“Line Without a Hook”

The Song I chose is “Line Without a Hook” by Ricky Montgomery, released as part of his first album, Montgomery Ricky. This song reflects on an intimate and passionate relationship he had with a woman, and the responsibility he feels for their relationship failing.

Montgomery’s clearest use of poetic language is when he claims “I broke all my bones that day I found you / Crying at the lake”. He expands on the classic metaphor of a broken heart, feeling his emotions so strongly that he hyperbolically “broke all [his] bones” when he saw his lover experiencing sadness. After hearing this lyrics, it brings clarity to a phrase he uses earlier in the song. Montgomery, in the opening, says “I can feel all my bones coming back / And I’m craving motion”. By using this same set of words, Montgomery can indicate how his perspective is changing – in the past, Montgomery has felt the emotions of his lover even stronger than she has felt them herself. But now, as their relationship is struggling, he no longer has so much empathy for her.

Montgomery clearly feels that he is an inherently deeper and more emotional person than his lover; at one point, he claims that “You’re a pond and I’m an ocean”. He metaphorical equates both himself and his lover with bodies of water to compare the depth of both of their emotions. But although he views himself as more emotionally available, he clearly thinks of his lover as being out of his league. In the bridge of the song, he exclaims that “‘She’s a, she’s a lady, and I am just a boy'”. He feels that he cannot be everything that she needs – a lady needs a man. However, emotionally, she cannot be what he needs – an ocean and a pond are incompatible.

This use of poetic, multidimensional language makes their incompatibility clear, while it also makes the song more emotional. As I listener, I know very little about their relationship; in fact, Montgomery says very little about anything they have been through together. But his poetic use of figurative language makes it clear even to me, a teenager who has never shared these experiences, how Montgomery feels about his relationship and his lover.

The Legacy of Nipsey Hussle

The song that I chose is called “Letter to Nipsey” by Meek Mill and Roddy Ricch, within the Dreamchasers 5 album. This song is about mourning the death of Nipsey Hussle, who was a rapper, activist, and entrepreneur. Nipsey Hussle was killed and died in March of 2019, and was only 33 years old. He was not only a talented rapper, but he was also a crucial member of his community. He used some of the money that he earned from rapping to give back to his neighborhood. Nipsey Hussle opened a STEM center for kids, he bought shoes for elementary school students, renovated playgrounds, provided jobs for homeless people, and funded funerals for local families. An important quote from Nipsey Hussle is, “Growing up as a kid, I was looking for somebody–not to give me anything–but somebody that cared. . . Someone that was creating the potential for change and that had an agenda outside their own self interests,” from the LA times. Nipsey Hussle embodied the change that he was looking for in the world. He was a pillar of his community, and he helped so many people. The song “Letter to Nipsey” is beautiful yet heartbreaking, and celebrates the incredible life of Nipsey Hussle.

The first set of lyrics that demonstrate the song as poetry are: “Hustle and motivate, turning a one into a two/Two into four, hurt my heart, I seen you on the floor” These lyrics use wordplay to make the meaning more personal to Nipsey. His last name was Hussle, pronounced the same as the word “Hustle” used in the song. Also, the late rapper had written a song called “Hussle and Motivate.” The word “Hustle” in this song represents Nipsey’s strong work ethic, and references both his last name and one of his songs. Later within the lyrics, Meek Mill displays his emotions when he says “hurt my heart” as he mourns the loss of a friend.

The next set of lyrics states, “You the first one that made me feel like I could die, (homie)/’Cause real (homies) never die, you know the vibes (homie)” After Nipsey Hussle’s death, Meek Mill is hit with the realization that he, too, is mortal. The repetition of the word “(homie)” demonstrates their bond. When Meek Mill says, “Cause real (homies) never die” he means that although Nipsey Hussle died, his legacy will live on. He will never be forgotten by the rap community.

Another set of lyrics states, “And as the marathon continue, we keep running (we won’t stop)” The word “marathon” is the key to understanding the line. Meek Mill confirms that he will carry on what Nipsey started. The word marathon is commonly used when describing life, and the rappers know that making the world a better place will not happen quickly, but change is possible over time. Meek Mill uses a metaphor when he compares the “marathon” to Nipsey’s work and charity, and that they must still work to impact the world positively.

Final set of lyrics, “Had to turn of my phone, throw on the shades, and meditate/What you know ’bout wishing goin’ blind to hide your tears?” These lyrics sung by Roddy Ricch are tragic. The emotion of losing a friend is too much to bear, and he wants to shut them off. When he says, “goin blind to hide your tears,” this is a hyperbole because he doesn’t literally want to go blind, he doesn’t want to deal with his emotions. So he puts his sunglasses on.

The overall theme of the song “Letter to Nipsey” by Meek Mill and Roddy Ricch is about dealing with a loss, yet bouncing back. They know that they cannot change what happened to Nipsey, they can only move forward and continue the work that he started. Nipsey Hussle was an amazing person, friend, leader, and rapper, and his life deserves to be celebrated. Meek Mill and Roddy Ricch understood this, and although they are writing about a tragic event, they created an inspirational poem. This song is poetry because it uses poetic elements such as a play on words, metaphors, and hyperboles. These elements are typically what make up a poem. I definitely recommend listening to “Letter to Nipsey.”

The Golden Experience

Although the former One Direction member, Harry Styles, has dipped his toes into the worlds of acting and modeling, he will always be a singer, songwriter, and poet. Harry Styles released his second solo album, Fine Line, in 2019. His opening track, “Golden“, takes the listener on a ride to experience the highs and fears of a new relationship. Styles begins the song with,

Golden, golden, golden as I open my eyes
Hold it, focus, hoping, take me back to the light
I know you were way too bright for me
I'm hopeless, broken, so you wait for me in the sky

The “you” in this song is someone whom Styles loves and wants to be with. There is a metaphor, where Styles compares this person to the sun. He mentions that they are “in the sky” and he is trying to “focus” on them, like someone looking at the “too bright” sun. This metaphor suggests that they are beautiful, precious, magical, good, hard to reach, etc. He wants to be brought “back to the light”, otherwise known as his special someone. He feels like the person is too good and “too bright” for his “hopeless” and “broken” self. With the metaphor and continuous use of descriptive words such as golden, bright, and light, he creates the conflicting experience of wanting to be with someone. This use of multidimensional language is one criterion that makes poetry, poetry, according to Perrine. Harry Styles continues with the chorus,

You're so golden
I'm out of my head, and I know that you're scared
Because hearts get broken

The title, “Golden”, hints at the song’s metaphor comparing this person to gold or the sun and the repetition of the line, “You’re so golden”. The fear of getting your heart broken is a huge part of relationships. The chorus gives the listener the experience of this fear, but it also shows the other amazing part of a relationship: being totally infatuated with someone. In the second verse, Styles gives the experience of how a relationship and love can affect someone.

I can feel you take control (I can feel you take control)
Of who I am, and all I've ever known
Lovin' you's the antidote

This verse communicates the wonderful experience of how someone has control over their loved ones. The speaker has lost control of themselves and will do anything for their loved one. The line, “Lovin’ you’s the antidote” ties back to the line in the first verse, “I’m helpless, broken…” Loving this person is making the speaker better. Styles implies that relationships can be “the antidote” to loneliness and can improve people’s lives.

This well written and performed song is poetry because it conveys the experience of being in love and starting a new relationship.

What Grief Looks Like, and Fireworks

We have all undoubtedly experienced the deep lasting sensation of grief in one way or another. Whether through the loss of a childhood pet, and death of a grandparent, parent, close relative, or even a close friend. The searing, gut wrenching effect it leaves with us with is sure to stay for quite some time, arguably forever.

In 2015, indie artist Sufjan Steven released his album Carrie & Lowell, a dedication to his late mother, as a way to cope with his own personal grief, and use his platform to normalize the influence death has on us all. The sixth song on the track, “Fourth of July“, simulates a made up conversation between Sufjan and his mother before she lost her battle with stomach cancer. The song begins on the night of her death:

The evil it spread like a fever ahead
It was night when you died, my firefly

The “evil” that spread both describes his mother’s uncontrollable cancer as well as his indignation towards the disease that he cannot stop, like a fever. Sufjan then compares his mother to a firefly, who died in the night, leaving him in utter darkness. The verse continues:

What could I have said to raise you from the dead?
Oh could I be the sky on the Fourth of July?

As the night prolongs, feelings of desperation creep into his thoughts. He is left to question if he could have done anything to save his mother. And then he wishes he could bring back the light his mother left behind. He longs to brighten the sky as she once did his life, with fireworks, like the Fourth of July. The motif of light and darkness scattered across this song reflects the desperation of death and the simultaneous hope of life.

In later verses, the song’s voice becomes Sufjan’s mother speaking back to him:

Shall we look at the moon, my little loon
Why do you cry?
Make the most of your life, while it is rife
While it is light

She knows his grief and comforts him with both words of assurance and alludes to the light he may have forgotten in his despair. The moon symbolizes hope, even in the dead of night. She assures him that though she is gone, he must continue, and make the most of it, while there is still “light” meaning the temporary vitality of his youth and the light of each day he is still alive. After another verse, the song ends with the repetition of:

We're all gonna die

And while this may come off as morbid, it is actually just a reminder that all our lives will end in the same way. Here Sufjan is affirming what grief has taught him: that life is short and must be taken care of, parents (even in Sufjan’s case in which his mother left him when he was young) are people we must learn to love and forgive, and seasons of depression are not permanent, for somewhere, there will always be light.

The poetic theme of this song describes an ugly, painful experience. Yet we can all learn from Sufjan’s testimony that it is okay the grieve, matter in fact it is good to grieve. It is also good to hope, and remember that however dark the night may seem, there is a dim flicker of hope somewhere beyond the cloud marred sky.

Mac Miller Foreshadowed His Own Death in “Come Back to Earth”

“Come Back to Earth” by Mac Miller, is the first song on the Swimming album. This 13 song album covers Mac’s many different emotions as he enters a new chapter in his life. A new and different approach from his previous two albums GO:OD AM and The Divine Feminine where he sings about lust and lavishness in life and his girlfriend at the time Ariana Grande. While the entire album is composed of swimming and self-care metaphors, because it is the introduction song to the album it highlights these focal points all within 3 minutes. This song expresses the desire for self-acceptance through an episode of depression. 

The swimming metaphor is presented in the verse, “And I was drownin’, but now I’m swimming/ Through stressful waters to relief”. These two lines represent Mac Miller metaphorically regaining the ability to hold his head above water now and stabilize himself. “Stressful waters” represents life around him, while “relief” is supposed to be self-acceptance. In reality, the “relief” Mac Miller is speaking about is using and abusing drugs. Using the word “swimming” implies that he is en route to somewhere/something and in this case is a better mindset that he is actively working, or swimming, towards. But just because he says he is “swimming” doesn’t mean he actually is, following the previous metaphor he writes, “And what I won’t tell you/ I’ll prolly never even tell myself”. This line is Mac Miller writing about how deeply hurt he is but also a refusal to recognize it. Then after in the bridge he says, “They told me it only gets better” which is what everyone tells people with depression but also people who just went through a breakup. The tone of his voice conveys that he does not trust what these people are saying and that it is going to hurt like this forever. This tone is further echoed in the chorus. 

The chorus of the song, “My regrets look just like texts I shouldn’t send/ And I got neighbors, they’re more like strangers/ we could be friends” is evident of the personal insecurities he feels with depression. Mac Miller and Ariana Grande’s split is influential to the first line of the chorus because this album came out only two months after their break-up. These regretful texts are being sent to either Ariana or his drug dealer (or both). The end of the chorus, “I just need a way out of my head/ I’ll do anything for a way/ Out of my head” is about how he is using drugs to escape his emotional issues sinking him further into a depression. Unfortunately, this chorus is a foreshadow to his death the following month.  

The album’s beats cover up the simplistic yet depressing lyrics about Mac Miller’s relationship with himself and his outlook on life. Even though “Come Back to Earth” is the shortest on the album, it ultimately sets the stage for the story of the album which is Mac Miller’s journey to self-acceptance despite substance abuse and emotional setbacks.