By Mariia Minaeva
And you know when the sun dies
None of this will matter half as much as you thought
Cavetown, “Calpol” (00:48)
Sometimes there are too many problems. While some people can deal with them effortlessly, others just do not feel that they have enough strength to cope with the world. For them, the constant tension and the speed of the modern life may become too much, which, without timely intervention, often leads to mental health issues. The world of a person who cannot fully participate in social life or suffers from mental illness may be a scary and lonely one, and sometimes they might just need someone to say, “hey, it’s alright. I’ve been there too”. Such support can be found in the music of Cavetown who often focuses on these issues, and so his songs may just serve as the right helping hand.
Robin Skinner – or Cavetown, as he is known in the music world – is a nineteen-year-old singer-songwriter from England. In spite of being quite young he has already managed to find his way in the music industry and by choosing YouTube as a platform for sharing his songs, he has gained an audience of over half a million people. He released his first album in 2013 at the age of 14 and since then, has released a further seven. When it comes to the content of his songs, his youth is an advantage. No one can speak about the fear or the struggles of young age better than someone who experiences them right now. Precisely the same need to figure out his own thoughts and to deal with the psychological difficulties led Robin to the path of creating music, which – to his own surprise – helped not only him but other people too.
“I know how it feels to lie down feeling that everything’s going wrong because of me” (“Rain”, 01:08). That has probably become the uniting factor for the audience of Cavetown – people who felt lost and discouraged and who found the words of the songs truthful and trustworthy. The most striking factor of his music and lyrics are the honesty and simplicity with which he speaks about worrisome things. Such openness about problems provides listeners with the soothing feeling of not being abandoned.
One recurring theme which may be found in his texts and to which many listeners would probably closely relate to is anxiety. People’s lives are full of stress, and in some cases it may turn into never-ending fear and anticipation of future trouble even if there is none. “I’m sorry for the times that I get scared for no reason at all”, Robin sings in “Lov song” (00:59), or “Thank you for being calm with me when/ Things are gettin kinda rough, it’s like I am dying all the time” (“Thank you”, 01:27). As the text excerpts show, Cavetown often connects the feeling of anxiety with the notion that no one is completely isolated and their emotions and behavior may affect others. He adds the notion of guilt but by doing so he does not bring about the feeling of shame of one’s problems, he only reminds us that people are not alone and there is always someone patient to reach out to and be grateful for.
“Falling doesn’t feel so bad when I know you’ve fallen this way too” “Devil town”, 01:12
In several of his songs, Cavetown also makes the appeal to his friends – and through them to all his listeners – that if they are hurt right now, he is there to help. “You’re not alone, please never forget/ My arms are your second home” (“Evergreen”, 03:34), “Learn a little self love/ Cause you’re not half as bad as you thought” (“Calpol”, 00:57), these are the words that may be very helpful to someone in need.
In some of the lyrics, Robin raises more specific problems. For example in “Dysphoric” he sings about feeling uncomfortable in one’s own body, which is the issue transgender people encounter. “And now I don’t remember comfort/ Because what I am is what I’m not” (“Dysphoric”(8), 00:36). This theme of not accepting one’s body, of the feeling of disagreement between the body and the mind is based on his personal experience which may make it valuable and important for some people in the LGBTQ+ community.
Another issue Cavetown covers in his songs is that of mental illness. With the disquieting images he creates a world full of mythical creatures and dangers. “There’s ghosts in my house/ And I can taste blood in my mouth” (“Poison”, 01:00). In this song he tries to describe the life of a person suffering from paranoia. Similar patterns can be seen in other lyrics, for example in “Untitled”: “Monsters in the closet won’t stop giving me the shivers/ Even though it’s probably just in my mind” (02:59). By producing such songs he raises public awareness about mental illness and reminds his listeners to be more attentive to the people around them because one may never know what they are feeling.
In Cavetown’s songs such topics become inseparable from the notion of self-hate in general. “Don’t let me see what I am/ Cause I can’t stand it, no I can’t” (00:07), he sings in “Dysphoric”. In “I Promise I’m Trying”, he helplessly declares: “I’ve never hated myself more” (02:02). However, the title “I Promise I’m Trying” shows that it is not about giving up, it is always about acknowledging the way one feels and trying to get better.
The main track of the album “Lemon Boy” brings together all of the problems stated above. The title song is a story told by Robin himself about his struggles with “a bitter sweet…Lemon Boy” (“Lemon Boy”, 00:06). As Robin states about the song and the whole album: “Lemon Boy is the anxiety, the negativity, the illness that’s inside all of us, and that is very strong inside me. A way of being happy for me is disassociating myself from those things, but also learning to live alongside them as a friend.”
So, what lesson can be heard in and learnt from Cavetown’s music? The most prevalent one is the acceptance of oneself. However, it is not only about accepting the good sides and attempting to eradicate the others. Doing so is tantamount to turning the mind in a battlefield which may only make it all worse. The challenge is to try to accept the hidden sides too…to accept the Lemon friend. “There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of darkness now and then” (“Peachy”, 01:25).
Mariia Minaeva is a BA student of English Language and Literature. She likes travelling as a couchsurfer, going to the cinema and playing the guitar when nobody is listening. At the moment she is desperately trying to improve her French. In her free time she watches silly videos on YouTube and calls it language learning. Her main belief is that everything has a meaning and nothing happens by chance.
All the lyrics used in the article are taken from the official music company website.