sounds rather upbeat.

The song equates internal turmoil with a physical headache and contemplates just how damaging depression can be with lyrics such as “It will not let me sleep I guess I’ll sleep when I’m dead, and sometimes death seems better than the migraine in my head.”

The chorus of the song discloses the loneliness that can accompanies mental health issues: “Am I the only one I know waging my wars behind my face and above my throat? Shadows will scream that I’m alone.”

However, the effort to stay afloat isn’t the only aspect millennials can relate to. The song also discusses how some people hide their pain and how others cannot begin to understand what a person is experiencing when Twenty One Pilots cries, “I am not as fine as I seem. Pardon me for yelling and telling you green gardens are not what’s growing in my psyche. It’s a different me. A difficult beast feasting on burnt down trees.”

3. “Western Kids” by Hippo Campus

Though Hippo Campus brings their signature light, carefree style to the song, “Western Kids” paints a vivid portrait of the privileged side of the millennial generation.

While the song mentions “the age of excess” and some of the more superficial aspects of the generation — describing the western kids as having “silicon inside their lips” and northern girls as having “painted face” — the lyrics are not particularly accusatory. In fact, the words are practically celebratory, as the chorus chimes, “I just love this. I swear I’ll go viral. From the burbs’ to the streets now, it’s a revival. The spirit is found in the idealistically idle…I just love it.”

It’s as if Hippo Campus is encouraging people to embrace even the flaws of the generation, and with such a peppy delivery, it’s hard to disagree with them, making it one of the more nuanced millennial anthems.

4. “Throw Shade” by CRUISR

Admittedly, this song isn’t as deep as the other millennial anthems on my list, but it sure is a lot of fun and it caters to an “I don’t need you” attitude and a “cutting toxic people out of my life” mentality that is prevalent among millennials.

The chorus is a fairly straightforward indictment of people who don’t treat you right: “You’re dead to me, R.I.P. You can’t let me be. If you wanna throw shade, I’m gonna throw you away, no. If you wanna throw shade, well honey I’ll see you never.”

Frankly, I’m not sure why the media is so eager to condemn millennials for literally anything, considering, just like every generation, being a millennial comes with its own hardships and hurtles.

Luckily, there are talented musicians putting art into the world that lets millennials know they’re all in this mess together, so turn the volume up and drown out all the negativity.

Writer Profile

Gabbi Calabrese

Arkansas Tech University

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