Billboard is celebrating the 2010s with essays on the 100 songs that we feel most define the decade that was — the songs that both shaped and reflected the music and culture of the period — with help telling their stories from some of the artists, behind-the-scenes collaborators and industry insiders involved.
Not only did Logic’s “1-800-273-8255” peak at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in September 2017 and receive a Grammy nomination for song of the year in 2018, it made it easier for millions of listeners to get the help they may need — if only by increasing the visibility of one crucial phone number.
The track, named after the best way to reach to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and featuring then-rising singer/songwriters Alessia Cara and Khalid, took listeners on a lyrical journey that ultimately assured them that life is worth living. Logic raps from the perspective of an individual struggling with depression, while Cara lends her warm vocals to the second verse from the viewpoint of a Lifeline operator. Khalid finishes the song triumphantly, circling back as the caller whose previous feelings of worthlessness are now replaced with hope.
Logic has been open about his own mental health struggles in the past, and told the Recording Academy in 2017 that society’s perceptions about these issues prompted him to write a song centered around the topic.
“I was so scared for so long to say that because society has led me to believe that my anxiety is stupid and shouldn’t be talked about, or that suicide, ‘Who cares, who’s weak enough to kill themselves?’” he explained. “Which is the most terrible, disgusting, ugly thing somebody can say… That’s why I decided to write about these topics, because I was scared to write about them.”
Despite having a serious subject matter, Logic — with the help of frequent production collaborator Arjun “6ix” Ivatury — made sure that the track was sonically uplifting rather than melancholic. “Logic was very smart in knowing that the music had to balance out the darkness of the [theme],” 6ix tells Billboard of the song’s production. “Which is why we made all the instruments very soft, lush and simple, in order to get the message across in the most effective way possible.”
“1-800-273-8255” became both Logic and Khalid’s first Top 10 hit, and Alessia Cara’s fourth. Calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline reportedly increased by 50 percent after the trio’s performance of the song at the 2017 MTV VMAs, per statistics provided by Vibrant Emotional Health (formerly the Mental Health Association of New York City), who works closely with the Lifeline. On the day of the song’s release in Apr. 2017, the Lifeline experienced its second-highest daily call volume, an increase of 27 percent.
Songs featuring lyrics pertaining to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, like Shawn Mendes’ “In My Blood,” Paramore’s “Fake Happy,” and Ariana Grande’s “Breathin,” were increasingly prominent during the ‘10s, particularly the decade’s second half. However, “1-800-273-8255” was one of just a few tracks in the 2010s that had verifiable stats to back up its societal influence.
“We thank Logic for raising awareness of the Lifeline’s 24/7 services, sharing a powerful story of hope and recovery, and adding his creative voice to the message of suicide prevention,” Kimberly Williams, President of Vibrant Emotional Health, said in a statement.
6ix admits that there were no expectations of the song becoming so far-reaching. While he says that he and Logic set out to make “hits” in the past, to have a song that came about “organically” be the one to make the biggest impact is beyond words.
“It just goes to show that everyone goes [through] problems, and that really resonated with everyone that heard the record,” he says. “It’s always a blessing to get to work on music, but music with substance makes it that much more worthwhile… There’s a lot of people suffering out here because they don’t think that anyone cares for them. All it takes is a friend sometimes, and someone to talk to. ‘1-800-273-8255’ just made me realize the important things in life.”