Blog Demographics and Culture

Millennials: Driving A New Generation Of Uplifting Music

Millennials are increasingly listening to uplifting music, a trend that points to a larger generational shift in preferring music and entertainment content that reflect millennials’ post-collapse hopeful and resilient attitudes. The trend shows that this generation knows the reality that life is tough, so they are turning to uplifting messages in content consumed.

What’s New

The tone of pop music is often a reflection of the shared mood and beliefs of its listeners. Gen-Y’s preference for uplifting music is a sharp break from Gen-X’s music characterized by “alienated cynicism and individual entrepreneurship.”(1) The best illustration of this can be seen in the 2005 Oscar Winning Song “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” by Three 6 Mafia from the Hustle & Flow Soundtrack versus the 2009 Oscar Winning song “Jai Ho” composed by A.R. Rahman from the Slumdog Millionaire Soundtrack. Both songs address the same topics: death, poverty, and hunger. Three 6 Mafia bemoans these struggles. In contrast, the song “Jai Ho” translates to “let victory prevail” and in other translations, “you are my destiny.” The song conveys a more positive, uplifting feel, with an exciting, lively beat.(2)

The rise of Taylor Swift demonstrates this preference shift as well. Her songs give her millennial fan-base happy, comforting endings.(3) The popularity of Pharrell’s recent hit single “Happy” is another prominent example, as it simply portrays the relentless will of a guy to be happy. This Oscar-nominated hit has reached the #1 spot in more than 30 countries.(4) Violinist Lindsay Stirling attributes the success of “Happy” to its uplifting, universal message.(5) Pitbull, a popular artist among both Latino and mainstream millennials, says that “people want to escape all of the negative things that are going on in the world, they want to dance they want to have a good time,” so, he creates music that allows his listeners to “have the time of their life and forget everything.”(6)

The rise of the Internet and social media usage from Gen-X to Gen-Y can help account for this shift. Jonathan Perelman, VP of Agency Strategy at Buzzfeed, describes uplifting content as a type of currency. He states that millennials want to put their name behind positive content, so this internet/social-oriented generation can easily share this optimistic content (almost as a “gift”) with others.(7)

Why It Matters

This preference in music matters because it changes the way companies, brands, marketers etc., will need to communicate any type of content with Gen-Y. Companies that have had success in capturing Gen-Y’s attention such as Buzzfeed, College Humor and Flavorpill, operate under the assumption that Millennials are smart, resilient and adaptable.(8) They understand this preference for positive content; so they deliver in an informative and funny manner.

Furthermore, this preference matters for Hispanic Millennials because it goes beyond a positive and optimistic attitude. For them, it is also about confidence, believing, and generosity towards their greater community. Based on findings from the Hispanic Millennial Culture Decoder study UCI conducted with TruthCo in 2013, TruthCo President Linda Ong says this attitude in Hispanics carries over into politics, media, art, food, television; it is an overall attitude towards life. She notes that “Hispanics know that struggle was part of their history, but it does not define them today.”(9)

In addition, the study revealed that Hispanic millennials tend to be even more optimistic and undeterred by the economic downturn than their non-Hispanic counterparts; the trend toward optimism as displayed in pop music could be a sign of Hispanic Influence on mainstream culture.

  1. Hais, Michael and Morley Winograd. (2010, January). “Move over Kanye West, Taylor Swift and the Millennial generation are taking over music.” The Christian Science Monitor.
  2. Hais, Michael and Morley Winograd. (2011, September). “What Taylor, Kanye & Jai Ho Say About Generational Change.” Hypervocal.
  3. Hais, Michael and Morley Winograd. (2010, January). “Move over Kanye West, Taylor Swift and the Millennial generation are taking over music.” The Christian Science Monitor.
  4. Gibsone, Harriet (2014, April). “How Pharrell Williams captured the essence of happiness.” The Guardian.
  5. France, Lisa. (2014, March). “Seems like the whole world is ‘Happy.’” CNN.
  6. Mike E & Emma, The Edge Talk Show. “Pitbull Explains The Spanish World ‘Dale.’” (2013, November). 961.
  7. Nudd, Tim. (2013, November). “The Sweet, Funny, Listy Ways of Getting Millennials to Love You.” Ad Week.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ong, Linda. (2014, May 27). Telephone interview.

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