Joel Quartuccio said of Being as an Ocean: “I realized that hardcore was not for kids who had perfect lives”. He was right. What is the impact of punk/hardcore on teenagers? After I lost him in 2009, my music taste became more intense. I lost my grandfather in 2009 and have suffered from depression ever since. In my opinion, harder music helped me to deal with my depression symptoms more than anything else in my lifetime. In retrospect, the music that I was listening to during my teenage years may have contributed in part to me not being able understand what I was feeling. You can imagine sitting in a dark room sobbing and shaking your body. You can’t see the sun because it is behind the dark moon. The moon may be shining brightly, but you still don’t notice. You don’t know why you are sad. It’s just that you are. My favorite songs were my only source of comfort. Musicians are idolized by teens today. It doesn’t matter if it is artists or record companies, they understand this idolization. They use this to make money from these misunderstood, heartbroken teenagers.
Mental illness is stigmatized. In hardcore, mental illness is accepted as a normal part of life. To Write love on her arms, for example, set up tents during hardcore music festivals to educate the public about mental illness. This kind of outreach is important to normalize mental illness and to raise awareness. The bands involved in the music industry sometimes seem to condone unhealthy, alternative ways of dealing with mental illness. As I walk through summer festivals, I see kids wearing long black pants with multiple wristbands to cover their scars and cuts. It’s embarrassing for them and others to see, but they do it anyway because they are taught to ask bands to pay attention to them by handing out razor blades or saying “You’ve saved my Life.” These kids have been taught by bands and record labels that self-harm is okay because it’s about image. Mariana’s Trench’s “Say Anything,” a song with a theme of self-harm, is one I’m familiar with. At first, I didn’t understand the meaning of the song. I thought he meant to sing about the pain you get in your chest when your burdens grow heavier. It’s not long before you realize that you’ve been feeling unhappy for 436 consecutive days. In the lyrics, he states “I slit myself so that I could feel what I know to be true”. Teenagers who hear this song start to believe that it’s okay to do it too, because he is doing it. The majority of them are rebellious. When I was a teen, these lyrics only made me feel worse.
Record labels have a lot of say on what music gets released, how it’s presented and even when American Bandstand was introduced. In the era of “teen idols”, record labels offered a “sanitized, marketed version of rock-n-roll” (Delmont). We see Aretha Franklin’s music change from soul to pop when she moves from John Hammond, Atlantic Records and Jerry Wexler. The record labels don’t purify rock and roll in the hardcore scene. They know that the hardcore/punk style is very unique and they have collaborated even with retail companies in order to achieve it. Black Veil Brides are a group that I recently grew out from. My old love for their music was so strong that I thought I had been saved by it. Looking back at their past and seeing how they worked with two different labels, I understand why the band may have changed labels. StandBy Records’ first studio release, We Stitch These Wunds, is my personal favorite. Set the World On Fire and Wretched and Divine were their third and fourth albums. Black Veil Brides IV was released on Lava Records. Universal Republic Records owns this label. Set The World Fire is markedly different in sound, theme and feeling from its predecessor. Their third, concept-based album, sounds very much like their second. This band’s sound and their records released on different labels show the influence record labels have had on artists’ works. StandBy Records is an independent label, whereas Lava belongs to Universal Republic. Their album released by StandBy is completely unique and different from the three other albums. Their latest album, they claim, is their heaviest, most metallic release, but I think it’s a lighter, similar version of the first album they released on StandBy.
Motionless in White have been working with Fearless Records, their record company for six years. They refuse to release their new album via Fearless. Fearless has released a variety of albums by the band. Taylor Markarian’s very short piece, “How this decision will impact the sound the band’s upcoming recording” was well written.
Black Veil Brides, as we have already mentioned, has been releasing albums that sound alike, both musically and lyrically. Their success is solely due to their appearance or the consistency of their lyrics. There’s a song on every album that says you are not alone. You’re not alone. There are others who feel the same way as you. I think that a large part of the message comes not from the bands, but from the record companies. Rock and roll was pushed aside by the advent of hip-hop and pop to make room for its own music. The majority of teenagers are misunderstood and abandoned by their parents, but those who listen to punk and hardcore feel more so. Two songs on two albums by Black Veil Brides that are released under the same record label have the exact same message. Fallen Angels came from the 2011 album Set the World on Fire. The song is a representation of that feeling and provides teenagers with a safe place to escape and find people who will understand them. The song embodies that feeling of isolation and gives teenagers a place to escape through music with people who understand them. A song called “We don’t belong here” is also from Wretched & Divine. It has a message that’s obvious just by looking at the title. They use their lyrics to promote records. They know their fans are misunderstood youngsters. What better to make them buy more albums then to repeat the same messages in every album you release?
Elvis used sex appeals to sell his music and himself to his fans. Andy Biersack’s album sales have been used to sell records by the label. They made a concept album that included a movie and suggestive lyrics. The video gave girls the chance to gaze at Biersack and listen to him sing for an entire hour.
AFI or A Fire Inside is a group that I find very diverse. Their first album was released in 1995. What makes Black Veil Brides different? They are free to do what they please. In the early 1990s, they released punk albums. The sound of their music was authentically punk. Their first album was Answer That and stay Fashionable. It had songs like “Brownie Bottom Sundae”, a “Ny-Quil”, and “I Wanna Get a Mohawk, But Mom Won’t Allow Me to Get One”. The whole album felt amateurish. When comparing the first album of this band with the second punk release, the lyrics as well as the feel are mature. The lyrics changed from mohawks to more poetic ones. The idea of poetic lyric writing was still a new concept to him. However, there is a marked difference between “I Wanna Get a Mohawk”, a track from Answer That & Stay Fashionable compared to “A Singular Second” on Shut Your Mouth & open Your Eyes. Black Sails in the Sunset, their next album, is where they begin to change the sound. In “God called in sick today”, my favorite track from the album, there is a poetic example: “My heart brings tears to angelics’ eyes.” Let’s amend the classical story; close this so beautifully. They continued to write in this style for the five subsequent albums. Between 2000 and 2006, the band released three of their most popular albums: The Art of Drowning (also known as Sing the Sorrow), Decemberunderground, and Sing the Sorrow. The transition from Black Sails in the Sunset into The Art of Drowning was almost astonishing. The sound is still punk, but the band has grown as an artist. Crash Love, released in 2009, was the next big change in their sound. I was one of many fans who were very disappointed by the sound of Crash Love. The transition from acoustic music to electric was similar to Bob Dylan’s. AFI had almost been alienated by this new sound. It was a departure from the previous music. Was I to finally realize that they are now in the forties? It’s not like they were twenty-year old punks anymore. Their music evolved with them as they grew. They did not write what their fans wanted them to, or to sell records.
Hardcore music is not without its downsides. The punk community is designed to support and welcome those with a taste for unpopular music. In general, I’d say that they have succeeded. I’m generally welcome in the music community and scene. It’s clear that, when we dig deeper and look critically at what artists are doing and how they’re doing it, there’s more to the music scene than meets the eye.