In My Life

In less than 10 years, The Beatles produced over 200 songs, which often makes it hard to come up with a favorite. But,  when I heard “In My Life” for the first time, I just loved it. I think those are the most powerful and even poetic songs: the ones that immediately speak to you, transcend your pain, and stay with you all those years later (and of course what Perrine said too). I have memories even now listening to this with my sister while dropping her off at college, with my dad on any given night, and with myself during stressful moments. 

This is the song that when people tell me they aren’t Beatles fans I tell them they should listen to. Though I’m not as big of a fan of their earlier work, this song is the highlight of their 1965 album Rubber Soul. It’s credited to both Lennon and McCartney, but Lennon wrote most of the lyrics here. It tends to be a favorite among many Beatles fans, and, well I think that’s because it’s one of the most beautiful songs ever. 

The song starts off with a nostalgic tone as Lennon reflects on past places and people in his life. He begins, “There are places I’ll remember/All my life, though some have changed” and continues, “With lovers and friends, I still can recall/Some are dead, and some are living/ In my life, I’ve loved them all”. I think this first verse is particuallry strong because though he uses some vague language, you can tell he looks fondly upon on these memories. To the reader, there is not much specificity, but that really sets up the second half of the song by emphasizing that his current lover is more important to him.

Lennon said that this song was the first time he put his “literary self” into music, and I think that really shows. It has such a reflective and nostalgic tone. He effortlessly discusses the different influential people in his life and how much love he had for all of them. The tone of this song converys the reflection Lennon was doing while he wrote it and pulls the listener in. It makes you stop and reflect on similar people in your own life.

While he begins the song by reflecting on past moments, places, and friends, he quickly transitions to the present in the 2nd verse. He switches to addressing his current, “imaginary” lover (this is pre Yoko Ono). He writes, “But of all these friends and lovers/There is no one compares with you.”

That shift in time is something we’ve seen in a lot of poems. In “Those Winter Sundays” the author shifts from writing about what he remembers to what he understands. Lennon does the same here. I think that shift is an example of multidimensional language as it adds to the overall reflection of the song. He is able to convey how much his current best friend and lover means to him in contrast to past people.

As with many Beatles songs, there is a poetic flow. The lyrics are beautiful and descriptive and the melodies only make it better. On their own, the lyrics are poetry to me because they conjure up images of friends and specific places that Lennon was thinking about at the time.

Towards the end of the song he writes, “For people and things that went before/I know I’ll often stop and think about them/In my life, I’ll love you more.”  “Penny Lane” is famous for literally describing a place, but this song does the same. The images that Lennon creates here are extremely powerful because where his own memories are more vague, you as the listener fill in your own. Perrine, in describing poetry, discussed how it’s about experience and this song fits exactly that. Lennon makes it easy for the listener to understand his experience while reflecting on their own experience with life and meaningful people. 

Eleanor Rigby

The song ,”Eleanor Rigby”, is undeniably a classic. Released on The Beatles’s album Revolver alongside other hits like “Yellow Submarine”, its haunting melody and enigmatic lyrics still grace radio stations and pianos more than fifty years following its release.

As mysterious as the lyrics may seem, the song really serves to highlight the experience of an outcast. It also addresses the hazy border between life an death, and the fact the the outcast is likely to straddle this border. The Beatles likely never intended the song to consist of a true story. They do give a voice to people who likely don’t have much of one because they don’t have others to support them, or are rejected by society. Ultimately, “Eleanor Rigby” is more than just a random story about a person named Eleanor Rigby. The Beatles address the effects that isolation has on a person, and how the lack of acceptance likely causes the person to die leaving no obvious imprint on the lives of others.

Throughout the song, The Beatles intertwine the two stories of Eleanor Rigby and Father Mackenzie. Before describing the two subjects, however, The Beatles introduce the song by including them among “all of the lonely people”. The two characters theoretically know each other because Eleanor Rigby goes to Father Mackenzie’s church, but they don’t ever seem to connect until Eleanor Rigby dies.

Eleanor Rigby

Died in the church and was buried along with her name

Nobody came

Father McKenzie

Wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave

No one was saved

The two stories emphasize the true effects of isolation. Even though the two lonely people coexist, they never seem to find each other until death. The Beatles state that Eleanor Rigby is “buried along with her name”, which supports the theme that these isolated people often go unnoticed until death.

The Beatles’s use of metaphors also build the theme.

Eleanor Rigby

Picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been

Lives in a dream

Waits at the window

Wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door

Who is it for?

When they reference Eleanor Rigby’s face in a jar, they likely mean that she puts on a different personality. Eleanor Rigby can’t be her true self, even though she is an outcast, which develops the idea that isolation negatively affects a person’s well-being. The use of such a gruesome metaphor also adds to the haunting tone of the song, warning people about the consequences of living on the fringe of society.

Nearly half the lyrics in “Eleanor Rigby” are rhetorical questions.

All the lonely people

Where do they all come from?

All the lonely people

Where do they all belong?

Like the metaphors, the questions also develop the eerie tone of the song. However, they do so because they leave the listener to form their own answers. Strangely enough, The Beatles don’t state their theme directly. Instead, the theme emerges through their rhetorical questions, because they leave the listener thinking about possible answers. For instance, one could interpret the answer to the line “Where do they all belong?” as a statement about how society rejects the outcasts. One could also interpret the answer to be commentary on the fact that isolated people are more likely to both metaphorically and literally die.

New Person, Same Old Mistakes

Link to the lyrics

As its name indicates, “Currents,” Tame Impala’s most recent album, is one about change. Tame Impala itself, or rather Kevin Parker, has gone from a relatively underground psychedelic rock band to gold, platinum, and eventually worldwide renown with awards and honors like a Grammy nomination. Reflecting this rapid change in fans, fame, relationships, and style, “Currents” beginning first with moments of change with songs like “Let It Happen” and “The Moment,” realization of change with the aptly titled “Yes I’m Changing” and “Reality in Motion,” and a moment of introspection with the final song, “New Person, Same Old Mistakes”.

As the conclusion to a thematically dense album,”New Person, Same Old Mistakes,” in addition to having a killer bassline and dream-like vocals, offers a response to how to deal with change. Through questions, contrasts, and multiple perspectives, Tame Impala conveys the theme that although one will naturally be conflicted over whether or not their change was correct, change is still worthwhile because one desires to change and can learn from it.

“New Person, Same Old Mistakes” begins with the narrator asserting how they’ve found something new that’s changing their tastes. However, after this admission of change, the narrator raises the first contrast,

Two sides of me can’t agree,

that’s swiftly met with the question:

Will I be in too deep?

The contrast of sides introduces the theme that change brings internal conflict with it. The question then vocalizes the internal disagreements over the change. This doubt is then met with the response,

Going with what I always longed for,

that demonstrates the contrast between one’s doubts and longing. The first verse ends on this note, demonstrating that change causes internal conflict, although maybe conflict worth going for, as change may be what’s needed for fulfillment.

Tame Impala then uses constant shifts in perspectives from the chorus to articulate the doubts one has with change, biggest of all being whether or not one can and/or should change. The chorus begins with one voice repeating phrases like,

Feel like a brand new person

I don’t care, I’m in love

I finally know what it’s like

that Tame Impala interweaves with a more doubtful voice,

But you’ll make the same old mistakes

You don’t have what it takes

There’s too much at stake

These two parallel perspectives demonstrate both the ecstasy and self-doubt that change inspires: one feels both renewal and fear. However, one line from the first voice that stands out is “know what it’s like,” as it demonstrates a fundamental shift in character that unlike the love and feeling of newness, won’t fade.

The second verse then bounces back to the more optimistic voice that reinforces the intellectual and personal worth of change with a contrast:

The point is, I have the right

Not thinking in black and white

The contrast in the last line summarizes the point that even though the change may be frightening, it is ultimately an expression of one’s freedom and wisdom. After these lines, several more lines such as the repeated final line of the first verse reinforces the positives of change: one desire it and one learns from it.

After the repeat of the call-and-response chorus, the songs shifts to the more pessimistic voice, the one who calls the narrator “you,” who demonstrates the naturalness and knowledge gained by change. The voice sings,

But maybe your story ain’t so different from the rest

But you’ve got your demons, and she’s got her regrets

A realization is as good as a guess

These lines demonstrate the ultimate positives of change. The first two lines demonstrate how self-doubt is a part of the process of change while the following one demonstrates how change causes “realizations,” gains from change that can substitute for less-informed guesses.

After the bridge, the two voices return for the outro that reiterates the theme that change comes with self-doubt and the chance to fulfill one’s dreams and learn. The interspersed voices convey similar lines from the chorus, however most noticeably, the outro uses questions in much higher frequency,

So, how will I know it’s right?

So, how will I know if I’ve gone too far?

that Tame Impala mixes with the responding voice,

(Stop thinking that the only option).

These final uses of the dual voice and call-and-response demonstrates how change will always create both self-doubt and growth. The first line specifically illustrates the internal question evident in change. However, the response demonstrates how this doubt demonstrates that change isn’t the only option and that change is multifaceted and grows one’s knowledge to the point that they’ll have another option even if the change isn’t ultimately right.

In “New Person, Same Old Mistakes,” Tame Impala uses questions and responses, more than one perspective, and contrasts that demonstrate how even though change will cause doubt and internal conflict, it is worth it because one desires it and can grow from it.

Dead Dogs

The song Dead Dogs was written and performed by the Memphis based artist, Annie DiRusso. About four months ago, Annie DiRusso appeared on my recommended music playlist. I found that she was a relatively up and coming artist that had a small, but dedicated fan-base. I soon fell for her two singles that showcased her lyrical expertise, and her ability to describe the pain of unrequited love. A month ago, DiRusso released the first single of her new album, Dead Dogs. Coincidentally, this single bore the same name as her yet, unreleased new album. What struck me first about this new single, was the captivating album cover. Personally, I judge artists heavily based on their album covers. Now I understand that this may be arrogant and dismissive of the actual quality of their music, but an album cover should set the tone for the proceeding work of art. Therefore, it should be thought out and expressive. The art itself should add to the poetic style. DiRusso’s cover is a vibrant watercolor, that depicts dogs of different breeds stretched out and configured so that they spell the words Dead Dogs.

Image result for annie Dirusso dead dogs

In terms of the music itself, the lyrics and accompanied heavy chords hit right off the bat.

I feel insane/talking at the sky/ trying to send love/ to my dog that died/ Don't know what I think, or a reason why/ Bella would be up there, just chilling with the big guy. 

The first time I heard these lyrics, I was genuinely confused. Is she actually going to be singing about her dog? I realized then, that both her album and song title should be viewed literally. Even though DiRusso presents this song as a pretty typical Indie Rock song, the lyrics invoke a more melancholy feeling that creates a sense of nostalgia in the hearts of listeners. DiRusso began her career by belting our chords about the loss of a lover. Now, DiRusso earnestly shares her despair over the death of her beloved dog. When she describes singing to the sky, she creates a more child-like persona. She innocently misses the company that her dog once provided. Through this, a central theme of the song itself is introduced. DiRusso doesn’t postulate over complicated love affairs, but instead, defends an idea of pure love that has been formed through loving companionship. Poetry is supposed to help individuals expand their experiences or perceptions of the world. By providing her honest remorse, DiRusso allows listeners to build on their own feelings of loss. In essence, she provides a safe space for listeners to process their grief-related emotions, and earnestly assess how they feel. In addition, DiRusso challenges her listeners to not necessarily place value on aspects of life that society tells us to, but instead, to value relationships and bonds that bring us the most personal joy. If that joy is centered around your pet, then so be it. As the song progresses, DiRusso sings

Well, dead dogs don't talk to me, and neither does god/I guess it's free therapy I'm in need of.

This set of lines highlights DiRusso coping with the confusion and loneliness of grief. DiRusso herself seems to be undergoing a sort of existential crisis. It appears that not only has she been stuck by the loss of her dog, but now she feels she’s been abandoned by God himself. These references to God add a comedic layer to the song that alleviates some of the dark tones. Her request for some variation of therapy is essentially a request a platform to share her emotions. 

In her next section of lyrics, DiRusso sings,

No one sees clearly/ we all just play along/ Well, I need some answers please, the world is going wrong.  

This final section of the song describes DiRusso’s dissatisfaction with society’s changing values and morals. It seems that instead of valuing the important relationships of life, society has become obsessed with materialism. In this haze of grief, DiRusso has become privy to the effects of losing something of importance, and only being left with lifeless material objects. Instead of breaking free from these destructive habits, individuals continue to feed their indulgences, and buy into this consumeristic culture. Though this is not the only reason the world is going wrong. Going back to the religious component of this song, DiRusso is questioning how God could have cut short the life of her beautiful dog. Why is it that everything good and pure, is ripped away from the world too quickly? 

Not only does this song meet all of my personal music specifications, but it truly is a work of poetry. DiRusso takes a specific personal incident and uses it to address greater themes of grief. By doing this, she address how individuals prioritize different areas and relationships in their own lives. Her song is short and concise, which allows listeners to focus deeply in on the lines she provides. Though DiRusso currently resides in a relatively niche area of the indie music genre, it is ballads like these that I believe with soon attract a wide fan base.     

Wait there’s no guidebook to parenting?

“Anybody Have A Map?”, sung by majority of the cast of Broadway production Dear Evan Hansen, is both poetic and unique.  Dear Evan Hansen is about a high school boy with social anxiety disorder who so badly wants to make a connection with his peers and fit in that he fakes a relationship with a deceased classmate to become closer to the boy’s family. This whirlwind production starts with the the song “Anybody Have A Map” to introduce the characters and plot of the play.

Image result for dear evan hansen

“Anybody Have A Map” is a clear example of poetry. Poetry has the ability to make the reader feel something, and this song certainly does. A central theme of the play is the struggle to try and connect with others. Throughout the play, Evan’s mom is struggling with how to connect with him and how to help him find friends. It pains her deeply to see her son so lonely and know that there isn’t much she can do. This pain is shown in the song when Heidi (Evan’s mom) sings:

“Another stellar conversation for the scrapbook

Another stumble as I’m reaching for the right thing to say

I’m kinda coming up empty

Can’t find my way to you”

This stanza is very powerful because it illustrates how helpless Heidi feels and how challenging it is for her to connect with her son. The word choice in this stanza also emphasizes the helpless tone Heidi is conveying. The words, “stumble”, “reaching”, “empty”, and “can’t” create a sense of powerlessness and struggle.

The title itself is poetic. The map that is being referred to in the title is metaphorical for a guidebook to connecting with your kids and being a mother. This metaphor adds a multidimensional layer to the song by making the meaning deeper and more up for interpretation after clues are dropped.

Image result for treasure map

In addition, there is repetition throughout the song of the hyperbolic line:

“I’m flying blind”

No, she is not actually flying blind. What is meant by this is that she is trying her best by guessing. There are no directions for parenting and no guide on how to connect with your child when they feel distant. This line is conveying that parenting has much to do with feeling one’s way through.

“Anybody Have A Map” is a powerful and thought provoking song with many poetic devices, but what makes it poetry is how it makes you feel when reading and listening to it.

“English Rose, ” A Love Poem

The song, “English Rose” by Ed Sheeran appears on his album, Multiply: Wembly Edition. The first time I heard this song, I immediately fell in love with both its musical and lyrical elements, and it has been my favorite song for almost two years.

This song is most certainly poetry in every way, through its flowing metaphors, rhythm, diction, imagery, rhymes and deep emotion that helps the listener understand the strong love and longing Sheeran is expressing through his music.

In this song, Sheeran is describing being on tour and playing shows in Tennessee, across the sea from his home in England.

I spend my days, just traveling and playing shows

But my heart still beats, for my home and my English Rose

In these particular lines of the song, the metaphor “English Rose” Sheeran is describing is his love interest, an English woman back at his home in England. The term “English Rose” is often used to describe a very beautiful English woman, as well as a type of beautiful and vibrant rose, and this is whom Sheeran is describing his longing for throughout this song. Sheeran is also describing, through powerful diction and imagery, how he loves to perform and tour with his music, but that his heart really belongs with his love interest back at home.

In addition to the metaphors in these lines of the song, the words “shows” and “Rose” rhyme, which is another poetic element that adds rhythm to the lyrics of the song.

I told my dad, on the phone it’s amazing
From the street to the craziest places I’ve seen

but I’d long to be
In the arms of my true love
Like he loves my mother, he understands me

In this section of the song, Sheeran is describing how he discussed, with his father, his feelings of longing towards the woman he loves. His father describes his love for Sheeran’s mother, and is able to understand the pain Sheeran feels in not being able to be with the one he loves. Sheeran uses the imagery of yearning to be in the arms of his “true love”, which helps the listener to understand the deep desire he feels to be with his “English Rose.”

The use of multiple poetic devices as well as the strong and deep emotion and desire conveyed in this song make it poetry in every sense, as it made me, and so many other listeners, feel these deep feelings along with Sheeran in this beautiful song.

English Roses!