On Friday, September 15, 2019, one of the biggest pop stars in the country, Rebecca Black, died at the age of 33. The New York Times called her death ‘one of the most notable suicides in recent years’.
It’s been hard to miss Rebecca Black’s music. The YouTube channel “Rebecca Black Entertainment” has over 200 million views and her songs have been featured in TV shows and films, including Saturday Night Live and The Hate U Give Levi’s commercials.
Black’s music career was cut short due to mental health problems. According to TMZ, she had been struggling with depression and anxiety for most of her life. She first fell into depression after the sudden death of her father in 2009.
In 2015, the singer released her debut album, Book of Rebecca, which featured songs about self-love and acceptance. At the time, she said in an interview: “I think my dad always wanted me to be happy, so I kept writing songs about my feelings.”
Later that same year, Black went on a four-city tour with her band and dedicated it to her fans. She told fans in a Facebook livestream: “I love you guys. I appreciate you guys more than you’ll ever know.”
In March 2019, Black shared a heartbreaking video on social media. In it, she detailed her struggles with anxiety and depression, as well as her recent suicide attempt. She wrote: “I tried to take my own life because I couldn’t take the pain anymore. I’ve been through so much in the last few years, and it’s still not over.”
Black said she had recently sought professional help and was focusing on getting better. In the week leading up to her death, she had shared multiple videos and photos of herself working out and eating healthy. On the day of her death, she posted a sweet video of herself singing along to Drake’s album, Scorpion.
Following Black’s death, people on social media have been left struggling to understand the singer’s passing. Many have questioned whether or not Trump’s frequent Twitter attacks against her were a factor in her ultimate decision to end her life. The truth is that we may never know for sure what caused Black’s death, but her story does provide an insight into the possible ways that Trump’s words might have contributed to her mental anguish.
Depressed by Trump’s Alleged Treatment of Women
Throughout his time in the public eye, Trump has been dogged by accusations of sexual misconduct. Aside from the now-infamous ‘Access Hollywood’ tape that was leaked to the press in October 2016, Trump has been accused of mistreating women and making sexist comments about them. In 2017 alone, over 20 women came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against Trump. For a time, the issue even overshadowed his campaign against Hillary Clinton.
While some have argued that Trump’s alleged predatory behaviour is just “locker room talk”, there is a darker side to his interactions with women. Over the past few years, dozens of women have come forward with stories of being physically threatened, harassed, or assaulted by the President. In addition, many have accused Trump of being a “bully” and a “menace”.
One of Trump’s most vocal accusers is pop singer and actress Katharine McPhee. In August 2019, she publicly accused the President of raping him “five or six times” when he was a teenybopper. The allegation followed a months-long campaign by McPhee in which she had hinted at her story without naming Trump. The singer also shared photos and videos of what appeared to be bruises and scars on her arms, which she said were the result of the President’s violent behaviour.
For his part, Trump has repeatedly denied all of the allegations against him. When asked in a 2016 press conference whether he treats women with respect, the President answered: “I respect women. I cherish women. I love women.” But in a 2005 interview with the New York Times, Trump made a more revealing comment about his feelings toward women: “I just treat them very fairly. I don’t want to destroy their careers.”
Despite his denials, Trump’s alleged predatory behaviour and sexist comments have clearly affected his relationships with women. During his presidential campaign and transition, scores of female fans accused him of sexual misconduct. One even went so far as to start a GoFundMe to “Help me change Mr. Trump’s mind about women.” In response, Ivanka Trump tweeted: “Women have incredible strength & power and should always be treated with respect.”
Rebecca Black and Mental Health
Although she had publicly opened up about her mental health struggles, Black’s own experience with depression and anxiety is not unique. The singer repeatedly discussed her dark days in her songs, and had previously spoken about her experiences with anxiety and depression. In a 2015 tweet, she wrote: “I think my dad always wanted me to be happy, so I kept writing songs about my feelings.”
Depression and anxiety are often the result of a complex interplay of genetic, cognitive, environmental, and social factors. While we may never know what caused Black’s depression and anxiety, we do know that she was not alone in her struggle. A lot of celebrities have publicly shared their own experiences with mental health problems, and in many cases, these problems have inspired their songs. In addition to Black, musicians such as Ava Max, Mika, and Billie Eilish have all spoken out about their own battles with depression and anxiety. Some have even gone on to name these issues in their songs.
In the week before her death, Black’s social media accounts were filled with uplifting messages. In a video she posted on August 12, she shared how much she loved her fans and encouraged them to seek help if they were struggling. In another video, she talked about getting out of her “bad mood” and working hard to be the best version of herself.
The link between celebrities’ mental health struggles and their music has not gone unnoticed. In his 2018 book “Noise’,” journalist and music critic Greg Kot wrote about the importance of celebrities speaking out about their mental health issues:
They know the power their music has to evoke strong feelings and how easy it is for a fan to reach out and touch someone. With their help, fans can have a greater understanding of their experiences and feel less alone in theirs.
The connection between mental health and music is also present in the work of lyricists and composers. Let’s take a look at some of the most prominent examples.
The co-founder of the record label GOOD Music, Kanye West, is most famous for his collaboration with the late rapper and producer, Tupac Shakur. Together, they revitalized West’s career in the mid-1990s and contributed to his status as one of the most influential and celebrated musicians of our time. West and Shakur’s creative relationship was highly significant and is often cited as one of the reasons for the label’s success.
It’s been revealed that West has suffered from mental health problems for many years. Over the past decade, he’s had to deal with the fallout from multiple onstage and off-stage incidents that many see as the result of his mental illness. Most famously, in 2018, West was hospitalized for six days after he assaulted a photographer at an awards show in San Diego. In the weeks leading up to his hospitalization, West had posted some erratic and disturbing tweets about the singer/songwriter and model/actress Aydian Dowling. In late July 2018, it was reported that West had attempted to break up with Dowling, but had been too overwhelmed by his feelings to do so.
In light of West’s hospitalization, it’s no wonder that many fans have wondered whether or not his erratic behaviour was due to his mental health. In the past, West has been open about his mental illness and the medication that he takes; however, he’s never really gone into detail about the circumstances that led up to the medical treatment. Whether or not his hospitalization was directly linked to his mental health is something that we may never know for sure.
Like West, Chris Brown also struggled with mental illness in the years leading up to his recent album, Recovery. In the album’s liner notes, Brown said that he had been in treatment for “extreme depression” which had caused him to contemplate suicide. In the months leading up to the album’s release, Brown had gone on a social media tear, posting multiple photos and videos of himself and his fans.