Songs like shark attacks and lightning deaths

Disclaimer: This is a ramble, a speculation, and not backed up by hardcore analysis of anything, so take it with a grain of sea salt!

You may or may not be familiar with the phenomenon of sensational (but rare) causes of human death (such as by shark or lightning strike) receiving far more media attention per incident than more common causes of human death (like heart disease, car accident, and lung cancer). Moving away from death, you might also see tons of shares on social media when it comes to people attaining incredible amounts of fame and success in Hollywood seemingly overnight, which may potentially psychologically inflate how familiar/common those things are in your mind, making you decide your chances of making it in Hollywood are actually pretty good (I mean, come on, there are like, so many famous and rich people in the news and on movie posters in every theater right? It must not be that hard to become famous and rich).  And maybe you’ll also be more tempted to buy sharknado insurance, while we’re going with this idea train.  This is probably because commonly-encountered things are perceived as more likely to happen, except that on the Internet, it’s often the less-commonly encountered (but sensational) things that end up getting shared over and over, making them quite common indeed…in your newsfeed.

In the field of controversial opinions on controversial subjects, this may sometimes mean the Internet gets clogged with a very vocal minority, which doesn’t necessarily represent the views of the more moderate majority. I guess this isn’t exactly the same as outrageous/sensational but rare stories getting inflated over and over because they’re so strange/fascinating/a-guilty-pleasure; but it could fit into outrageous/sensational, and it could fit into rare/minority. It’s just that they’re probably not shared by the moderate majority, but because they get shared so assiduously by the people on more extreme sides of the spectrum, with relative quiet from the moderate majority, one might start to think that these more extreme opinions are the majority consensus–if one spends too much time on the Internet and not enough time interacting with the general public offline.  (I really don’t intend to pick out any one issue, but am purposely aiming for general and abstract here. Also it’s entirely possible that the vocal minority is the one “in the right” and the moderate majority is actually the less ethical/fair/good party with respect to the particular issue at hand.)

Anyway, I was thinking about these things as I thought about all the dysfunctional relationships and serious mental health/substance abuse themes that seem to be the subject of a lot of popular songs (thinking about American songs because I’m less familiar with songs that have non-English lyrics). Now, although the prevalence of borderline personality disorder in America is something like 1.4% according to the National Institute of Mental Health, I feel like far more than 1.4% of popular love songs depict relationship dynamics that are reminiscent of the unhealthiness of borderline personality disorder-affected relationships. BPD is a disorder often described as involving emotions felt at a greater intensity than experienced by the ‘normal’ person, and additionally, where the emotions are so strong and out of control that it interferes negatively with interpersonal relations. One could imagine that writing a love song narrated by a “character” with this disorder might lead to a more intense and perhaps sensational work of art.  Intense and sensational and very unlike the reality we commonly encounter. In other words, you end up writing a shark attack / lightning casualty song, and it may have appeal to the general public for similar reasons.  I’m not saying this is bad, but just speculating as to why such songs become so popular.  Let me be clear: I want to emphasize that if you suffer from that disorder and/or simply have strong feelings about love, writing a song is a wonderful way to express yourself, and I think it’s a brave thing for anyone to be truly genuine about how they feel.  I respect that a lot. I don’t at all intend to imply that a work of art that depicts an unusual experience is ‘bad’ or less good than depicting a normal experience.  Art isn’t about trying to be normal (unless that’s the intent of the artist, I suppose), after all.

There are also plenty of songs that depict everyday, common experiences, which also become popular. But I suspect they become popular for a different reason. For instance, a song describing a healthy, happy love story arc might become popular because people feel good listening to it.  It brightens their day, and they like that.  Sharknados do not brighten your day. We share happy songs with our friends who are feeling down and need a pick-me-up, or with lovers to bond, but sharknados are usually not shared as a pick-me-up for someone who’s feeling down.  However, I am going to share a sharknado with someone right now, to bond, now that I think of it.

I guess this leads me to speculate about what sort of sharknado song I should write about next, being that I’ve already written about post-apocalyptic child soldier robot romance, buildings that go insane, wars between Wonderland and Oz, mass population-level mind control via neural implant viruses, and kissing on the moon.  But I’ll have to do that another day, because it’s time to sleep.

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