Escapism in Summer

In her debut album, Pure Heroine, released at age 16, musical artist Lorde grapples with a variety of topics, including youth, fame, social status, materialism, and mainstream culture. She explores her experience of youth in her song “Buzzcut Season,” imparting this experience through various poetic and literary devices, including understatements and overstatements, personification, metonymy, imagery, and metaphors. The theme Lorde constructs in “Buzzcut Season” is that summer is an escape among adolescents, allowing them to abandon school and the intimidating real world that is approaching and instead live in a suspended state of carefree bliss, however, an undertone of fear persists nonetheless. 

In the beginning lines, Lorde references when she accidentally set fire to a friend’s hair in a school science class, writing “I remember when your head caught flame/It kissed your scalp and caressed your brain.” Lorde then writes “you laughed, baby, it’s okay/It’s buzzcut season anyway.” In this situation, buzzcut season is a metonym for summer. The school year is coming to a close, and the flame gives the friend a taste of the warmth of summer. This is conveyed through the personification of the flame caressing and kissing, indicating it is a comforting force. Being set on fire is downplayed and brushed off here because the students have summer into which they can escape their current pains, such as being burned, so these pains are largely insignificant, seeing as they will disappear soon. Additionally, the friend having their hair set on fire only takes them closer to summer because they can shave it off to enter buzzcut season. 

Lorde then shifts to life during summer, with “Explosions on TV/And all the girls with heads inside a dream/So now we live beside the pool/Where everything is good.” The line “Explosions on TV,” which directly follows the line “It’s buzzcut season anyway,” introduces a new meaning of buzzcut season. The explosions convey the hardships and seriousness of real life, viewed only through a TV by the teens because they are not yet exposed, however, their participation in buzzcut season expresses that they, with their shaved heads, will soon join the war of the world. Following this daunting message, Lorde writes of girls’ heads inside a dream, meaning they, including Lorde, are escaping the world to spend their summer in a dream. Overstatements of them living “beside the pool,” where “everything is good,” communicate their abandonment of their responsibilities in the summer, solely immersing themselves in fun activities. This carefree behavior, like the metaphorical “dream” they are in, is unsustainable though. 

Later in the song, Lorde shifts her tone, writing “Cola with the burnt-out taste/I’m the one you tell your fears to/There’ll never be enough of us.” Cola is a summer drink, and its burnt-out taste conveys the bitterness lingering in one’s mouth as the illusion of an endless, joyful summer begins fizzling out. This also connects to the flame at the beginning of the song, which was ignited with the arrival of summer, but now cola accompanies its burning out. With summer’s illusion dying, fears surface because they are no longer able to be suppressed. To limit their acknowledgement to preserve summer for as long as possible, they are expressed in confidence to very few people. Ultimately, however, Lorde recognizes that there are “never…enough of us,” us being carefree adolescents, so escaping into buzzcut season is only a temporary luxury that will soon no longer be available. 

Lorde closes the song with returning to summer as an escape from difficulties and responsibilities. She writes, “The men up on the news/They try to tell us all that we will lose/But it’s so easy in this blue/Where everything is good.” The formidable real world, or the “men up on the news,” threatens to remove Lorde and her friends from their summer fun by exposing its unsustainability and its deviation from reality, however, they maintain their approach of “nothing’s wrong when nothing’s true.” These adolescents choose to deny the fact that they cannot avoid their mounting responsibilities forever because “It’s so easy in this blue/Where everything is good.” “This blue” is a metaphor for summer, and it also ties into the motif of pools the adolescents live beside during summer. While the exaggeration that “everything is good” applies when floating unburdened in water, one must eventually come to land so as not to drown. For now though, as the final line “I live in a hologram with you” implies, Lorde and her friends will prolong their transient, blissful hologram that is summer (metaphor) for as long as possible. 

Terrorists Working From Home?

“Where is the Love?” was a lead single released on June 16th 2003 as a part of the Black Eyed Peas’ album “Elephunk”. The song was a huge success and was able to hit 8th on the US Billboard Hot 100s charts and was nominated for “Record of the Year”, and “Best Rap/Sung Collaboration” at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards. The song was written about the state of the United States post-9/11 and had some very important messages that can be applied to the current condition of the world as well. The main theme/message of the song is that the US should first focus on resolving the problems within its own borders before getting involved with foreign conflicts outside of them. The use of language in this song is very complex and creates a unique experience for the listener. The lyrics to “Where is the Love?” by the Black Eyed Peas is in fact poetry.

The first usage of poetic language appears right at the beginning of the song.

Overseas, yeah, we try to stop terrorism
But we still got terrorists here livin'
In the USA, the big CIA
The Bloods and The Crips and the KKK

The word choice in these lines is very poetic and does a great job of providing the listener with a central message. In this excerpt, the word “terrorist” is used in a very unique way that helps the song deliver this central message effectively. The first appearance of the word is conventional but the second appearance is much more abstract.  It is easy for the reader to picture terrorists in foreign countries plotting against the USA. However, most people would not consider America’s own people to be terrorists as well. Many know about “The Bloods and The Crips and the KKK” but probably do not regard their members as terrorists. The repeated use of the word terrorist, bridges the problems happening abroad with our own, and creates a sense of similarity. The word choice is able to convey that all the issues happening within the US borders are just as big of a threat to the American people as the terrorism threats happening globally.

This next excerpt is my personal favorite usage of poetic language from the song lyrics.

But if you only have love for your own race
Then you only leave space to discriminate
And to discriminate only generates hate
And when you hate then you're bound to get irate, yeah

In these lines, The Black Eyed Peas provide insight as to how discrimination escalates conflict in the US. Having love for your own race is commonly seen as a very positive thing. However, these lyrics bring up the fact that having too much love for the people of your same race can actually result in distancing from the other races (ultimately leading to conflict). The purpose of these lines is to teach the reader to accept all people, not just those similar to you. The use of the first two lines mentioning “love” and “discrimination” allow the listener to remember and retain the message more clearly. In these lines, the rejection of “loving your race too much” first creates the enticing hook, and then the clever mention of how this actually facilitates more discrimination adds great depth and imagery to a unique take on how to combat discrimination (by identifying its cause).

This final excerpt provides the reader with a topic that relates directly to our current situation in 2020.

Wrong information always shown by the media
Negative images, is the main criteria
Infecting the young minds faster than bacteria

The goal of these lines is to prevent the corruption of our youths’ minds by sometimes false or biased news from the media. The lyricist uses a hyperbole and metaphor on the third line in order to produce an image in the reader’s head of what a child succumbing to the gradual brainwashing via the media would look like. I also noticed that the first word in each line has a very negative connotation associated with it. The use of the words “Wrong”, “Negative”, “Infecting”, create a negative tone for the entire set of lines. This will allow the listener to greater understand the importance of tackling the issues within the US before getting involved with the global issues abroad.

Facing Problems In LIFE

Saba’s 2018 album CARE FOR ME was all about his process of coping with the deaths of family members and other issues in his life. “LIFE” encapsulates all of these ideas into one song. The standout aspect of “LIFE” and CARE FOR ME is Saba’s ability to paint a vivid and personal account of his state of mind in this time so listeners can empathize with him. The biggest theme on “LIFE” is the unpredictable and transient nature of life and what the people’s lives mean to other people.

Saba opens the song with a commentary on the prison system in America and it’s unfair treatment of black people.

They want a barcode on my wrist (barcode on my wrist)
To auction off the kids
That don’t fit their description of a utopia (black)

Saba uses allusion to fit multiple meanings into these 3 lines. First, the “barcodes on my wrist” most predominantly reminded me of the treatment of Jewish people in Nazi concentration camps but the later inclusion of “to auction of the kids” made me think of slave auctions. The mini theme within these lines is about the prison system and mass incarceration of black people in the US and racial tension in general. While these don’t specifically relate to losing loved ones, it does give some backstory as to why there is so much turmoil in his life as well as others with these same experiences. Giving listeners the ability to experience what Saba goes through and how he views the treatment of black people in America is one example of how “LIFE” is poetic.

The chorus in “LIFE” repeats the names of people Saba has lost that had significant influence on his life,

They killed my cousin with a pocket knife
While my uncle on the phone
He was gone for more than half my life
He got out a year and then he died
I was honor roll, talking to my father on the phone
Left the city when I was just four

These few lines relate to the main theme of loss being unexpected and life being temporary, but in order to really experience his emotions you need to listen to the music. One of the aspects of poetry we talked about in class is how delivery of lines affects the meaning of the words. Whenever the chorus comes up, Saba’s voice becomes very deep, distorted, and sped up with a booming bass line setting the tone for the few seconds of the chorus. I believe he chose to rap the chorus this way because it adds to the impact of his losses and the dark/deep places that he ended up in because of them.

Something a lot of people struggle with is expressing their true feelings. It is common in people who feel depressed or are just struggling to be happy with their lives and Saba illustrates this feeling in these following three lines,

Tell me it’ll be okay, tell me happier days
Tell me that she my bae, that I won’t be alone
Tell ’em I’ll be okay when he ask, “How’s my day?”

Saba uses the repetition of “tell me” to show he’s asking other people for validation in what he’s doing and to give him hope for the future. The last line is the most impactful in showing how people hide their true emotions. Almost everyone can relate to saying “I’m okay” when they’re really not but either don’t want to trouble other people or don’t want to face their feelings. Saba shows how the combination of wanting the help and validation of other people while simultaneously feeling unable to seek help creates a vicious cycle of self-loathing and depression.

While this song focuses on the sad feelings of loss, other songs on CARE FOR ME address how he overcame his sadness by facing his problems head on instead of continuing to run away and stay in denial. It’s only 40 minutes long so I highly recommend listening all the way through if you feel you’re trapped and need some music to relate with and potentially learn from.

Moving On

At first glance of Ariana Grandes song “thank u, next” you would not think it had any poetic resemblance and just think it was another pop song about boys. As you take a deeper dive into the song you realize that it is much more than that. In Ariana grandes song she says thank you to all of her exes and explains all that she has learned from them and the positive take aways.

In her song Ariana repeats the lyrics

Thank U, next

The use of this repetition throughout the song shows the importance of moving on. Most pop culture songs fixate on how they didn’t love you back or how obsessed you are with a person. Ariana Grande goes against this and says thank you but it didn’t work out and I moved on and am fine.

Grande then reiterates her point of the song by saying how she now thinks of their relationships

Thought I’d end up with Sean
But he wasn’t a match
Wrote some songs about Ricky
Now I listen and laugh
Even almost got married
And for Pete, I’m so thankful
Wish I could say “thank you” to Malcolm
‘Cause he was an angel

The fact that Grande can thank these people and say something nice about them shows a lot about her character and how strong she is. When the song came out Ariana had just just lost Mac miller and whom she loved very much. When she says the like wish I could say thank you to Malcolm cuz he was an angel she is referring to Mac miller who’s lyrics where also poetic. I think that Grande purposely made the lines in this song poetic to convey her love for him and as a way to remember him through song.

After Grande says thank you and positive things about people she says all she has learned from them

One taught me love
One taught me patience
And one taught me pain
Now, I’m so amazing

In Ariana Grande’s song she appreciates all they have taught her love, patience, and pain and the gives this credit to being the person she is today. The way that Ariana Grande was able to turn something sad like heart break into an upbeat song thanking people is amazing. “Thank U, Next” is a song you can listen to when you want to be brought up and happy or when you want to feel comforted. This Song can make you feel so many different emotions and has so much depth to it.

A Song with Words

The Sun” is a relatively light electronic/dance song that provides a feeling of summer and melancholy. It’s from French musician Myd, who mainly does house music. The song is part of the EP All Inclusive, which released in 2017.

As I was selecting a song to defend as poetry from my Spotify playlists, I realized that I don’t actually listen to a ton of songs that have words. “The Sun” is one of the few songs I regularly listen to that does have words, although even it isn’t too complex in its lyrical composition. It sounds super nice and calm, as does the other two songs on the EP, but the lyrics don’t draw too much attention to themselves.

Myd was certainly going for a feeling to be received with this song, rather than any direct message to the audience. And the lyrics permit that transfer; the story being told is one of a journey, of movement, something for the audience to feel. A few things from behind the scenes support this idea of movement: the cover art for All Inclusive, and the music video for another song on the EP, also called “All Inclusive”. In the cover art, Myd is standing naked on a large boat in a beautiful, wealthy beach-villa landscape. It’s a pretty releasing image. But the music video is very strange, in kind of a disturbing way. Myd comes across as a crazy person and a rich douchebag, which he most definitely is. Through the movement found here, and despite the douchiness of the writer of the song, there’s still something about “The Sun” and its use of language that resonates with me.

Always on the run
Towards the sun
We always wonder
Why we love it, why we love

This verse is repeated multiple times in the song. A reason for this is that the journey to the sun, which is a metaphor for escaping the restraints of society, doesn’t end. The speaker isn’t just wondering about his life, he cites that he’s always wondering about why things are the way they are. In other words, the speaker won’t ever reach the sun. The whole “it’s all about the journey” thing is kind of cliché, but I think the speaker says a little more than that. He’s proclaiming the idea that there is no end to the journey, and that the journey is the only option, so it’s like the speaker is lucky that he loves it, because if he didn’t, his existence would be tragic.

The entire song feels bittersweet, and melancholic in a way. It’s also repetitive. The journey being an escape from societal restraints, anxiety, and sadness, it’s bittersweet that the escape is so formulaic, and that there’s always one way to do it. This is why the Sun is an interesting metaphor to use, because there is only one direction to it.

We can't bear it, just to know that
Like the sun, like the sun
Hey, we're in love
Baby you know
If we can't do it
We'll regret it
Honestly we spent too much time waiting

Something I haven’t mentioned yet is the “we”. There’s clearly a love interest here, someone the speaker escapes with. There is a problem: they’re not doing something they want to be doing. One would think that this would pertain to the restrains of society, and the issue would be solved during the journey to the Sun. (In Myd’s case, this would be going on a cruise and partying). However, this issue comes up during the escape. So, it is unclear what the problem actually is, whether they want to actually reach the sun (which is impossible) or if it’s impossible to even journey to the Sun, and the speaker and his love interest are just lying to themselves about ever being on a journey. Even through this problem, the speaker says that they love the journey: bittersweet.

In the end, “The Sun” is just a French dance song created by rich white guy. The lyrics do, however, present an interesting situation that goes against what is traditionally thought of as escaping society, or being yourself, in a way that benefits the rest of the song in its provoking of emotion, which only poetry could do.

Does the Sidewalk End?

“Open Road” by Roo Panes from the Weight Of Your World EP is a sweet song essentially about living life to the fullest potential while keeping home and family close. Although the meaning isn’t blatantly obvious, the listener is able to take from it what they want. When I listen, I focus on how the song is broadening my view of my own place in the world. I am reminded of the importance of living as free as possible, that our only real bounds are the ones we create for ourselves. There are a number of paths we can follow throughout our lives and all we have to do is start walking.

The song starts off with a hyperbole pertaining to an emotional state we all know too well. Sadness. 

And even from afar I hear you crying

Verse 1

This lyric is not meant to be taken literally. Panes is commenting on the strength of the emotion carrying from one person to the other without direct communication. Sadness is such a raw emotion that even when someone seems fine, anyone who knows them best can see through it. This is a powerful line as it suggests that someones sadness is so “loud” that it can be heard from far far away. 

The chorus is first accompanied by a Metaphor.

Let me out of this cage, ‘fore I swell up with rage


Panes is obviously talking about a metaphorical cage here. It is a cage of our own making that limits us to certain gratifications in life. Using diction like “cage” creates an image that is easily understood especially in the context of a fast paced song.

The chorus also consists of personification of the sky. 

Let me shout to the skies that I’m too young to die


This line can be interpreted a number of ways. Depending on how the listener interprets the lyric, the sky could be God, “the universe”, a different higher power, or the sky and world as in everything under the sun. As someone who is agnostic, I interpreted this line as simply the sky, in which case I consider this line to be personification since a sky cannot hear or receive a verbal shout. This line is also comforting in a number of ways as a seemingly much needed release of fears and emotions. 

The third verse utilizes one more lyric of personification. 

Wisdom knows the eyes through which you’re crying 

Verse 3

This line suggests that one emotion, which in this case is most likely sadness, is one dimensional on a unique multi-dimensional individual. We are so much more than one state of emotion, and as the eyes are the window to the soul, wisdom can see through the eyes into who you truly are. However, as we know, wisdom is not an actual person and that is where personification comes in as a useful device here. 

The purpose of this song is to comfort its listeners. Through the use of several poetic devices along with a steady tempo and voice, this song certainly achieves that.

An Era of Errors

The song I chose was II. Earth: The Oldest Computer (The Last Night) by Childish Gambino. The song is the second to last track on his album Because The Internet. The album is about finding meaning in the age of the internet and is accompanied by a screenplay that includes which songs should be played over each scene. The album and screenplay tells the story of a character named The Boy who lives off his family money and spends his days trolling people on the internet and throwing parties in his LA home. Soon The Boy gets tired of this and tries to find something else to give his life purpose. During this quest The Boy goes from trying to restart past relationships to taking a trip to Sweden and eventually ends up giving up and decides to sell drugs. 

The song Earth: The Oldest Computer is played when he arrives at his house for a drug deal and realizes he has been set up. Knowing it is possible he could die and soon he does. The title is an allusion to the novel A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. In the book the earth is a computer trying to find the question that will give people the meaning of life because they already know that the answer is 42. Just before it can give the people the question, the earth is destroyed. Just as in the book, Gambino dies just as he begins his epiphany

The Boy gets emotional as he begins to think about his life. He wants to live forever and the fact that he cannot makes him feel like he is missing out. Gambino sings: “See, now I don’t wanna see an era, an era, an era/ See, now I just wanna live forever and ever” (Childish Gambino, lines 1 and 2). Gambino understands he has only lived part of the human experience and longs to continue on. While in the official lyrics it is written as era, referring to a period of time, in the song this could be interpreted as “error”. This is common in his songs as he often uses lines that could be heard as two different words. The word error works in the song as it would be: I don’t want to see an error. This calls back to the themes of how the internet has changed human perception of the world as error is commonly used when talking about computers. This allows the line to have multiple meanings as he both wants more from life and does not want to live with mistakes.

Next, Gambino reflects on his life and thinks about what he could have done differently and what he is proud of. He soon seemingly goes on a tangent as he begins to reference pieces of culture represented by the letter A: “That ‘A’ on my chest like adultery (Yeah)/ That “A” on my chest, put your fist up (Yeah)/ That ‘A’ on my chest like a chipmunk” (Childish Gambino, Lines 10-12). First, he brings up an “A” representing adultery. This is seen in the novel The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, in which the main character Hester Prynne must wear a red “A” because the father of her baby is unknown. As and fists are symbols of anarchy, a movement to remove all government. The final line talks about the “A” on the chest of popular cartoon character Alvin the chipmunk. This could be seen as a few of the many influences on a person’s life as books, political movements, and cartoons can shape who a person becomes. In addition, this use of anaphora while speaking about this letter shows these symbols ultimately mean nothing. If a red letter “A” can mean anything from a singing chipmunk to a lawless state it really represents nothing. All symbols are only social constructs that people apply worth to.

Soon after the lines about the letter “A” Gambino begins rapping about the way that in the internet age what gets put online is there forever. He believes that this could cause problems. Then he begins to think about how hypocritically this is of him to think as he raps: “Even I won’t survive, is it unfair?/ Is it unfair? Cause I don’t care/ When I step on that ant on the grass” (Childish Gambino, Lines 41-43). The rhetorical question “Is it unfair?” asks if this is even worth thinking about, as everything dies and most of the time he does feel bad about it. Gambino feels odd being sad his life will be over if he feels nothing when wiping something like an ant out of existence. While caring about the life of an ant is extreme this could be applied to people. This creates another question for the listener: should we care about everyone or no one? It seems in this moment The Boy has chosen just to think about himself. This question that interrupts him thinking about his life allows Gambino and the reader to reflect on their more selfish thoughts and possibly push some towards mutual recognition of all things.

The Blame Game

In Kanye West’s 2010 album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, he questions the end of a relationship in the song Blame Game. He begins the song with a hook describing the relationship he has with his girlfriend.

Whose fault?

Let’s play the blame game, I love you more
Let’s play the blame game for sure
Let’s call out names, names, I hate you more
Let’s call out names, names, for sure

I’ll call you b***h for short
As a last resort and my first resort
You call me motherfucker for long
At the end of it, you know we both were wrong

Kanye starts his hook by describing a “game” he plays with his girl where they “blame” each other for their mistakes. I believe he did this to emphasize his and her childishness because this game that they play is pointless. Nobody can win, the game ends when the relationship ends, and they hurt each others feelings and the health of their relationship for nothing. Kanye continues his hook by implying that he calls his girlfriend a “bitch”, “as a last resort”. This line conveys that Kanye’s girl’s actions have forced him to call her a ‘bitch”, yet it is his “first resort”, implying that it is also Kanye’s fault for deciding to use that word. He ends the hook by saying “At the end of it…we both were wrong”, implying that they were both at fault for the end of their relationship because they both played the “blame game”. To add, Kanye repeats the hook to emphasize the back and forth of their arguments.

On a bathroom wall I wrote
I’d rather argue with you than to be with someone else
I took a piss and dismiss it, like fuck it
And I went and found somebody else, Fuck arguing or harvesting the feelings
Yo, I’d rather be by my fucking self
‘TIl about two am and I call back and I hang up
And I start to blame myself, somebody help

Kanye’s first verse gives the listener insight on what he is thinking about his relationship, and the actions that he took. He begins by describing that despite the arguing, he still wants to maintain a relationship with her, but he decides to cheat on her because of the fact that they argue. Kanye then describes that he’d rather be by himself, yet he calls his girl, he hangs up on his girl, and he blames himself for the status of their relationship, meaning he still wants to be with her or misses her. This verse shows that Kanye truly cares for his girlfriend because he regrets an action he took to hurt her. Yet, he would rather be alone and will not allow himself to talk to her. This back and forth in Kanye’s head parallels the blame game he plays with his girlfriend, and accurately describes emotions during a break up.

All of the lights, she was caught in the hype girl
And I was satisfied being in love with a lie
Now who to blame, you to blame, me to blame
For the pain and it poured every time when it rained

The second verse on ‘Blame Game’ discusses what Kanye’s girlfriend did to him, she dragged his name “through the mud”, “never told the truth”, “blackmailed” him to buy drugs, and cheated on him. This excerpt is the last portion of the second verse and alludes to his song “All of the Lights”, where he discusses the issues that come with fame. The first line implies that his girlfriend is only with him because of the attention it will bring to her, “caught in the hype” and “All of the lights”, and that he “was satisfied being in love with” that “lie”. He ends the verse by questioning who’s to blame “for the pain”, and switches the phrase, when it pours it rains, around. This last line can mean many things, a metaphor for Kanye’s tears, a description of the “blame game” and how emotional the arguments were, or that when the relationship ended Kanye was depressed.

In all, the song Blame Game by Kanye West is a piece of art. The lyrics describe the end of a relationship and the feelings that come with it perfectly, it is relatable given everybody looses somebody, and the production and engineering was groundbreaking.

Grooving to the Very End

Using a diverse pallet of funk, hip-hop, big beat, house, techno, blues, soul, jazz, and more, composer Hideki Naganuma illustrates a vibrant variety of serotonin-laced jams. Unlike traditional artists, most of his songs do not use lyrics to provide the “meat” of a song. He instead uses sampled vocal cues that act as compliment to the instruments.”Teknopathetic” is a standout song in his discography, as it relies more on its vocals to send a message.

The song establishes a chorus which is repeated many times:

playing games
Thinkin’ I’m done
exchanging names

Beginning on the second repetition of the chorus, a woman’s chanting provides a rhythmical backing. A “conversation” between the two persists.

Later, the second verse employs the use of iambic pentameter:

You’ve been taking much too long
tryna’ find what’s going on.
Wasting all my precious time
while you’re making up your mind.
You think you’re really in the know,
waiting for the sign to go.
I’ve been waving that green flag
and you still ain’t moving.

A sense of rhythm is maintained through the lyrics, as the first seven lines stick to a distinct seven-syllable beat, broken by the last line’s six. Additionally, the first six lines contain three sets of consecutive rhyming pairs, adding to its poetic nature.

“Teknopathetic” speaks of “love and its troubles”, evident through its usage of dating terms and conversational vibe. This pairs well with Hideki’s other song “The Concept of Love” which shares a similar overtone. The break at 2:54 uses a dissonance of synths followed with disharmonic piano plinks, the woman’s voice is noticeably replaced, and it ends abruptly after the word “stop”. The dissonance is disorienting and contrasts to the harmony present earlier. Both the woman singer leaving and the abrupt ending signify the termination of the speaker’s relationship. Love is complex, confusing, unpredictable, and at times, pathetic.

Jet Set Radio Future (the work where “Teknopathetic” is featured), is a video game depicting an alternative future to Japan. Freedom of expression is illegal and gangs of teenagers roam the streets, fighting against oppressive forces via graffiti and roller blading. Released in 2002, its namesake stems from its explosive soundtrack featuring both licensed hip hop and Japanese punk rock, as well as tracks original to the work.

Rise Up

Andra Day’s song “Rise” from her album Cheers to the Fall is a power ballad that seems as if it was made for Covid times. Doing the same things day in and day out with no reprieve brings the feelings of hopelessness to a new level. Day’s song acknowledges these feelings but then uses her song to inspire resilience and hopes for the future.

Day starts her song with a metaphor:

You’re broken down and tired
Of living life on a merry-go-round
And you can’t find the fighter

The song starts off slow with an emphasis on strategically placed minor chords and then the lyrics start… The metaphor of a merry-go-round right from the get-go perfectly captures the feeling of hopelessness that Day wants to address. It captures the feeling of doing something over and over again but never feeling as though you can do it right so you just keep doing it again only to yield the same results. 

When you move into the melody she features multiple different literary devices singing:

I’ll rise up
Rise like the day
I’ll rise up
I’ll rise unafraid
I'll rise up 
And I’ll do it a thousand times again

The melody comes in with a progression of chords picking up the pace giving off an uplifting tone. The simile in the first part of the melody compares getting back up again to the day rising. This inspires resilience and hope in the listener that the next day will be better. She moves on to the repetition of “I’ll rise up” which also inspires resilience. The way she repeats it illustrates to the readers how many times one needs to get back up again, which is every time. Lastly, she finishes the melody with hyperbole, this serves to depict the resilience Day is trying to inspire in her audience. 

Throughout Day’s song, she uses perspective so that she talks directly to the audience. She uses you a lot so then the listener feels like she is talking directly to them and encouraging them to keep going. It inspires the listener because it feels like someone understands their feelings of hopelessness but believes that they will make it through. At the end the perspective changes a bit and Day begins to use we, “We’ll rise up/ Rise like the waves/ We’ll rise up/ In spite of the ache/ We’ll rise up/ And we’ll do it a thousand times again.” This makes the listener feel as though they are not alone but they have someone to fight with them. When one starts to feel hopeless having someone to just be with them is often one of the best things for them.

The whole song is an anthem designed to lift people up when they are at their lowest. The message that even when you are at your lowest to get back up again and that you are not alone is powerful and endlessly impeccable to almost any situation.

“September” by Earth, Wind, and Fire

Do you remember? Well, do you? Maurice White, singer of Earth, Wind, and Fire, reflects on a night that was important for him and his significant other in the song “September.” In order to convince the reader of the significance of an arbitrary night, he makes use of several literary techniques. The singer tries to improve memory recall uses metaphor to link abstract emotions to physical details of the night, rhetorical questioning to emphasize the action, and synesthesia to link different senses.

The singer uses metaphor to give physicality to significant emotions of the night. There are several notable ones:

as we danced the night away, remember / how the stars stole the night away, oh yeah

verse 1

By having the listener picture the act of stars “stealing” the night, they are able to envision how, as time flies by, relativity seems to cause the stars to exit the night sky quickly—and taking the darkness away with them.

golden dreams were shiny days


They juxtapose “dream” with “day” while linking two related syonyms, “golden” and “shiny”. What, exactly, is a gilded dream? Perhaps it is a dream of accumulating wealth or some type of achievement. Now these dreams have translated into “shiny days”‘, signaling that there has been some change in their reality–that they have achieved their golden dreams.

As you can see, metaphor gives body to the aspects of memory White is trying to pull.

Secondly, White utilizes rhetorical questioning to emphasize the action of remembering. This is likely the most famous line in the song, based on the portions sampled on streaming services.

White begins large:

Do you remember the 21st night of September?

verse 1

It is unlikely that one will remember a specific date, especially if we are at as large of a temporal distance from that event as the lyrics suggest.

But a simple, second-person question prefaces the rest of the imagery in the song, leading the viewer to question their own memory before envisioning the lyrics in their head:

Say, do you remember?


This tone is more informal, and therefore lends itself to better recall. The usage of the exclamatory “say” before the question emphasizes the surprise of the question. (Therefore, we’re likely reflecting far into the past.) It reminds us that we should be looking back.

Lastly, White uses synesthesia to link the senses. This too emphasizes the act of recall. Have you ever heard someone tell you to chew gum while studying? Linking one sense, like taste, to another, like sight (the flashcards you are looking at, for example) is an integral part of memory.

only blue talk and love, remember, the true love we share today

verse 2

Using a color to refer to the sound of talk helps the listener characterize the talk by another powerful sense. This improves the specificity of their recall.

My thoughts are with you, holdin’ hands with your heart to see you

verse 2

Obviously, one cannot physically touch a heart, which does not have hands. But by linking the sensation of holding hands with the feeling of love, the figurative heart, White is able to again improve the specificity of the listener’s recall.

Of course, most of us are not recalling anything in particular. But throughout the song, White is addressing one specific listener, and we are able to imagine ourselves as if we are that listener.

Polo G. A Poetic Genius at 21.

The song “21” by Polo G off his album THE GOAT is a perfect example of poetry in rap. The album was released in May of 2020, and is Polo’s sophomore album. In the song, Polo G reminisces and walks through his past life, articulating everything he has experienced while being just 21. Polo G also pays homage to the late rapper Juice WRLD, who died last year from an overdose just days after turning 21. Both artists grew up in Chicago. A one-cut music video was released shortly after the song came out showing Polo walking through his childhood, which included him dodging bullets and fighting internal demons. This is one of many songs off his album that exhibits poetic elements.

Ever since I stepped up in this game, I’ve been a bomb threat
I was in the trenches, tryna see a life beyond that

In this part of the song Polo G uses assonance to push his message. The words “threat” and “that” do not rhyme with each other, but instead are words that are in close proximity to one another. There are many different parts of the song where this occurs, and it is an effective way to keep the flow of the song going without utilizing rhyme. The use of assonance plays a major role in connecting to the theme of the song. Polo explains here how he knew he had the potential to blow up as an artist, and how he was not content with the current situation he was in. His horizon was much greater than staying in the neighborhood where he grew up. Hyperbole is used here as well because he is not actually a “bomb threat” and he did not actually live in “trenches.” The terminology, however is relatable for a large portion of his audience.

I just been ballin’ on these n****s, like I’m Kendrick Nunn

In this part of the song Polo uses simile to draw a comparison to a basketball player. While Polo means he is surpassing other rappers in success, the person he compares himself to is important in alluding to the theme of the song. Kendrick Nunn is a basketball player for the Miami Heat and was a “Rookie of the Year” candidate this past season. He grew up just minutes away from Polo G and had a similar success story in making it out of his neighborhood and becoming a star. Polo G could have choose someone much more prominent to reference like Michael Jordan or LeBron James. The fact that he chose to compare himself to someone who was in a similar position goes to show the significance Chicago still has to him.

Decorate your block with red tape, foenem slidin’ every day
Bunch of hollows spittin’ out the Glock
I been servin’ fiends all day, out there posted with the gang
N***a, we was taught to get it off the block

While there are many more poetic devices included in “21,”Imagery is the last of them I will be discussing. Imagery is an essential part of music because it can help put the audience in whatever situation the artist desires. In this beginning portion, the vivid imagery of the lyrics shapes the theme of the song. An immediate impression can be made regrading what the song contains. Chicago terminology and slang is also included, and is an effective way to connect to the specific audience he is attempting to reach.

Diving into Sorrow

Kendrick Lamar’s song “Swimming Pools (Drank),” on the album good kid, m.A.A.d city, reminisces Kendrick’s early life witnessing adults “swim” in liquor. Swimming pools is a metaphor for overindulgent imbibing and the physical and mental struggle you face after consuming alcohol. Experiencing these influences, Kendrick has to face himself in the fight towards buoyancy and sobriety.

The song starts out discussing his grandfather’s addiction to the liquid:

Now I done grew up ’round some people livin’ their life in bottles

Granddaddy had the golden flask

Backstroke every day in Chicago

Kendrick speaks of his own household, where much of his family were alcoholics. The term “backstroke” is a play on words speaking of his father swimming in a pool full of liquor everyday with his “golden flask.” Golden is another indicator of the significance at which his grandfather drank. It is as if his flask is a trophy to him, and cannot live without it.

Pour up, head shot

sit down, stand up

pass out, wake up

faded, faded

This chorus is unique in the way it is structured. Quick, emphasized words create a feeling of intoxication, in which kendrick is purposely creating for the listener. The word “shot” is a double entendre, in which the shot is a form of consuming alcohol, but also as a shot to the head in terms of mental disability. Furthermore, contradicting his words creates a feeling of repetition, in which alcohol consumtion is just a circle that goes back and forth until one is lost in the mind and feeling.

I’m your conscience, if you do not hear me

Then you will be history, Kendrick

I know that you’re nauseous right now

And I’m hopin’ to lead you to victory Kendrick

While the first verse discusses Kendrick’s childhood and background on alcoholism, the second verse switches viewpoints. Kendrick is now in his own head trying to swim up from the alcohol he has indulged himself with.

He then writes:

I think that I’m feelin’ the vibe, I see the love in her eyes

I see the feelin’, the freedom is granted

As soon as the damage of vodka arrive

After giving insight of the struggle within his own mind, he then immediately switches it to the viewpoint of the alcohol within him. While Kendrick tries to fight the alcoholism, the alcohol starts to take over and make him feel euphoric. He can’t escape the liquor once he has dived into it. It is inevitable that he (his mind) will drown in it.

With these messages in mind, Kendrick has made this song to tell the evils of liquor. People will dive right in before testing the waters and can’t find their way out.

Contrasting Voices in “Small Worlds”

“Small Worlds” in Mac Miller’s album Swimming highlights the contrast between the way we view life and a deeper understanding of existence. Throughout the song, he leads the listener through his internal monologue and inner thoughts, using wordplay to convey his message that life is not always what it seems.

The first line of the song serves as a paradox:

The world is so small 'till it aint 

The verse contradicts itself by starting off first with the outlook that his individual world is small, and then directly stating that throughout life he has realized that this is not always the case. It takes the listener through an emotional journey into his mind and his paradoxical views on life. His words allude that although each person is wrapped up in their individual lives, we are all a part of something bigger and all have something to offer.

He then goes on to say:

Maybe dunk but i've never been tall
I might trip but I never fall

In this verse, Miller uses oxymoron by putting two contrasting ideas together to create a bigger picture idea. When he states “I might trip but i never fall”, he uses wordplay to contrast the idea that although he may struggle internally, he does not let it get the best of him. Using words such as “dunk” but “never been tall” and “trip” but “never fall”, he intentionally uses slang language to provide double meaning to his words.

Finally, he alludes to his use of drugs:

Don't want to grow old so I smoke just in case

This line shows his internal struggle with drugs and his use of them to make time stand still. This line fits into the rest of the piece by stating that although time never stops, he turns to other measures to make it appear as if it does. After struggling with drug abuse for many years, Miller tragically passed due to overdose. His words continue to be powerful after his death and inspire many.

MF DOOM’s Villainous Wordplay

I will be analyzing the song “Accordion” by hip hop duo Madvillian on their 2004 album Madvilliany. This duo consists of emcee MF DOOM, the underground metal faced villain of the rap game, accompanied with producer Madlib, the dusty fingered crate digger, arguable the most prolific beat maker of all time.

Being the first real track on the album, aside from an intro track, we are given our first look into Madvillian’s grimy, raw, and villainous sound/aesthetic. This song, carrying themes of personal identity and being a rapper that is aging, serves to introduce the listener to MF DOOM and his evil facade, while starting off the album inducing a hypnotic head nod. DOOM opens the track/album delivering these lines with his signature deep voice and sporadic flow,

Living off borrowed time,
the clock ticks faster,
that'll be the hour
they knock the slick blaster

In just the first two lines, DOOM brings lush multidimensional language along with multiple poetic devices. Here, DOOM is saying that as he is aging his life is going by faster, bringing him closer towards death. He then says that when he dies, that’s when people will start playing his music, using the word “knock” to mean play and, “the slick blaster,” referring to himself. He accentuates the theme of aging by using words like “time,” “clock,” and “hour.”

Hey you, don't touch the mic like its AIDS on it, 
It's like the end to the means.
F**ked type of message that sends to the fiends.
That why he bring his own needles,"

Here, DOOM makes a comparison between hip hop heads and drug addicts. He starts these lines by saying wack rappers who glorify drugs and don’t put actual effort into their music, should stay off the mic. He thinks this because it sends a bad message to the “fiends,” or, people who listen to hip hop. DOOM completes this metaphor by saying that’s why he “brings his own needles,” meaning, that’s why he has his own style and puts something real into his music.

As for the title of the track, “Accordion,” this is in reference to the beat which contains a sample of an accordion sounding instrument from off kilter musician Daedelus. DOOM also references the title of the song in one of the last lines,

Slip like Freudian, 
your first and last step
to playing yourself like accordion.

A Freudian slip is a saying that means misspeaking and accidentally exposing yourself or “playing yourself,” so that is what DOOM is referencing here. In this song, MF DOOM uses carefully crafted metaphors and creative language to share with the listener a glimpse into his perplexed and villainous mind.

Ode to the Digital Era

Khalid’s song “Location” is apart of his album American Teen, the song is a ode to the digital era where all communication is done through a phone instead of face to face. I discovered this song in 2017 and I have love Khalid as a artist ever sense. Khalid recites throughout the song that he would rather see his person of interest in person instead of constantly communicating through the phone where the only sign of expression is an emoji. By communicating in person it is easy to see the persons reaction and truly get to know them. Khalid uses repetition of the phrase “Send me your location” to stress the importance of the person he is interested to meet in person and connect.

Send me your location
Let’s focus on communicating
‘Cause I just need the time and place to come through
(Place to come through)
Send me your location
Let’s ride the vibrations
I don’t need nothing else but you

During his verse 1 he ends each stanza with the word “you” giving a clue to the listener that this person is important and he wants to know more than the surface level things from this person. He even alludes to the idea that he wanted something more but circumstances got complicated and communication was already difficult.

At times I wonder why I fool with you
But this is new to me, this is new to you
Initially, I didn’t wanna fall for you

In his verse 2 is where Khalid really makes reference to the digital era and how it has changed the way young people communicate in a relationship. During Khalid trying to start a relationship with the girl all she would do was sub-tweet him and he would favorite it and vise versa. But eventually he got tired of them sub-tweeting each other and wanted the girl to say what she sub-tweeting to him in person which is ultimately why he wanted the girl to send her location to him.

I don’t wanna fall in love off of subtweets, so
Let’s get personal
I got a lot of cool spots that we can go

Your Lyrics are Getting Way Too Literal

Free at Last” is a song by the band PUP from their album Morbid Stuff. The song falls in the middle of an album dedicated to nihilistic expression and existential woes through melodic/cute melodies and high tempo punk instrumental. The theme of this song is the desire for people to prescribe meaning to their mental health issues so their suffering wasn’t pointless. In other words; when you become depressed and feel as though you’re the only one who truly understands what it’s like, and that there is some deep reason that you specifically have depression that only you can express. While expression is very helpful for mental health issues; relishing in the “aesthetic beauty” of being a depressed artist is not. It’s a punk song, a genre which is very much associated with angsty lyrics, as opposed to PUP’s existential lyrics.

Motivation, it comes and goes

Keepin’ expectations low

So when I let you down

I won’t feel so bad

“Motivation, it comes and goes” is anastrophe, but the lines themselves are very literal. The quote seems to describe the generally accepted mindset of depression; apathy, self destructive, and lack of motivation. The reason this more literal rendition of mental health is refreshing is because it doesn’t try to force any self pity on you. He’s openly just talking about it like it is without making it super deep. They lack of depth is important because having depression isn’t super deep, it’s just another illness. It does not cause one to become a tortured artist that no one can understand.

“Have you been drinking?”

Well, of course I have

Why the hell would I be here if I wasn’t?”

The song has a woman singing “Have you been drinking” implying a girlfriend. But my interpretation of this line is based off of the fact that his response isn’t a recognition of the problem of drinking. Instead, it reads as a genuine “No Sh*t” line. The singer goes through addiction once, gets sober once, and thinks it’s a meaningful moment in his life. Sadly the cycle is going to start again and on the 4th or 5th run of sobriety and addiction, it makes sense his attitude towards it is much more realistic and apathetically accepting.

Just ’cause you’re sad again

It doesn’t make you special at all

And lastly, another very literal line without a distinct poetic element. This line just takes the point of the song and explains it to you in as simple language as possible. It’s not a personal attack on those with depression, but thinking you’re special for being sad is just going to make you more depressed in the long run. Remember that self love is different from self pity. It seems harsh but it’s important to give yourself that reminder or else you will fall into worse mental health issues when the world reminds you you’re not special.

Modern Life

Pink Floyd’s song “The Thin Ice”, from their conceptual album The Wall, is a deep emotional song that has impacted my life because of the meaningful lyrics. The instrumental is melancholy, and from the first listen many may only see the song as that, but the lyrics tell a deep, poetic story through only two verses.

The lyrics are from two different perspectives. The first verse coming from the perspective of Pink’s mother. Pink is a character that Pink Floyd created to embody their struggles and The Wall is a story about his life. “The Thin Ice” is the second song from this conceptual album, and it is introducing one of the first struggles that causes Pink to spiral into a depressive state throughout his life and the album. 

The song starts with Pink’s widowed mother consoling her child…:

 Momma loves her baby
 And daddy loves you too
 And the sea may look warm to you babe
 And the sky may look blue 

Throughout the album, we see the band taking on various rolls outside of their character Pink. In verses like this, the lyrics seem comforting, but also hopeless. Cooing her baby, telling him that life may look beautiful, yet implying that it isn’t is an odd way to calm a child down. This is intentional, hence it is one of the first instances Pink feels hopelessness, one of the driving points of this conceptual album.

We can see this soft, somber verse from the mother contrasted by Pink’s harsh view in the last verse…:

 Dragging behind you the silent reproach
 Of a million tear-stained eyes 

This second verse, from Pink’s perspective as an adult, almost seems like he is mocking his Mother’s cooing, and instead he’s warning that life is inevitably going to send you into suffering. This warning is close to the same warning his mother was giving him, although his interpretation is not as soft and concealed as his mother’s. This modern life holds personal struggles for the person skating and it was created from other’s suffering that the skater must feel dragging behind them. Skating on “the thin ice of modern life” is an emotional risk, but it doesn’t seem like a choice, even though it is phrased as one. 

 Don’t be surprised when a crack in the ice
 Appears under your feet
 You slip out of your depth and out of your mind
 With your fear flowing out behind you
 As you claw the thin ice 

Although it is blatantly stated that the thin ice represented modern life, arguably not everyone felt these events unfold the same way Pink did. Pink lost his father at a very young age because of WWII and his mother was severely depressed from it. Introducing loss into his life at an early age may be the cause of his thin ice. Throughout his post-war life more things build up while his support systems also have a negative outlook which may be cracking the ice, causing him to eventually lose himself to his own fear and depression.

The cautionary message of this song is arguably an existentialist one: pain felt from past generations will never leave and life will inevitably hurt you. 

Nature and Growth in “Fussy”

Fussy” by Malia from her 2019 album Ripe is a song that I would consider poetry. If poetry can either expand or deepen your experience, this song falls into the “deepens” category. It describes personal growth– growing up and learning to leave behind things and people that don’t make you happy, despite the judgement you might face, so that you can be more fully yourself. The song is directed at the people from the speaker’s past who had once held them back, and adopts a tone of peaceful freedom. 

The song maintains an extended metaphor surrounding plants and nature, shown through lines such as the repeated “The fruit off the tree ain’t sorry to be where it’s sunny.” Fallen fruit is typically a negative symbol, because it means the fruit will begin to rot, but in this case the speaker subverts expectations because they aren’t at all sad to be distant from the “tree” they grew up on; instead, they’re happy to have left it behind for the better times represented by sunlight. These references to growth in nature, to trees in particular, symbolize the speaker’s growth that is the theme of the song. 

Like the food I eat

That comes from the trees

Save flowers for bees

Only take what I need

Just keepin’ the peace

These lines show how the song also uses the nature metaphor to suggest peace and security, like everything in the speaker’s life is now in its proper place, just as every organism has a place in an ecosystem. The speaker is focusing only on what they “need” to be happy, and this mindset has allowed them to exist much more peacefully in the world, without the stress that they used to experience from trying to fit into a role dictated by someone else. The food from the trees represents how their personal growth has become a force that sustains them. 

The speaker also explicitly addresses their audience at times, with lines such as “I’ll be here when you come for me.” This line, particularly the use of the very direct “you” pronoun, shows their confidence– they’re at a place in their life where they’re happy and don’t care what others think of them. They also aren’t afraid of these people “coming for” them, both in the slang sense of trying to start a fight or argument, and in the metaphorical sense of the rest of the poem– these people can no longer disturb the speaker, who will continue to do their own thing in this nature-filled happy place.

Can Sins be Washed Away?

The song by Leon Bridges titled, “River” off his album called Coming Home, is one of the most lyrically brilliant songs of the 2010’s. Bridges’ album was highly anticipated and was seen on Spotify’s Top 10 Most Viral Tracks. The song was featured on the hit television series Big Little Lies. He is typically known for his R&B/Soul music; however, he has been involved with other genres.

“River” uses a great variety of storytelling techniques including: anecdote, imagery, metaphor, and repetition to convey the poet’s journey to finding God and being baptized. The song has a positive message about relying on God and starting over.

The song begins with, 

Been traveling these wide roads 

For so long

My heart’s been far from you

Ten thousand miles gone

The speaker of this song has been struggling for a long time, they haven’t been their true self and they’ve made mistakes. Bridges’ uses metaphor in this first verse. The “wide roads” are the blocks that are in the way of the speaker being able to connect with God and find purpose. He/she’s whole life has been a “wide road”. The speaker continues to use metaphor by inferring that the “you” is God. They have been searching to find themselves but they are “ten thousand miles gone”. In the literal sense, the speaker is ten thousand miles away from home. In the metaphorical sense, the speaker is incredibly far away from his relationship with God and the Bible.

In verse 2 the speaker states,

Momma’s word reoccur to me 

“Surrender to the good Lord

And he’ll wipe your slate clean”

Through this verse, as the reader, we understand that the speaker is either a son or a daughter that is going through the journey to find purpose in their life with God. The word “reoccur” mentions that religion may have been a part of the speaker’s childhood but they moved away from it. Leon Bridges uses an anecdote by mentioning a quote that the speaker’s mother once said. The word “surrender” implies that the speaker must give all of themselves to the Lord in order for the relationship to be fulfilling. In return, God will “wipe your slate clean”. The speaker’s mother means that the Lord will forgive you for your past sins and you may start clean. This also is referring to being baptized because your new life with God begins.

The chorus begins with, 

Take me to your river 

I wanna go

The speaker is now not lost traveling the “wide roads” after remembering their mother’s words. They now want a relationship with God by saying “take me”. The “your” in the chorus refers to God and the “river” represents the water that the speaker wishes to be baptized with.

Finally, in verse 3, the speaker describes,

Dip me in your smooth water

As I go in 

As a man with many crimes, come up for air

As my sins flow down the Jordan

The song once again continues to refer to God and baptism. Bridges uses imagery in this verse to describe the speaker’s baptism. He starts by saying, “dip me in your smooth water”, the speaker is mentioning the aspect of baptism when the priest pours holy water over the persons’ head. This phrase says, “my sins flow down”, the speaker is mentioning that when baptised you are released of all past sins by God and can start over again. Finally, the speaker mentions the Jordan River which flows through the Middle East and is referred to in the Bible. 

Overall, Leon Bridges creates an excellent story that describes the pain of being lost and the happiness in finding yourself with God.