Is This Thing On? Dialing into mental health with music

Hey everyone! It’s only week four of the semester, but you may already be starting to feel overwhelmed — I know I am. In this vein, today’s topic is a little more solemn from a lesser known rapper, Logic. When I think of Logic, I associate him with the genre of hip hop that boys in my middle school would pirate off the internet. But recently, the Beverly Hills-based artist is making waves in the music industry. While you may not be familiar with him, you may have heard his song “1-800-273-8255” (2017), which features newcomers Alessia Cara and Khalid, on the radio this summer. My first thought when reading the title on the Spotify charts was, “Wow, what a mouthful.” But a closer look at the song, which is titled after the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, identifies an artist taking a leap for pop music by taking on such a serious topic.

From a marketing perspective, the song appears to defy the more traditional rules of pop — it’s not an upbeat sing-along, the chorus doesn’t have defining or identifying lyrics and the title isn’t remotely easy to say. Despite this, “1-800-273-8255” scored the third spot on the latest Billboard Hot 100. So far, the track has racked up over 250 million plays on Spotify, which more than triples his second most popular song. All this exposure has lead to tangible results — after the all-star trio performed at the 2017 VMAs, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline reported a 50-percent increase in calls that night.

In an interview with Genius, a crowd-sourced lyric annotation service, Logic explained the inspiration for 1-800-273-8255. He recounts his experiences with fans who have found profound meaning in his work, proclaiming often that it has saved their lives. Inspired by his own struggle with anxiety, Logic’s latest album “Everybody” (2017), is intended for exactly that titular audience. After seeing that his music had inspired his fans to overcome their own obstacles, Logic decided to actively create music for his listeners.

To play devil’s advocate, I was initially a little turned off by the simplicity of his lyrics like, “I don’t wanna be alive,” and “You don’t gotta die.” I thought, isn’t this trivializing such a complex issue? As a Tufts student, I believe we have tremendous privilege to have a community that at least attempts to tackle these extremely mature conversations. But sometimes I think we need to take a step back and realize that for many, discussing topics of suicide and homosexuality might not be commonplace. Logic’s music video features the dynamic story of a teenager struggling to express his sexuality to his friends, coaches and family. 

If you or someone you know is experiencing any mental hardship, no matter how small it may seem, the most important first step is to understand the resources and support that are available. Sometimes friends and family aren’t enough, so never be afraid to reach out for assistance. Tufts Counseling and Mental Health Services (CMHS) offers free counseling sessions for all undergraduate students. If you would prefer to seek alternative services, CMHS can help connect you with outside resources.