Dystopian Themes In Music


Recently on Spotify, I listened to the commentary for Black Veil Brides’ last album, Wretched and Divine.  The commentary is told by Andy Biersack, the lead singer of the band.

Wretched and divineIn the commentary, Biersack talks about each song on the album, and I found it really interesting.  I actually listened to it twice.  He spoke of dystopian themes that ran through the tracks not once, but several times during the commentary.

Throughout the album there are these short speech-like things that made it feel like we were hearing what the characters in the story, the music, were hearing from their leaders, if that makes any sense.  Here’s a quote from “F.E.A.R. Transmission 1: Stay Close,” one of the tracks on the album:

“We expect a battle for humanity is about to begin.  Within each uprising, a vague sense of safety will ignite in you, an unseen shadowy sliver of doubt, towards those who protect and defend you.  Let the thoughts slip away, and remain calm.  Stay close to fear, only we can protect.”

This reminded me of one of the Mockingjay – Part 1 teaser trailers, the one with President Snow talking.

It made me think of other artists that may have sung potentially dystopic (is that a word?) lyrics.  Here are some examples of songs that made me think, “Ooh, this is very dystopian.”

“It’s a beautiful lie / It’s a perfect denial / Such a beautiful lie to believe in…” -30 Seconds To Mars, “A Beautiful Lie

I’ve found that with the dystopian societies in the books we read, we can categorize them into two categories (maybe even subcategories): There are the dystopian societies that want to make its inhabitants believe that everything is being run smoothly, that everything is perfect the way it is and they have nothing to question, and the main characters in these books don’t question anything and they believe what their rulers are telling them.  Books with that kind of society are Matched, Divergent, Delirium, Uglies.  In these books, everyone lives a relatively fair lifestyle.  Divergent may be somewhere in between this first example and my next example, though, the societies that have a sort of caste system in place, something that determines the rank of each citizen.  Books that feature this kind of society include The Hunger Games, Legend, The Selection.  The main characters in these stories know that the world they live in is a pretty screwed up place.

The song “A Beautiful Lie” reminded me of my first example, because the main characters are believing in mere lies that their leaders have ingrained in them.  Then they might meet someone (probably a guy), who tells them that the world they’re living in isn’t the perfect place they believe it to be.  In comes the “denial” part, because the characters want to hold onto everything they’ve known.  But, like all dystopian books, the proverbial rug is pulled from beneath our main character’s feet, and their world explodes into chaos.

“Hold on to the world we all remember fighting for / There’s some strength in us yet / Hold on to the world we all remember dying for / There’s some hope left in it yet.” -Flyleaf, “Arise

In my copy of Divergent, Veronica Roth actually talked about how this song provided some inspiration for the book.  And if you think about these lyrics, and then the series as a whole, you’ll realize that it does explain the books a little.  I think this applies to pretty much all dystopian books.  There’s an overall pattern with the genre.  The main character happens to ask a question or does something that leads to the unraveling of his/her perfect image of their society, there’s a war, an uprising, whatever you’d like to call it, and in the end, one side wins, the other loses.

“Oh, I hate your static pace / You ask no questions, let things be.” -Icon For Hire, “Nerves

There are several lyrics in this song that I could use in place of this particular line.  I actually feel like Icon For Hire sings about themes similar to this in quite a few of their songs.

In these futuristic societies, we are shown that what sparks the “uprising” is when someone questions the rules, or when someone does something against the “norm.”  Gale from The Hunger Games, for example, is a very, very outspoken character.  We see this in the beginning of the book, when he’s ranting about the Capitol.  *Spoilers for THG: At the end of THG, to get around the rules set in place for the Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta decide that they were going to swallow those berries (nightlock, was it?) in order to get a sympathetic reaction from the capital.  Their plans work, obviously, because they ended up staying alive by the end of the book. End of Spoilers*

I feel like it’s occurrences like these that spark the rebellion.

Other lyrics that I’ll mention but not delve into completely are,

“Tell me how has it taken so long for me to open up my eyes? / How has it taken so long for me to finally realize? / And when they all turn against you, you better be prepared to fight…” -Sleeping With Sirens, “Four Corners and Two Sides

“They’re gonna clean up your looks with all the lies in the books to make a citizen out of you / Because they sleep with a gun, and keep an eye on you, son, so they can watch all the things you do.” -My Chemical Romance, “Teenagers


I hope this post was somewhat insightful and got you thinking. 😀 What are your thoughts on this?  I found it really interesting.  Keep in mind that these are just my interpretations, and I could have totally missed the mark.

This post turned out much longer than I’d originally anticipated, and I’m definitely going to have to proofread this a few times, because I’m so sleep-deprived.  Hopefully I don’t miss any half-written sentences that make no sense because I was trying to be fancy, haha.  But this topic popped into my head, and I suddenly got in a blogging mood.

If you don’t have a Spotify account and don’t have access to Wretched and Divine, but are curious to hear it, you can find it here on YouTube, and in the description bar below the video, you can find a list of all the tracks and their times so you can skip around and listen to the songs however you please.

Also, I’m sorry if you’re sick of the word “society” after this jumble of weird thoughts I’ve just thrown at you.  Believe me, I am, too.  I really should have pulled out a thesaurus…

That’s all for now,

-littleonion

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6 thoughts on “Dystopian Themes In Music

    • I listened to one song, I believe, and now that I think of it, it did kind of have that feel. I’m starting to really love BVB. My favorite songs on this album are Lost It All and In The End. Hope you like it!

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  1. I remember reading that Muse’s album “The Resistance” was inspired by the book 1984, particularly the song “Resistance.” Two of the main characters in that book have an affair as a form of rebellion, and the song runs with that theme, which I always thought was very cool. Great post; I love connecting music and writing!

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  2. Topaz says:

    Love this post! I’d never really thought about dystopian themes in music, but now that you’re mentioning it I see it in a couple of songs that I listen to on a daily basis (which, believe me, was a shock! 😉 ).

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    • Thanks! I thought it was an interesting concept, and now I’m thinking about it all the time. It is pretty shocking, especially to find these themes in music you listen to a lot (it happened to me, too!).

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