Okay I’m doing it. I’m writing about a band that up until last week was exclusively my guilty pleasure music (which I define as music that I enjoy way more than I’ll admit). It’s not as though A Great Big World isn’t wonderfully talented or unique, it’s just that their music is so relentlessly cheery that I would usually use it for especially distressing occasions: every time it’s past 12:00am and I’m still doing homework, I will only listen to a Great Big World. With song titles like “You’ll Be Okay” “Already Home” “This Is the New Year” and “Cheer Up” you can see how I’m able to use their album “Is There Anybody Out There?” to ignore the fact that I’m a horrible procrastinator that has once again self induced sleep deprivation, which is undoubtedly horrible for my health and happiness. I am a firm believer that A Great Big World’s music cancels out the effects of late night studying and can make me happy pretty much whenever.
But luckily, A Great Big World is not a one trick pony. Happiness isn’t their only vessel for songs: strong emotion (which is usually hope seeing as members Chad King and Ian Axel are rays of sunshine) is the base of their tracks. I feel as though the absolute tragic nature of their #1 hit Say Something and their heartbroken I Don’t Want to Love Somebody Else (which have both brought me to tears) give credibility to their more optimistic side. If there was just one more “Land of Opportunity” on their debut record it would be easy to dismiss the entire thing as a collection of deluded-joyful-lunacy from some less-than-human species of rainbow people. But since nothing can bring me down faster than that soft piano mixed with Ian’s sweet innocent voice, this album has a full range of emotion. And that makes it something you can connect to: a much more extreme version of the hope and despair that all humans come into contact with during their lives.
So what made A Great Big World go from my rare guilty pleasure band status to my regular I’m totally obsessed status? Well, for one, I’m in way too deep (I’ve watched both their 30 videos in 30 days series this weekend). The more relevant reason (and catalyst) was their new song Hold Each Other, which I heard on the radio.
To begin with, I was quite upset that I heard a song from a band I love for the first time on the radio and decided to never again be the second person to receive news on A Great Big World. Next, what started as just a really good radio pop song had, by the second verse, told heteronormativity in the pop world to go stuff itself. All by simply changing the pronoun from “something happens when I hold her” to “something happens when I hold him” in order to stay true to Chad King’s sexuality. This may not seem like a big deal at first, but when you think about it, how often have you ever heard a gay singer on pop radio use pronouns that reflect who they’re attracted to? Even those who are open about their sexuality, such as Sam Smith, choose to stay ambiguous with their pronouns. Being so open is extremely brave of A Great Big World and they deserve recognition for helping change the way the world looks at sexuality on regular pop radio and the music world in general.
So, how could I feel guilty about listening to a band who consistently puts out special, unique pop music that changes the world and has beautifully contrasting voices that are bliss when harmonized (I had to mention that somewhere)? The truth is that I can’t. So if you see me smiling with headphones in, it’s probably because I’m listening to A Great Big World. And you should be too.