A story of Hope

“1-800-273-8255” is a 2017 hit song by artist Logic from the album with the same name. While the name of the song may be confusing to some, it’s actually the number for the suicide prevention hotline. The song is all about having hope through difficult times and realizing your worth. Here is the link to the lyrics 1-800-273-8255.

When having to defend this song as poetry, the lyrics speak for themselves. The meaning of the song runs very deep. To start with the title would juts be the start. The song title is never mentioned in the song but is there instead to encourage people to use it and call if you ever have negative thoughts. When moving into the actual song, Logic brakes it down into three parts. The person calling the hotline, to the person receiving the call, back to the person who called now with renewed hope. The song is one big line to never give up. Logic is trying to tell those in pain that it does get better and there is no reason to believe it doesn’t

Logic achieves this meaning through some poetic devices. He uses a plethora of devices, and specifically uses metaphor to compare this newfound hope to drowning and taking the first breath after being rescued.

It’s the very first breath
When your head’s been drowning underwater
And it’s the lightness in the air
When you’re there
Chest to chest with a lover

Through this metaphor, the listener who might not have these thoughts are given an idea of what they might feel like.

Logic poses a rhetorical question in every chorus. He asks ” Who can relate?” While not expecting an answer, who wants people to know they are not in this alone. Just by asking these three words, Logic is able to bring a shimmer of hope, which he uses to build on throughout the whole song.

 

“Girl in the War”

Josh Ritter is an artist that my parents always played when I was little: a time where I sang the lyrics not recognizing meaning, just saying words. After finding him again, I found that he was one of my favorite songwriters with his Americana style and narrative lyrics. “Girl in the War” is one of my favorites, where he sings about the dangers of maintaining an inflexible worldview, while a man is worrying about his girlfriend/lover that is serving in the war.

Ritter uses the symbol of the disciples, Paul and Peter, twice in his song:

Paul said to Peter you know all those words we wrote

are just the rules of the game and the rules are the first to go.

I think the disciples symbolize an anti-war sentiment, saying that the governments role of how they do good for their country is changing, and that the people who make decisions about participating in war are focused on the wrong rules. Ritter continues talking about Paul and Peter:

Paul said to Peter you got to rock yourself a little harder

Pretend the dove from above is a dragon and your feet are on fire.

Paul and Peter continue be a symbol of the urge to protest war, saying that people have to fight a little harder against the government. Ritter is talking about politics in a way that doesn’t take the politician’s side but the side of the people and what they are going through.

The metaphor of the dove and the dragon also give another layer of meaning. Ritter is saying that people cannot blindly believe, but actively protest, and to find the same sense of urgency that you would if you were on fire. He wants people to get past talking about problems and into acting on them. He continues to use metaphors throughout his song:

Because the keys to the kingdom got locked inside the kingdom

the angels fly around in there but we can’t see them

This metaphor depicts the government as a kingdom, or the people who have the power to stop the war. Ritter is expression his feelings of frustration through this metaphor, and is exasperated that they “key” to change is our of his hands.

Finally, Ritter talks about a woman he loves that is serving in the war. He characterizes her in many lines:

Her eyes are like champagne

sparkle bubble over and in the morning all you got is rain

This simile makes us feel more connected with this woman, and the imagery of her eyes and how bright, bubbly, and sparkling they are show how attached this man is to her. He also repeats this line over and over again, almost as a chant to soothe him into not worrying about her. We get angry at this situation where she is in danger at war, and it makes us lean towards Ritter’s anti-war view.

https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/joshritter/girlinthewar.html

You Can Drown Yourself In Metaphors: Vanilla Curls

I first listened to Teddy Hyde’s song “Vanilla Curls” by accident, when it showed up in my Spotify recommended, but the seemingly simple happy song had more depth than I thought, and is a clear example of a musical poem. Telling of it’s inner poetry, the songs first line states the literary device used throughout:

I could drown myself in metaphor

I could crown your head and catch the floor

Lookin’ up at a yellow girl

She won’t cut me free of her Vanilla Curls

Hyde uses these opening lines as just a glimpse into the atmosphere he creates with the rest of the song. He does indeed use a plethora of metaphor throughout the lyrics, describing an almost dying relationship that has left him set in confusion, but also uses clever literary devices such as personification:

Equipped with private eyes, her stare declared me missing

Tried to talk myself out of it, but I never listen

Hyde’s use of literary devices isn’t the only thing that makes this song very poetic, but I would argue his use of diction and imagery does as well. He juxtaposes the melancholy feelings and doubt he has regarding his relationship with playful and silly imagery. Such as describing his significant other as food.

In a minute she already put my feelings in their place

I hate vegetables, but I’d put that stringbean on my plate.

His use of “stringbean” in this line has a deeper meaning as well, as in other songs of his stringbean is used as a term of endearment, like “honey” or “baby”. His seemingly silly wording and phrases creates a sense of childishness, which is interesting as the lyrics have a more to them. For example, near the end of the song he says:

She caught me by the ear and left me lying here in writhing fear

If I get any deeper, I might need diving gear

Hyde has a wonderful way of playing with wording and internal rhyme, while also telling a story of conflict and hurt. But, without looking closer at the lines, you would never guess the precision and thought put into the structure of the sentences, something shrouded by the light airy melody that shapes the song as a whole. Hyde does a seamless job of making the complexity of the lyrics and poetry seem easy and natural, culminating in a lovely tune with a hidden emotional meaning.

“Taro”

Gerda Taro and Robert Capa

The song “Taro” by Alt-j is about a real man. His name was Endre Ernő Friedmann, though he worked under the alias of Robert Capa. He was a traveled photographing many wars until his death at the age of 40. 

This song is set at the occasion of his death. He was covering the First Indochina war (referenced by the first word of the song: “Indochina”) after being convinced to photograph it. This was not the first war he had been to, from 1936 to the end of his life he photographed a total of 5 wars the first being the Spanish Civil War. He and his girlfriend Gerda Taro went there and working under the shared alias of Robert Capa documented the war in photographs. However, tragedy struck when his girlfriend, Gerda Taro, for whom the song is named, was killed. He was deeply affected by the loss and never married. A big part of the song is about his reunion with Taro after his death, however, that is not what I will be focusing on.

The first verse contains some of the best imagery I have ever heard in a song:

“(Ooh) Very yellow-white flash!

A violent wrench grips mass

Rips light, tears limbs like rags”

The line “Very yellow-white flash!” in the context of the song leads the listener to first think of a camera flash, however, the next line “A violent wrench grips mass” reveals it to be an explosion. I think the line captures the feel of an explosion well (at least how someone whose never been in one might imagine it to feel like) with its word choice. Wrench is a word you can almost feel in your stomach, it captures the feeling of sudden interruption and disturbance, like your insides are still going forward after your body has been suddenly stopped. Mass makes it feel like the change is not just the person is being wrenched, but something more fundamental. “Rips light” furthers this idea as only something large and powerful on a giant scale could really manipulate light to that extent. In short, these lines gives a feeling of greatness to an explosion nowhere near that scale, unless of course you are caught in it. 

Another example of the amazing imagery in this song is the way he describes Capa’s death:

Quivers, last rattles, last chokes

All colours and cares glaze to grey

Shriveled and stricken to dots

He provides both an external and internal view of the same event. Quiver sounds like a quiver and by repeating the word last it reminds the listener that Capa is dying. It then shifts inward to Capa and has three pairs of words starting with the same letter and separated by the word ‘and’. This emphasizes what is being said and stretches the moment in time. I think the focus on visual imagery works very well here considering how he dedicated his life to photography.

The careful control of language used in this song to tells the story of Capa and Taro very well and vividly. I believe that this song is definitely poetry.

https://genius.com/Alt-j-taro-lyrics

If you are interested here are some of the photos from his time in Indochina: https://www.magnumphotos.com/newsroom/conflict/ropert-capa-indochina-war/

Why it’s “Yesterday Once More”

At first glance, one would not think that Yesterday Once More, by the Carpenters, would constitute as a poem. Yes, it rhymes and has stanza and a few similes but it doesn’t seem to have that “poetic feel” to it. However, Yesterday Once More has a subtle extended metaphor that drives the entire song; The songs that the speaker listens to depicts her past and much can be inferred once one takes this into consideration.

” Lookin’ back on how it was in years gone by

And the good times that I had

Makes today seem rather sad, so much has changed. “

The speaker is clearly stressed by recent changes in her life, possibly the loss of a close friend, as suggested in the second stanza.

“Those were such happy times and not so long ago

How I wondered where they’d gone

But they’re back again just like a long lost friend

All the songs I loved so well”

Assuming that is the case, the song implies the speaker is failing to come to terms with the loss. She fails to realize that although she describes the “good times” as “not so long ago”, in reality years have gone by since the event. At the same time, she seems to cope with the loss by trying to remember the “good times” and trying to relive her memories. However, as the years go by her memory is failing her, and she is only able to remember the melody of the songs, not the words which were sung.

“Every sha-la-la-la

Every wo-o-wo-o, still shines

Every shing-a-ling-a-ling, that they’re startin’ to sing’s, so fine”

As she spirals into loneliness, with only the fleeting memories of her friend to comfort her, she continues to relive “Yesterday Once More” in a vain attempt to regain what she has lost.

Lost in the Woods

Any of Hozier’s songs could be easily argued as poetry. He weaves lyrical metaphors together in a way few other artists can match, especially in his song “In the Woods Somewhere” from his album Hozier. The song could be interpreted in many ways, but I have always thought that it was detailing someone grappling with whether to continue living after his love has died.

The most obvious device that Hozier uses to convey this struggle is the extended metaphor of the woods. The woods represent his own mind; he is lost in his subconscious as he hovers between life and death. Hozier enhances this metaphor with descriptions heavily reliant on auditory and tactile imagery:

The moon still hung

The night so black

That the darkness hummed

This vivid picture Hozier paints of a forbidding forest helps set up the ominous tone of the song. Throughout it, these dangerous woods call to the speaker:

An awful noise filled the air

I heard a scream

In the woods somewhere

The speaker’s internal conflict is tearing him apart, and the mysterious noises coming at him from his surroundings parallel his fear of his undecided fate. His confusion grows as he ventures deeper into the woods, as if falling farther into his despair.

The speaker quickly realizes that, though he thought the scream was human, it actually came from a fox:

A fox it was

He shook, afraid

I spoke no words, no sound he made

The symbolism of the fox is no doubt intentional; foxes are traditionally representations of tricks and deceit, so it seems to be encouraging the speaker’s overwhelming desire to follow his love into death. He knows that he shouldn’t, but this part of his mind is compelling him to run towards her and let himself go.

The speaker then sees that the fox has been attacked, and he decides to put it out of its misery, much as he wishes to do with himself. However, he changes his mind right as he’s about to do so, realizing that the creature that hurt the fox is coming for him as well:

The creature lunged

I turned and ran

To save a life I didn’t have

The fox has led the speaker right into the path of death, and until this moment, the speaker has been complicit in his own deceit. This is the moment, though, that he changes his perspective, realizing that he values his own life too much to give up:

Dear, in the chase

There as I flew

Forgot all prayers

Of joining you

(Hozier also uses a bit of wordplay in these lyrics, using “Dear” to connect it back to his lost love instead of “deer” like in the original saying.)

The speaker finally flees the forest, choosing to see what the rest of his life has in store for him. He has chosen to live with the grief of losing his love, rather than allowing himself to be overtaken by it. Hozier brings the metaphor to a close at the end of the song, as the speaker recognizes how he changed after finding his way out of his mind, saying:

How many years

I know I’ll bear

I found something

In the woods somewhere

Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door: Poetry at its Finest

Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” by Guns n’ Roses, is a poetic master piece when broken down and analyzed piece by piece. The song stresses the novelty familial relationships and has a religious undertone to it.

Mama, take this badge off of me
I can’t use it anymore
It’s gettin’ dark, too dark for me to see
I feel like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door

Mama put my guns in the ground

I can’t shoot them anymore

That cold Black cloud is comin down

Feels like I’m knockin on heaven’s door

These lyrics paint a picture of a man (possibly a cowboy) who is down on his luck, and contemplating doing the unthinkable. He feels worthless as though he is a dead man walking, and maybe even contemplating killing himself. In addition, the soulful guitar playing in the background allows for one to be swept away into their own thoughts of life, and what is important to them. All in all, I would defend this song as poetry and I would recommend it to anyone in need of a good vibe session.