Is “Bad Guy” Good Poetry?

18 year old artist, Billie Eilish sings a variety of music that ranges from electro pop to goth pop. In her album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, Eilish’s songs encompass a dark undertone that highlight dark features in the world that are not often discussed. One song featured in this album is “Bad Guy“, which exemplifies a strong piece of poetry. The theme of this song is that in the world people pretend to be something they are not. For example, bad guys, don’t go around saying that they are bad, instead, they show how they are bad through their actions. This causes the listener to reflect on their actions and evaluate how they portray themselves vs who they actually are.

White shirt now red, my bloody nose
Sleepin', you're on your tippy toes
Creepin' around like no one knows

The song begins with the lines “white shirt now red, my bloody nose / Sleepin’ you’re on your tippy toes”, which give imagery to scene being portrayed. By starting off the song with blood being spilled, Eilish sets a dark undertone and dramatizes the lyrics. Even more, when the person is described as being on their “tippy toes” Eilish invokes a creepiness/nervousness to the song. This relates to the theme because in life, posers creep around and hope that nobody sees who they truly are.

There is also a meter in the lines above. The lines in the verse are each 8 syllables, which add rhythm to the the song and help with its flow. Many poems have meter and this is why the song can also be considered a poem.

Finally, the phrase, “chest always so puffed” drills the theme into the listener’s head with another image. A lot of men like to appear broad and fit because that is how society depicts how men “should” be. In this case, Eilish identifies the facade and pokes a hole in it. She knows that people often desire to come across in a way that will will ensure that they are accepted into society, and through her eccentric music she defies these standards.

J. Cole vs Social Justice

New York born and raised artist J. Cole’s 2016 album 4 Your Eyez Only, featured song “Immortal” is one of many poetic songs in the album.  The album is inscripted with stories about the stars coming up and a close friend he’s lost which he formally calls James for the sake of his privacy.  Coming from the projects of New York, growing up wasn’t easy and J. Cole wrote about the constant experiences he withstood during his young life through illegal hussle and activity.  The song Immortal comes from the perspective of Cole at the age of 17, a quite optimistic child, but only because he sells crack to escape poverty even though the risks accumulate when dealing is your side hustle.  He talks about how African Americans are given 3 options from where he’s from to make ends meet in order to succeed and flee from the projects and how black men are only legends for drug dealing, sports, and music.  Cole resents the way this idea and perspective is enforced on society for a young black male.  This resentment was to primarily tackle the social justice system and the issues inside of it coming from the point of view of a black male.

J. Cole turns the underlying theme of the deepening song into a form of poetry, enhancing appeal towards his audience with his usage of eye catching diction and sensual feeling from the explicit song.  He’s own questioning as he reminisces and looks back on what he’s witnessed engages the listener who listens to his cleverness carefully, the contrast he makes when he states, 

Have you ever seen a fiend cook crack on the spoon? 
Have you ever seen a n***a that was black on the moon?

This really makes a listener who hasn’t seen the same question the unjust perspective a young black male has to go through in order to hustle to survive and escape from poverty.  The word “fiend” can be seen as a daily person in the street for some, or it can be used as an addict who has a wicked personality, emphasizing a contradiction between areas and multidimensional language. In addition the first verse right off the bat stating

Now I was barely seventeen with a pocket full of hope.  
Screamin' "dollar and a dream" with my closet lookin' broke.

And my ni***s lookin’ clean, gettin’ caught up with that dope. Have you ever served a fiend with a pocket full of soap?

With this, this exemplifies a setting, in a place where a broke young male fears poverty so much illegal activity is irrelevant, as nothing matches a broke man or a dead man in the projects which turns his diction into poetry, as he can tie his thematic concept into his own perspectives throughout his life.  The imagery J. Cole can paint all in all explains why rapping is poetry as you can clearly picture his facial expressions, his fatigue, and his situation in the projects in his last bar when he states,

And so I hustle like my ni***s in Virgini-A, 
They tellin' ni***s, "sell dope, rap or go to NBA.”
In that order, it's that sort of thinkin'
That been keepin' ni***s chained at the bottom and hanged.
The strangest fruit that you ever seen, ripe with pain, listen.”

The word “chained” can be seen as a confinement of being chained from the life of dealing drugs Cole lived, or as security in the social justice system he as a black man can’t escape from, exemplifying multidimensional language as a poet.  All in all emphasizing that J. Cole is a poet due to his intellectual diction, and the sensual and emotional connection listeners get from the imagery his music paints.

Every Day is a New Day

Quinn XCII (pronounced like 92)’s song “Another Day in Paradise,” from his album Change of Scenery, is considerably the best song choice to prove that music is poetry. Some argue that this song is his most popular and known song. I believe that is because of its tropical, vibrant tone reflecting on the ups and downs of life in a cunningly poetic way.

The song begins with a lovely melody of a women and a brief moment of EDM. Quinn XCII does not actually start singing until about 20 seconds after the song has begun. The quick shift between the beginning and Quinn singing opens the viewer to the song and creates excitement and anticipation. The song follows the concept of two events taking place at the same time that correlate with each other–a relationship a women has with life and the overall outlook on life. 

The first opening lines of the song are, “Her body’s gold like September/She burns through the night like an ember.” These lines are striking and immediately draw a viewer into understanding what Quinn XCII is feeling and communicates with the viewer how he feels about this women with deliberately comparing her actions to an ember– a heated piece of coal, usually a remain from a fire. I believe that Quinn XCII set the song like this in order to introduce the idea of how people often look at the end of an event rather than enjoying the moment as it is happening. 

Quinn XCII follows this idea with the next couple lines singing, “A little sunshine cause she need it/A dose of rainfall in the evenin’.” Quinn XCII believes that people often take for granted what life has to offer and the small things people do not cherish like the sunshine and rain. As the song continues, he continues on the path of using fire-related diction to describe the difficulty of appreciating life and allows the viewer to feel comfortable by stating that this woman does too. He continues with the lines:

Loose cannon but still it won’t fire
No need to leave, spend our whole lives
Another day in paradise

By using the word fire in the context of firing a cannon, I believe he also uses this word multi-purposefully and strategically playing it into the role of fire vs. ocean. He brings up the idea of a wave/ocean and compares it to the complexities of life. Quinn XCII uses these words at the beginning of each chorus, “All the good comes in waves/ I bide my time by the ocean.” I believe his song is explaining the battle of getting caught up on the insignificant troubles life brings and encourages the reader to truly look as life as a gift and live everyday to the fullest. He uses these words repeatedly throughout the song to ensure the viewer understands and listens to the words to engrain and communicate this idea. 

Quinn XCII does not explicitly say that life is tough, things will get better until the last part of the song, during the bridge of the song. He says, “Mistakes we made, they made us who we are/These games we played they got us really far/That shit to most won’t ever mean a thing/But it got us here, so I hold on”. With these words, Quinn XCII communicates this idea about life through personally experiences and experiences he has witnessed.