Pain can become music. Music can become a cure. A cure can become a No. 1 song.
This is one of the messages that ends Billboard magazine’s latest ad campaign, created by The Community in Buenos Aires, with Primo Productions and director Pantera & Co. Three spots spool out separate tragedies.
“Raid,” which explores the theme of injustice, begins when two black guys walking down the street get stopped at dusk by cops ready to rumble. This scenario ends just as terribly as you can imagine.
In another spot, “Violence,” a boy witnesses his father’s cruel treatment of his mother and tries to intervene.
And in “Overdose,” a spaced-out guy on a floor wanders into a bedroom, where he finds a woman he cares for in full overdose mode.
The themes are a tiny survey in abject states of crisis and misery, but the execution is a point of interest. No one actually uses words; instead, most of the time, they state the pitch they’re speaking (or shouting, or screaming) in. As each story intensifies, the din of the situation is joined by music—rap, metal and a tragic rock ballad.
“Violence can become music,” the “Violence” ad concludes. “Music can become relief. Relief can become a No. 1 song.”
This act of topical transformation, from tragedy to pop charts, easily reads as exploitative. But it’s also an observation of how much we convey in gestures or simply in sound, divorced from words.
It’s often hard to explain what makes a song meaningful to a lot of people. Instruments and lyrics are only part of that weird magic. Sometimes it’s the break in a voice, in anger or in pain, that drives a piece of music’s resonance. It conveys that sense that there are stakes here, or simply that someone understands you. It can stoke and activate your sense of injustice, giving you the motivation to act. Or it can activate memory, sinking us deeper into heartbreak.
What Billboard does here is remind us why music, even the kinds we don’t like, matters so much. And this act of bridging quite passionately separate musical divides also conveys a powerful message about empathy. You can love rap and hate metal … but some of the greatest hits in both genres come from places that ripple through some of the most painful chords in our human experience.