The climate crisis is everywhere, and we're pretty sure that popular music is no exception — with powerful messages about the climate scattered throughout some of our favorite tunes. Strap in and come with us while we make our case.
At Global Citizen we spend a lot of time listening to music. In fact, we use music to power our movement and to call for action, like at our annual Global Citizen Festival. It’s only natural then, that we might sometimes see alternate messages about the issues we care about hidden within the music we listen to.
For instance, a song about submitting yourself to be the perfect woman in a relationship, could be (and should be) interpreted as a song about how unbelievably powerful women really are — and yes, we’re talking about Doja Cat’s “Woman”. You get where we’re going with this, right? Great.
Well, for Earth Month, we wanted to revisit some of our favorite songs to see if they could have deeper meanings that connect to climate change — and naturally, we made a playlist. You can download it and give it a listen right here.
Without further ado, here are eight songs that aren’t about climate change, but most definitely could be.
1. 'Lost Cause', Billie Eilish
Billie Eilish rocks the stage at Global Citizen Live in New York, 2021.
You can’t tell us that this song isn’t about our growing need to break up with fossil fuels.
As Billie Eilish sings about someone who’s become useless and unnecessary to her, she points out that she believed in this person and trusted them. If you take the lyrics and dedicate them instead to the planet's number one enemy, fossil fuels, they make a lot of sense.
“Something’s in the air right now, like I’m losing track of time.”
She’s absolutely right, there is something in the air. That “something” is called air pollution, which harms both the climate and human health.
“You ain’t nothing but a lost cause, and this ain’t nothing like it once was.”
Let’s be honest, there was a point in history, particularly during the Industrial Revolution, when the use of fossil fuels was an absolute game changer that powered industries and furthered development. But that was a long time ago and today, fossil fuels don’t mean what they used to. They’re essentially a lost cause — check out here how the world can achieve a move away from fossil fuels that leaves no one behind.
2. 'Good Days', SZA
R&B singer SZA will take the stage at Global Citizen Festival: Accra on Set. 24, 2022.
There's an argument to be made that “Good Days” is actually a song about climate anxiety. SZA sings about trying to enjoy the simple things in life, but struggling to do so because something is weighing heavily on her mind. She can’t even enjoy a breath of fresh air without being bombarded with anxious thoughts.
“Good day in my mind, safe to take a step out, get some air now, let your edge out.
Too soon, I spoke, you be heavy in my mind, can you get the heck out?
I need rest now, got me bummed out.”
Likewise, it can be made so much more diffficult to enjoy a beautiful day when the thought of the climate crisis is hanging over you — a.k.a. the very real and growing issue of climate anxiety.
Climate anxiety is a real challenge, with studies showing that almost six in 10 people are deeply worried about climate change. It is a growing global phenomenon, but the good news is that there are a few things that can be done about it. We’ve broken down what you can do if the climate crisis has you stressed and anxious.
Despite her anxieties, SZA ends the song with hope, saying:
“Still wanna try, still believe in good days.”
3. 'Wildest Dreams', Taylor Swift
This one gets a little abstract, but stick with us.
With extreme weather a pertinent threat all around the world, Taylor Swift sings about the beauty of a summer’s day, even if that beauty is now all just a dream. Taylor herself is summer personified, and she’s in a relationship with humanity; asking us to remember her as she once was, and all the good times that were had.
“Say you'll remember me, standing in a nice dress, staring at the sunset, babe,
Red lips and rosy cheeks, say you'll see me again, even if it's just in your wildest dreams.”
She repeats that “nothing lasts forever”, highlighting that the beauty of this Earth won’t last forever if we don’t protect it.
4. 'How Do I Live', LeAnn Rimes
We’re taking it back a couple of decades with this banger that could actually be all about losing the ozone layer. Yes, you heard us right. LeAnn Rimes is encouraging the ozone layer not to go anywhere, because without it, the natural world wouldn't be the same. The ozone layer is what shields us from the harmful radiation exuding from the sun, and as a result of human activity, it’s damaged.
“Baby, you would take away everything good in my life,
“How do I live without you? How do I breathe without you? If you ever go,
How do I ever, ever survive?”
Thankfully though, in the 26 years since this song was written and released, the brilliant news has come out that the ozone layer is slowly healing itself — an amazing example of the real change that can happen when the world unites in taking urgent action.
5. 'Paradise', Coldplay
Coldplay performs at the Global Citizen Festival in Hamburg, Germany on July 6, 2017.
This song is about dreaming of better days, and imagining a perfect world beyond this one. That’s not us reaching for a meaning, that’s quite literally what the song is about.
“When she was just a girl, she expected the world,
But it flew away from her reach…”
In these lyrics, Chris Martin captures the difference between how we see the world as children, compared to how we see it when we grow up. That dream-like world with no issues, no pollution, no extreme weather, no negative impacts of climate change, seemed possible and tangible when we were young. Then we grow up and realize the climate change is threatening lives and livelihoods all around the world.
“In the night, the stormy night, she'd close her eyes,
In the night, the stormy night, away she'd fly,
And dream of para-para-paradise.”
We believe that unified and urgent global action, however, can turn the threat of climate change around — and maybe even make this world a paradise.
6. 'That’s When I’ll Stop Loving You', *NSYNC
Look closely, and this song could actually be reflecting on the extreme weather events that are being driven by climate change — flooding, droughts, wildfires, extreme heat, and unseasonal weather...
“When winter comes in summer,
When there's no more forever… that’s when I’ll stop loving you.”
The boys sing about something that seems impossible, for winter to come in summer… but is it?
Unfortunately, as a result of climate change our winters are heating up and our summers are basically on fire (ok we're being dramatic, but not *that* dramatic, with record-breaking heatwaves sweeping the world in summer 2022).
Because we love love and don’t want *NSYNC to have to break up with their loved one, join us and Global Citizens around the world in taking action against the climate crisis to help mitigate extreme weather.
7. 'It’s Raining Men', The Weather Girls
This one's on the list because it's a great opportunity to highlight that climate change is a gender equality issue too.
Men are responsible for 16% more greenhouse gas emissions than women, according to a 2021 study from Sweden; yet it's women that experience the worst of climate change’s impacts. You can learn more about that in our breakdown here.
To be fair though, all of us have a part to play in tackling climate change and defending the planet, and it’s only in unity that we can overcome this global challenge. We just wanted an excuse to remind you that climate change is not just an environmental issue, but a social and gender issue too.
8. 'Here Comes the Sun', The Beatles
We’ve reached the end of this list and so we wanted to end things on a positive note. Despite how overwhelming and scary things can look in the face of climate change, if we take the threat seriously and work together to protect our planet, we’ll be alright.
“Little darlin', it seems like years since it's been here,
Here comes the sun…”
While the world has known about the harmful effects of climate change for years and progress in tackling the issue has moved too slowly for too long, momentum is growing. There's a whole lot more to do — and the world urgently needs world and business leaders to step up in ambition — but with all of us taking action and doing our part, we can get to the point where we’ll happily sing along with John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr:
“Here comes the sun, doo-doo-doo-doo
Here comes the sun, and I say