The Surprising Theme Of The Global Top Songs This January
Revenge isn’t everyone’s favorite dish, but it’s everyone’s favorite tune
If we take music to be a reflection of the times we live in, I think we might need to hit the reset button before we head into month two.
According to Spotify’s Global Top Songs Chart, the most popular bops today are:
1) Flowers by Miley Cyrus
2) Shakira: Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol. 53 by Bizarrap & Shakira
3) Kill Bill by SZA
I don’t sit particularly close to the rumor mill, but even without too much context, listening to the first tracks of the top song charts, one can see a common theme. And if there are any questions, checking the Genius synopsis or googling the song titles quickly brings up the word: revenge.
Flowers is about Miley’s relationship with her ex Liam Hemsworth. She references the fire that destroyed the couple’s Malibu house, and the title and “I can get my own flowers” line refer to the Bruno Mars song her ex had dedicated to her. While some claim the song is a “self-love anthem” the fact that she released it on her ex’s birthday gives more ammo to the people calling it a revenge record.
Shakira’s song has been called a hate-mail track to her ex, Gerard Pique. Like Miley, she has a couple of lines on how she’s better off, but they are overshadowed by the not-so-subtle attacks on Pique and his new girlfriend. She literally sings “women no longer cry, women get paid”; instead of crying, she’s cashing in on the hit.
The second track on SZA’s album, SOS, bears a title referencing the iconic Kill Bill films by Quentin Tarantino and lyrics detailing SZA’s homicidal fantasies about an ex-lover. Understandably, there’s no one claiming this is about self-love.
The next two tracks are about infidelity. I didn’t look beyond these because they were enough to get me thinking. Songs about ex-lovers are not new, but I was surprised that they’re the sound of the beginning of the year.
It’s still January, a fresh start, blank page, goals-to-be-healthy-and-happy January, and yet the world is humming and dancing along to songs that ring a little of revenge. A word that by definition has us looking back and with unkind eyes at that. While the singers can claim to be using the songs to leave it behind: with Miley’s “No remorse, no regret, I forgive every word you said” line, and Shakira’s “Zero resentments, baby, I wish you the best with my replacement” line, they’re not particularly joyful beats. Also, what about everyone listening? Both breakups happened a while back, I doubt the audience needed a song to get over them.
Maybe I’m reading too much into it, I’ve been accused of that before. I have a lot of friends who listen to music without paying too much attention to the lyrics. Perhaps the tune is catchy, and that’s all there is to it. Perhaps, the fact that they include specific winks to real people lured in the listeners. After all, we love a “based on true events” qualifier, even if it’s been a while since the singers’ breakups.
Either way, whether you (the world) pay attention to the lyrics or not, you’re still hearing them, and judging by the songs’ popularity, you’re hearing them on repeat.
This January, the themes of revenge and cheating exes in popular music took me by surprise. Maybe it is a coincidence, and maybe February is the new January, and happier bops are just around the corner. Maybe, revenge is not about looking back but rather about taking control. Am I reading this wrong? What do you think: why are these songs resonating in the one month of the year people are traditionally more optimistic?