Editor's Note: This piece was submitted too late to make it to our print journal, The West Enders, so Avi generously allowed me to post it here. Enjoy.
“1-800-225-8255”, a song by the American rapper Logic (in partnership with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) was one of the most popular songs of 2017, with a music video that gathered over 250 million views on YouTube. The lyrics of the song focus on a person who is contemplating suicide, calling the NSPL and being told they don’t need to die and that their life is important. As an advertisement for the NSPL, Logic does a fantastic job at making sure everyone knows their phone number. As a money-maker for Universal Music Group, Logic had one of the top songs of the year. But as an artist trying to create a compelling message, Logic fails miserably.
The biggest problem I have with “1-800-225-8255” is that it just isn’t a good song. The lyrics are rudimentary and they don’t convey a strong understanding of the song’s topic at all. The level of depth in the lyrics is comparable to something a six year old would write after they were just taught about the concept of suicide. The first chorus of the song is from the perspective of the caller talking to the person on the line. Logic says “I don’t wanna be alive, I just wanna die today, I just wanna die and let me tell you why.” In the second chorus, now from the perspective of the person answering the line, he sings “I want you to be alive, you don’t gotta die today, you don’t gotta die and let me tell you why.” Powerful. For the final chorus of the song Logic tries to show his listeners that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, although it could be interpreted differently. The lyrics are “I finally wanna be alive, I don’t wanna die today, I finally wanna be alive, I don’t wanna die.” While this gives a positive message to listeners, it also effectively says that calling a suicide prevention line will give you back your will to live. I get the impression from the lyrics that Logic doesn’t actually have any personal experience with depression, but he’s trying to relate to people who are suffering from it. This makes it difficult to take him seriously at all. Suicide is a very real issue, but it sounds inauthentic coming from him and it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
This re-affirms my belief that this song does much more as an advertisement for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline than it does to actually inspire hope or connect with listeners. Over the last couple decades there have been so many important songs about suicide and depression. Artists like Kurt Cobain and Biggie Smalls used their lyrics to show new perspectives to their struggles, they put things into words that so many people have felt before but didn’t know how to say. “I’m so happy because today I found my friends, they’re in my head.” This lyric from the song “Lithium” by Nirvana perfectly describes Kurt's loneliness without explicitly saying any of the lyric’s meaning. In the song “Suicidal Thoughts” by Biggie, he says “Suicide’s on my fuckin’ mind, I wanna leave, I swear to God I feel like death is fuckin’ calling me.” Biggie’s choice of wording, his tone, and the delivery of this lyric is what makes it feel so genuine and believable compared to Logic’s monotone and emotionless singing. Kurt Cobain and Biggie Smalls are two examples of artists who created timeless music. Twenty-something years after their deaths, their lyrics continue have just as strong of an impact on listeners as they first did. They gave people something to connect to, and in turn someone to look up to. No one should be looking up to Logic like that because anyone who’s ever been depressed knows there’s so much more to it than “I don’t wanna be aliiiiiiive”.
Over the last couple years we have done a lot to break down the stigma surrounding mental health and make it more acceptable to speak about. This has led to many celebrities coming out and publicly talking about their personal struggles. Kanye West discusses his experience with bi-polar disorder and mental health issues on his latest album, “ye”. In the song “I Thought About Killing You” he says “See, if I was trying to relate it to more people I’d probably say I’m struggling with loving myself because that seems like a common theme, but that’s not the case here. I love myself way more than I love you, and I think about killing myself.” As someone who struggles with mood issues but often has difficulty pinpointing the cause of my emotions, I connect with what Kanye is saying here, and it feels personal in a way. Logic is trying to do something similar with this song to create more connections between him and his fans, but it’s done in a cheaper way. Kanye says some specific things on his album that only a small handful of people can relate to. Logic on the other hand, says some very broad statements like “I just wanna die” in the hopes that as many people as possible will feel something from the lyrics and buy his album.
The main message behind “1-800-225-8255” is a positive one, but the song’s lyrics also have a negative impact on certain people, specifically children. Logic opens the song with the lyrics “I’ve been on the low, I been taking my time, I feel like I’m out of my mind, it feel like my life ain’t mine.” followed by the question “Who can relate? (Woo!)”. These lyrics are vague enough that just about anyone could assign meaning to them if they wanted, which is what Logic is asking us to do. While this may have no impact on many people, Logic’s most impressionable listeners will really feel like they can relate to the lyrics of the song. This is important because from here the song transitions right into the “I don’t wanna be alive, I just wanna die today” chorus. Logic now has children across the United States and Canada (the song features Brampton singer Alessia Cara) singing about how they want to die. This can lead some younger fans to think they are suicidal because they heard Logic say it in his song and they want to be able to relate to him. The lyrics, along with the sing-along pop feel of the chorus, make it seem cool to be depressed to anyone who doesn’t know better.
It’s obvious that the target audience for this song is not really people who are suffering from depression, like Logic claims. This song is for people who don’t know what it’s like to be depressed and are completely fine with never knowing, who want to feel like they’re helping other people by just listening to a song. It seems right now that the easiest way to achieve mainstream success is to hide familiar feeling content behind a popular social issue to make consumers feel good about themselves for giving up their money. Logic makes these people feel like they’re supporting a larger cause when in reality they’re just supporting his pockets.
Sometimes dumbing it down a little is the right way to bring a challenging topic to the mainstream, but with “1-800-225-8255” Logic dumbs it down so much that he completely misses the point. He has openly said that he’s never felt suicidal, and this makes him completely unqualified to write a song on this topic. This song does nothing to help the people it was supposedly written for. I am offended by this song, and anyone who has been suicidal in their life should be as well.