Twenty One Pilots performing at Resorts World Arena, Birmingham in 2019. Wikipedia

Speaking Out: Mining the soul in pop music

By  Mary French, Youth Speak News
  • February 3, 2021

Man’s search for God lies at the very core of the soul. So it comes as no surprise that God can be found in art that springs forth from that powerful place of divine recollection: music.

As a music enthusiast, I have found in my musical escapades that desire for God can be found in the most unexpected musical corners, like pop music, where musicians gamble with bringing mention of faith into a genre where it is seldom found. In a mostly unorthodox approach, some pop artists will open up about what it means to have faith in a tumultuous world, while remaining in the secular genre. 

Let’s start with an artist who hit No. 16 in U.S. Billboard Top 100 in 2016, Jon Bellion. His songs, addressing both his desire for meaning while struggling with his demons, tiptoe between genres; they can hardly be considered the Christian genre, yet maintain a raw honesty. At times being quite explicit about his struggles, the American rapper reveals in a number of his songs how his relationship with God strengthens him to carry on and live a better life. “The Human Condition,” title track on his most popular album, comes to mind. 

Perhaps most well-known for his song “All Time Low,” Bellion tunes in on subjects such as depression, painful breakups and the endless battle of facing one’s demons. His music is not for everyone, with his lyrics being at times quite explicit in language and imagery. However, his songs also frequently exhibit his desire to hold on to his faith, which he describes in an interview as the only thing no one can take from him. It is Jesus that “was instrumental in blessing my mental,” as he claims in his song “Adult Swim.” 

Likewise, Bellion tackles difficult subjects like depression and feelings of purposelessness in “Stupid Deep” and “Human.” He shares the struggles that weigh on him: a feeling of emptiness and incompleteness which prompt a search for meaning. In “Stupid Deep,” he sings:

“What if who I hoped to be was always me?
And the love I fought to feel was always free?
What if all the things I’ve done, yeah
Were just attempts at earning love? Yeah
‘Cause the hole inside my heart is stupid deep.”

I find this hole reflective of each person’s deep-set longing for meaning, for love, for God, and Bellion encourages a search for answers that truly fulfil rather than just plaster over a hole. Ultimately, Bellion explicitly shares his own strength in “Hand of God,” saying, while exploring his own shortcomings, that “when you’re lost in the universe don’t lose faith, my mother says, your whole life’s in the hand of God.”

Bellion is not the first artist to bring his spiritual life into his music in a non-traditional way. The band Twenty-One Pilots, perhaps best-known for their songs “Ride” and “Stressed Out,” are self-proclaimed Christians, and hints of this relationship with God is strewn throughout their work, harmonizing with the world’s harsh realities. Twenty-One Pilots also grapples with hard-hitting subjects relevant to many youths today, predominantly mental illness and depression. 

Music comes from a place of deep interior dialogue for both the artist and the listener. In this heart of hearts, we come to understand the human condition and see the burning desire for meaning, fulfilment and love. Listening closely, we can hear many musicians throughout time seeking this same meaning, whether it be through voicing their heartbreak, despair, unfailing love or any other profound landmarks through the path of life. Their honesty impacts us, because we journey through life experiencing that same unnamed and desperate desire. I believe this desire is for the Divine.

(French, 22, has a Bachelor’s of Catholic Studies from Seat of Wisdom College and lives in Barrie, Ont.)

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