The Development and Relevance of Mental Health in Music: A Lyrical Exploration of Chris Cornell, Fiona Apple, and Kendrick Lamar

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Research is increasingly indicating a growing awareness on the serious repercussions and social relevance of mental health. Where, in the past, dealing with mental health issues was mostly considered taboo, newer generations tend to possess higher mental health literacy, and the consensus seems to be that people are becoming more understanding of one another when it comes to the pursuit of mental stability. However, it is often still faced with stigmas, where people associate it with “weakness” and consider it as “scary”. Although mental health should be considered a universal issue, there are certain groups, industries and fields of labor that disproportionately are affected by the complications brought on by mental instability. The creative industries, which is often considered to be one of the fastest growing economies, is one of the sectors with the highest rate of documented mental health issues, as the conditions of the working environment are often conducive to mental instability. Consequently, the topic reflects itself in the expression of art and the artists, with a multitude of contemporary musicians speaking out and sharing their struggles through the artistic self-expression of lyrics. Therefore, through the lyrical exploration of Chris Cornell, Fiona Apple, and Kendrick Lamar, all of whom have publicly acknowledged their battle with mental health, this thesis aims to unearth the development of mental health as a topic in music, where the role of an artist as a public figure is taken into consideration, along with the accuracy and level of realism attached to the portrayal of the subject matter. Ultimately, this thesis not only pursues to showcase the increasing prevalence of mental health in music through three relevant and genre-bending discographies, as it also aims to emphasize the potentially important role that influential contemporary artists (i.e. musicians) can have on shaping mental health discourse.
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