October is National Bullying Prevention Month. The annual campaign strives to increase our awareness of bullying, not only among youth in schools, but also in workplaces and anonymous online forums, where if affects people of all ages. It's our responsibility to put an end to bullying and its harmful consequences.
Many musicians have joined the cause by writing songs that uplift and sometimes songs that shine a light on the shocking effects of being bullied. Below are 12 songs that address bullying.
Billy Talent, 'Nothing to Lose'
“Nothing To Lose” tells the story of a teenager who is driven to suicide because of bullying. The music video follows the song’s subject as he gets targeted by classmates and pushed around in the hallway until he ultimately runs out of school to end his life. When the song came out, the band donated $1 to Kids Help Phone every time the song was played on certain radio stations in Canada.
Taylor Swift, 'Mean'
You don’t want to mess with Taylor Swift. As a songwriter who often brings personal experiences into her lyrics, Swift has taken aim at many foes who have wronged her including ex-boyfriends and, in this case, a very mean critic.
“Mean” was written as a response to those in the media who have unfairly gone beyond constructive criticism. The person she was speaking directly to was critic Bob Lefsetz who wrote about her 2010 Grammy Awards performance in which she was off-key: “Taylor’s too young and dumb to understand the mistake she made.” Yeah, we’d be mad too, if those comments were made about us.
Grunge leaders Nirvana rose to fame very quickly in the early ‘90s. With that skyrocketing success came larger audiences and frontman Kurt Cobain began to feel disconnected. Cobain likened this, and the Seattle grunge scene where Nirvana came from, to the clique-like nature of high school, thus the lyrics, “You’re in high school again,” in “School.” He even noted that the faces he saw in his crowds reminded him of people who would beat him up at school.
Christina Aguilera, 'Beautiful'
In 2002, Christina Aguilera released her sophomore album Stripped. The record drew mixed reviews, but the main headline was her sudden “dirrty” style transformation, which received a lot of critiques and, in some cases, slut-shaming.
“Beautiful” helped combat a lot of the hurtful things that were said about Aguilera though, a track that has become one of the pop star’s signature songs. Addressing self-esteem issues and telling listeners to embrace their inner beauty, “Beautiful” has been a song that many have turned to in times of bullying.
Pearl Jam, 'Jeremy'
In 1991, a 15-year-old boy named Jeremy Wade Delle shot himself in front of his English class in Richardson, Texas. This became the main inspiration behind Pearl Jam’s 1992 song “Jeremy.” After reading about the tragic event, lead singer Eddie Vedder wanted to bring the story to his listeners, to create a dialogue about kids being bullied and the violence that can escalate from that. The music video was highly controversial at the time because of its portrayal of violence and the misinterpreted plot (some believed the bullied kid killed his classmates in the end).
Barenaked Ladies, 'I Saw It'
Barenaked Ladies bassist Jim Creeggan stepped up to sing “I Saw It” on the band’s 2010 album, All In Good Time. The song talks about young kids getting bullied and standing up against it in order to make a change. “From this point on/ We won’t allow this, brother,” Creeggan sings. “If we don’t end this now/ There’ll be others.”
Tame Impala, 'Elephant'
In an interview with NME, Tame Impala frontman Kevin Parker explained the real meaning behind the thundering Lonerism cut “Elephant.” “It’s not really a song about being a loner,” Parker said. “It’s a song about the bully. The guy who thinks he’s great. The jock. You can imagine a real reclusive kind of guy who’s a bit bitter about this guy who thinks he’s great, which is the opposite vibe of the loner, so it presents him in the worst light.”
Bullet for my Valentine, 'Waking the Demon'
Metal band Bullet for my Valentine wrote “Waking the Demon” as a fight song of sorts. Many members of the Welsh band were bullied in school and the track speaks to that moment when someone finds their inner demon and fights back.
Hunter Hayes, 'Invisible'
Country singer Hunter Hayes debuted his song “Invisible” at the 2014 Grammy Awards, accompanied by encouraging quotes from Steve Jobs, Lady Gaga and more. The song consoles those who feel victimized in school, those who may feel worthless or invisible and urges them to “dare to be something more.”
Alyssa Reid, 'Talk me Down'
Canadian pop singer Alyssa Reid put out “Talk me Down” in 2012 to help bring awareness to bullying in school. The music video featured a teenage boy being physically attacked by invisible forces, a metaphor for how hurtful words can be. The video ends with the message: “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem,” followed by the contact information for Kids Help Phone.
Rachel Crow, 'Mean Girls'
Former X-Factor contestant Rachel Crow released “Mean Girls” in 2012, a song she wrote for those who used to call her a “freak” or “weirdo” in school. As a response, the then-14-year-old sang about brushing off the hatred: “Mean girls, mean girls/ You no longer run my world.”
Cat Power, 'Nothing but Time'
Chan Marshall wrote this 11-minute opus for her ex-boyfriend’s daughter Lucia who was being bullied online. On the hopeful track, Marshall delivers an uplifting pep talk, telling her teenage subject, “It’s up to you to be a superhero/ It’s up to you to be like nobody.”
To complete the song, Marshall wanted to enlist one of Lucia’s favourite artists, David Bowie, to sing on the track but when Ziggy Stardust wasn’t available, she got Iggy Pop to sing backup on the tail end of the track.