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.

2 Have “Moment 4 Life”

In 2010, the music industry came to a halt when Nicki Minaj’s album, Pink Friday, came out. The album featured 13 different songs, but most noticeably it had, “Moment 4 Life“, with Drake as a feature. In this single, Minaj reflects on her rise to fame and the work it took to become respected in the music industry after coming from such a drastically different background. She explains in the song that she comes from a rough neighborhood in New York, and has struggled to become so successful and is proud of how far she has come. She writes that she wishes she could stay in this “moment”, as in the peak of her success, and she wishes to enjoy this for the rest of her life.

Nicki Minaj’s writing prowess shows in “Moment 4 Life” through her use of allusion, metaphors, and imagery to convey her rise to fame and success. In the first verse of the song, she has written:

In this very moment, I slayed Goliath with a sling

Nicki uses the figurative language of allusion when she references Goliath. Minaj cites Goliath, who derives from the Bible. In the Bible, Goliath is a Philistine giant and was a formidable foe. But Goliath is slain by a sling wield by David. In this line, Nicki compares herself to David because they both defeat their enemies. But unlike David, her “Goliath” was finding success in the music industry. She claims that she has slayed her own Goliath, and is now free to enjoy her fame and achievements.

Clap for the heavyweight champ, me

Next, Nicki uses a metaphor to compare herself as a heavyweight champion even though she is a rapper. In boxing, heavyweight is the heaviest weight class. This class does not include an upper limit but only minimum weight. Nicki compares herself to a heavyweight boxer because like these boxers, Nicki has no limits. Similar to a boxer, she is the reigning queen of her own game. Nicki is at the level of famous heavyweight boxers like Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali but in her own field. This line proves to listeners that she has become apart of the greatest rappers of all time and has achieved her success similar to the likes of the best heavyweight boxers.

Drifting away, I’m
One with the sunsets
I have become alive

Nicki Minaj cleverly uses imagery to describe her accomplished dreams. In movies, when the hero rides off in the sunset, it is depicted as a happy ending. She explains that she has reached her own sunset. This is Nicki’s happy ending because she has completed her goal of becoming the best rapper. She has achieved her “moment” and hopefully will continue to be able to drift that wave for the rest of her life.

“Big Plans” By Why Don’t We

This is a song called “Big Plans” it is about taking risks and trusting those around you. It is mainly focused on a guy who wants his girlfriend to take a chance on him and to give him a year to show her all that he has to offer. This song is poetry because it has meaning behind it and has a purpose. This song also has a specific audience and speaker.

I got real big plans, baby, for you and me

So love me for who I am and for who I’m gonna be

Ain’t got everything you want, but got everything you need

So take a chance, take a chance on me

This is the chorus to the song and I think this is the part that stands out to me the most. It really digs deep at the fact that through time anything is possible and success and love and opportunity can come if you put in the effort and time into it. The song writer is likely writing this song to attract his significant other. The language used is also very important in this song. Words like “baby” and the phase “Ain’t got everything you want, but got everything you need” I feel are eye catching words that really show emotion and help get the speakers point across.

Not only is this one of my favorite songs to listen to when I am in a chill vibe but, it also a great hype song and almost builds your ego. This song gives me inspiration during hard times and gives me even more joy when jamming out to the song especially since it has such great flow and rhythm. Overall, this song touches you no matter what mood your in and has all of the significance and factors that poetry includes in it. In my opinion every song is poetry in one way or another but “Big Plans” definitely solidifies itself as poetry.

All That Grows in a Garden

Garden Song” by Phoebe Bridgers on her album Punisher tells a story of reflection and growth through retellings of her experiences and her dreams. Throughout the song, she tells stories from different stages in her life, transitioning from her childhood, to her adolescence, and eventually to adulthood, in which she is finally able to forgive herself for her past. The entire song centers around the idea of growth, and in finding the beauty in destruction.

The song begins by describing her dreams as a child:

And when your skinhead neighbor goes missing

I’ll plant a garden in the yard, then

They’re gluing roses on a flatbed

This start of the first verse uses imagery to set the scene of her killing a Nazi, and planting a garden over his dead body. This creates an unnerving contrast between the beautiful and peaceful garden filled with roses, and the dead Nazi it covers up. This juxtaposition forces the listener to consider what the origins of growth mean for its outcome – is growth still beautiful if it comes from something scary and devastating?

She then continues on to discuss the loss of her childhood as she moves on into adolescence:

I grew up here, ’til it all went up in flames

Except the notches in the door frame

When Bridgers was about 19 years old, her family home caught on fire, literally going “up in flames.” However, this was at the same time that she was witnessing her parents go through divorce, symbolizing her childhood going “up in flames.” The second line then alludes to the notches families often keep on their walls to indicate how tall a child has grown to be, continuing the theme of growth. Since these notches aren’t actual objects, they can’t technically be destroyed by the fire, symbolizing the idea that this catastrophic event in her life didn’t erase her growth.

After discussing the loss of her childhood, Bridgers moves on to reflecting on her transition between adolescence to adulthood:

Then it’s a dorm room, like a hedge maze

And when I find you

You touch my leg, and I insist

But I wake up before we do it

Dorm rooms are often associated with entering young adulthood, and the changes that come with. The mentioning of a hedge maze as a simile in the same line alludes to the image of navigating a complicated maze, indicating the struggle to find your way in life, especially when entering adulthood. This image of a dorm room hedge maze appears to be a dream, but before she can find her way out of the maze and figure herself out, she wakes up abruptly.

The final chorus goes back to the ideas from the beginning of the song:

Everything’s growing in our garden

You don’t have to know that it’s haunted

Bridgers revisits the garden that was planted over the dead Nazi from the beginning of the song. This garden seems to be thriving, and so she leads to listener to wonder if the garden’s history truly matters, or if it’s ok for the death that haunts the garden to remain unknown, since it doesn’t take away from how much the garden has grown. The garden is still beautiful, despite the fact that it’s fertilized by the corpse of a Nazi.

Finally, after revisiting the garden of her childhood, Bridgers discusses recent experiences from her adult life:

The doctor put her hands over my liver

She told me my resentment’s getting smaller

In traditional Chinese medicine, liver health is closely linked to emotional health, meaning that if her liver is in good health, her emotions are too. As her emotions grow healthier, her resentment shrinks away, and she is able to forgive herself for her past, and accept her growth.

“Garden Song” leads listeners to reflect on their life and the idea of growth, and how some of the most beautiful things can bloom from trauma and pain.

Dear Mama

“Dear Mama”, Tupac, Me Against the World. Poems are stories being expressed in an intense way. Poetry has its own language. The raw material in poetry is similar to those in the rap “Dear Mama”. The rap does have rhythm like any other poem would but it is also telling the story in a touching way. Poetry gives intense emotions and in the song Tupac describes his gratitude bluntly. In poems there is usually a deeper connection with the narrator. Tupacs develop a deeper connection with the listener can relate to him. His background influences the slang used in the song. In the song he expresses his gratitude towards his mother because her struggle inspired him. It is a song for people who has and is struggling in society.

Everything will be alright if you hold on
It's a struggle every day, gotta roll on

“Gotta roll on” simply means keep moving forward. People write stories about hard times or things they appreciate, poems are the long story short. The song tells the story of a struggle and appreciation in the amount of three verses as long as a poem. This line is an example of how Tupac uses slang the listener can relate to. Saying “gotta roll on” instead of keep moving forward not only gives the poem rhythm, but it also is the language created for the speaker and the listener. The listener is usually from the same background, being raised by a single mother who through the struggle made miracles. The song is written in code just as poetry is.

The Other Day

Yesterday” from the album Help!, by The Beatles is considered to be one of, if not the greatest pop song of all time. The opening verse utilizes personification in the lyric, “Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away,” to set the theme of the song that represents desiring better times. They personify one’s troubles, as being a distant event that won’t negatively effect a person’s life at that moment. This creates the façade where they can reminiscence of the time their lives contained bliss and peace. Although The Beatles released this song in 1965, the message of the song still resonates with the listener 55 years later. Especially in the current state of our country. With lockdowns and quarantine, everyone longs for a better and happier time.

The metaphor written in the song, “Suddenly, I’m not half the man I used to be/There’s a shadow hanging over me,” compares a literal shadow eclipsing a person engulfing them in darkness, to a metaphorical shadow that darkens one’s mind into a state of despair. The metaphor allows the listener to remember a time or certain experience where they had that same metaphorical shadow cast over them, and how in that moment they wanted nothing more than to reside in a different time.

Throughout the song the artist repeats the word, “Yesterday,” in order to reinforce and strengthen the main message of the song. Every time the word “Yesterday” is repeated, the listener is reminded of a time period in their life where they existed without strife or trouble.

Pretentious Ideality in MGMT’s “Time to Pretend”

“Time to Pretend” from the hit early 2000’s album Oracular Spectacular by MGMT entails the struggles of a faux ideal world created by those who have reached pinnacle success, but have in no way found happiness. While the song consists of an exceptional beat and melody, the lyrics portray some of the less fortunate realities of life. While still on their climb to immortality, the group wrote their masterpiece in anticipation of what was to come. The piece ultimately becoming a statement that they will have to endure the pain of never being able to have life how it once was growing up.

I’ll miss the playgrounds
And the animals and digging’ up worms.
I’ll miss the comfort of my mother
And the weight of the world.”

Missing the weight of the world refers to the disassociated feeling that comes from using a lot of drugs and constantly living in this world void of emotion. Saying that he will miss feeling connected to life, and expressing sorrow for no longer being able to identify as part of the normal world at large, and not being able to have a sense of importance about life decisions.

I’ll miss my sister, miss my father
Miss my dog and my home.
Yeah, I’ll miss the boredom and the freedom
And the time spent alone.”

They miss the people that genuinely care for them and the freedom of having time to oneself. He references the often told price of fame, loss of anonymity and ability to just blend in and be one’s self, as opposed to pretending to be someone you’re not.

But there is really nothing, nothing we can do
Love must be forgotten, life can always start up anew
The models will have children, we’ll get a divorce
We’ll find some more models, everything must run its course.

Using such fatalistic language as “everything must run its course” about something so garish and clearly unnecessary probably suggests a more high minded subtext. The line facetiously affirms the premise that stardom is a job with certain roles and expectations, such as self-destruction and self-centeredness.

We’ll choke on our vomit and that will be the end
We were fated to pretend

Alike, Choking on one’s own vomit after a drug overdose or heavy drinking has caused the death of several prominent musicians, perhaps most notably Jimi Hendrix, John Bonham, Janis Joplin, Mama Cass, Keith Moon, Billy Murcia, and Bon Scott. The narrators will die in vain, literally destroyed by their own excess, having gained no real value from life. Throughout all of MGMT’s experimentally sound pieces, “Time to Pretend” has to be the most poetically challenging. The emotion evoked provides the feeling of emptiness which counteracts the positively tuned melody and beat. This, I believe, contrasts in order to further express the falsehoods that are displayed in life.