aaron anderson by Maya Sasson April 13, 2021
We’ve come a long way since the eco-friendly song “Send it On” occupied every Disney Channel commercial break. As climate change and other ecological issues put our planet at risk, popular artists do their part to promote environmental consciousness through songs and music videos.
In popular music, meaningful lyrics are often overshadowed by lively beats and vocals. However, through music videos, artists are better able to anchor their messages through thought-provoking visuals.
With climate change, visuals have a profound effect by forcing audiences to view our crumbling planet rather than simply read headlines about it. Musicians in this space bring forth esteemed visual artists to create content that’s equally enchanting as it is pervasive.
Without further ado, here are some of our favorite songs and music videos shedding light on climate change and environmental consciousness.
Over two years, Lil Dicky collaborated with 30 of the biggest names in music for his song “Earth.” These artists widely range across genres yet their sound flowed harmoniously through a shared devotion to the cause.
100 percent of the song’s proceeds are directed towards various environmental charities. The only nonmusician featured in the song is Leonardo DiCaprio, who fits in perfectly as a prominent climate change awareness activist.
The gorgeous animated music video displays all artists as animals and plants, except Lil Dicky and Kanye West who play themselves. Directors Federico Heller and Nigel W. Tierney are largely responsible for bringing the magic of this video to life.
Heller is a visual artist and co-founder of 3DAR, a production company that uses animation and VFX to tell stories across a variety of industries. Then, Tierney is head of content at RYOT, an Emmy award-winning immersive media studio.
Despite the relaxed and whimsical tone of the song, the subject of “Feels Like Summer” is striking.
Childish Gambino is known to impart his beliefs through his art, as seen through the iconic lyrics and video of “This is America.”
This song’s lyrics express Gambino’s discontent with the lack of concern exhibited by corporations who pollute the air without repercussion. This is also followed by expressions relating to climate change and the negative environmental effects faced by bees.
The music video further instills this sense of worry by displaying a concerned animated Gambino walking through the streets of an unseemly neighborhood as the bolting sun behind him intensifies.
Alongside Gambino, Ivan Dixon and Greg Sharp co-directed the video. Dixon is an animation director, illustrator, and designer who typically uses pixel art style. Sharp is the creative director of TRUBA, an Australian-based animation studio.
Ultimately, “Feels Like Summer” is a music video that makes listeners think deeply about climate change, even if subconsciously.
Rapper Xiuhtezcatl has devoted much of his music career to highlighting climate change. Jaden Smith has also been a prominent climate crisis awareness advocate for years, as seen through co-hosting Ted Talk’s environmental Countdown Sessions.
Smith and Xiuhtezcatl impart a sense of urgency and agency in this song and other activism projects. They devote equal time to outline the servility of our global circumstance as they do encourage listeners to take action.
The gorgeous video used distinct prints and a vibrant color palette to animate Smith and Xiuhtezcatl and their surroundings. Sound Visual Club’s John Hwang, Tina Kim, Jasmine Ung, and Stella Cho are credited with the creative & art direction, illustration, and design & animation for the lively video.
Both the music and also the video of “all the good girls go to hell” are incredibly fitting in Billie Eilish’s nightmare-esque masterpiece 2019 album WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?
However, this video varies from other ones from this album for its disturbing environmental graphics. We see Eilish as a fallen angel land in a tar pit, then emerge in a disfigured state. As she sings the chorus lines, “hills burn in California,” her background bursts into flames — eventually catching her wings on fire.
While she rarely tweets herself, Eilish used her platform to advocate for the 2019 climate strike shortly after the music video was posted.
This video was directed by Rich Lee, a major American music video director, and visual artist. His work in CGI and life-long fascination for designing monsters thus shines through the artistry of this video.
“The Greatest[‘s]” lyrics and music video have less hopeful commentary on climate change. While disheartening, its approach is significantly more realistic when compared to other songs on this list.
The song is about loss and ends with explicit notes on global warming’s effects on California and Hawaii. Rich Lee also directed this music video and approached the videography with a sense of realism that’s also exhibited in the song.
Rather than using animation or other VFX, this music video simply follows Del Rey through industrial and natural scenery.
Juxtaposing scenes of Lana walking near harsh geometric shapes in industrial zones with free-flowing shots of her by oceans represents humanity’s shift in focus from preserving natural landscapes; extremely fitting in this song’s theme of loss.
Bon Iver’s “Jelmore” also strays closer to a pessimistic and realistic interpretation of our climate crisis. With lyrics referencing humanity’s impending doom, the song outlines the severe results of neglecting recent environmental disturbances.
The song mainly states commentary, but near its end asks, “How long will you disregard the heat?” This highlights the sentiment of environmental activists doing the most to have their concerns heard by policymakers.
The music video was directed by Aaron Anderson, a Brooklyn-based artist. It follows a dancer, walking through empty, natural spaces — manipulating her body with each step. Towards the end, wide shots paint the scene and a black square creatively covers the sun.