The soundtrack to the climate crisis is apocalypse pop

Gen Z is channeling climate anxiety and anger into music

All summer, 24-year-old Augusta Senenssie had Billie Eilish’s song “Overheated” stuck in her head. In June 2022, Eilish hosted a series of climate talks in London by the same name, alongside her UK tour dates. In July and August, the UK faced a series of heat waves, breaking records for the hottest temperatures ever recorded in the country. Senenssie walked around her sweltering London neighborhood with searing music in her ears. Another of her favorites, “Fire on the Mountain” by Asa, portends doom with lyrics like “One day, the river will overflow / And there’ll be nowhere for us to go /And we will run, run / Wishing we had put out the fire, oh.”

As a youth council member of the climate action organization Earth Uprising, Senenssie is closer to the levers of climate power than most of her peers. Her activism has brought her to United Nations conferences on climate change and youth. But that doesn’t necessarily make her more optimistic. “You have people say loads of congratulatory things, and have you go and speak at all of these important summits, but your work has no binding impact on what’s being decided at the high levels that affects everyone,” she said.

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Listening to music feels like being heard

That’s why, post-IPCC special report, releases that describe the world ending in floods, droughts, and fires, like Hozier’s Wasteland, Baby!, Childish Gambino’s “Feels Like Summer,” and Soccer Mommy’s “newdemo” are making such an impact with the under-25 set — these millennial songwriters can relate to their generational frustrations and fears.

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