Me-Focused Pop Music


Psychologists, nonfiction writers, journalists, concerned parents, and probably Jonathan Franzen, are increasingly focused on critiquing this “me”-focused generation, or the “cult of self-esteem” that shelters and coddles kids and invites a dangerous amount of first-person-based thinking.

And this inward focus is reflected in pop music—the songs that climb the Billboard charts most often have narcissistic undertones, or lyrics that are meant to bolster self-esteem. This essay charts the trends in pop music through the decades, and manages to end on a positive note:

“…if those psychologists are correct, and our culture is increasingly deluged with narcissism and entitlement, we might really need pop’s poses and costumes to help us navigate it—to have songs that feel out the dimensions of ­every last way to think you’re hot shit.”

Sam Riley is an adult who works at McSweeney's. More from this author →