Music as Poetry

What is poetry? Perrine defines poetry as a literary use of language concerned with experience. Poems exist to bring us a “sense and a perception of life” and to “sharpen our contacts with existence” (What is Poetry, 2-3). From this definition, we could say that music is often poetry as well.

Artists often use music to express life experiences in a way that allows us to feel and have the same experience by listening to their music. Eminem’s “Stan”, from the Marshall Mathers LP, is a great example of music as poetry. The song is very dark, taking on the perspective of an obsessive fan who writes to Eminem but receives no response. He begins to get angrier and angrier as he keeps writing and eventually commits a murder-suicide by driving himself and his pregnant girlfriend off of a bridge.

The song is a comment on how detrimental an obsession with a person can be to your mental health. There are allusions to Stan having a romatic interest in Eminem throughout the song, although it is never explicitly stated. These allusions create a paradoxical feeling in the listener, causing them to wonder if Stan is just an obsessive fan or is actually in love with Eminem. Eminem uses contradicting phrases, such as “biggest fan” and “be together”, to create this feeling in the listener.

You gotta call me, man, I’ll be the biggest fan you’ll ever lose

Sincerely yours, Stan – P.S We should be together too

In the chorus, Dido (another one of the songwriters), uses imagery to show how an obsession with a person can result in them being your only source of happiness. He uses the word “Grey” to reference sadness and dullness in a person’s life and then turns around to say that a picture of a specific person negates the “Grey”. This further emphasizes that an obsession over a person and relying on them for happiness negatively impacts a person’s life.

And even if I could it’d all be gray

But your picture on my wall

It remids me that it’s not so bad, it’s not so bad

It finally escalates to Stan having uncontrollable anger because of his inability to fulfill his obsession. This is an explicit demonstration of how negatively and obsession can affect someone. To show this negative impact and uncontrollable anger, Eminem shows Stan yelling at Eminem through a letter, personifying his conscious and wishing it will torture and “eat” Eminem for not responding. Here the word “eats” is a metaphor for guilt.

You ruined it now, I hope you can’t sleep and you dream about it

And when you dream I hope you can’t sleep and you scream about it

I hope your conscience eats at you and you can’t breathe whithout me

Poetic Postmodernism

Sincerity Is Scary” is a song by the Manchester-based band, The 1975, on their third studio album, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships.  This song features an array of poetic devices used to propel the idea of the track. Right off the bat we see alliteration in the title.

The song encaptures a blatant truth of human interaction. Due to the fear of emotional vulnerability, communication problems arise that can interfere with intimacy and connection. Singer and lyrist Matty Healy and The 1975 uses self-awareness and self-reflection to open up about his experiences and struggles of connecting in the postmodern world. For most of the song, Healy seems to be addressing society as a whole, exposing the universal lack of emotion often portrayed in place of true connection. When it comes to the chorus, Healy targets his lyrics toward his lover and the personal struggles he finds in love and connection. An overarching theme depicted in this song and throughout much of Healy’s lyrics across his releases is the idea of postmodernism, a movement characterized by skepticism and irony. See below for my take on postmodernism.

“You lack substance when you say something like, ‘Oh, what a shame’ / It’s just a self-referential way that stops you having to be human”

The 1975 uses alliteration (substance, say, something, shame / having, human) to emphasize their message. Phrases like “Oh, what a shame” are often used ironically or sarcastically. Even when used genuinely, this phrase can sound dismissive of one’s issues. The 1975 claims that when you take sarcasm too far, it takes away true human emotions. After repeating the ‘s’ sound throughout the line, the switch to ‘having to be human’ makes these words stand out reader because these words are pronounced slightly longer than the quick ‘s’ sound.

“And why would you believe you could control how you’re perceived when at your best you’re intermediately versed in your own feelings?”

The 1975 rhymes throughout the lyric (believe, perceive, intermediately, feeling) in an ordered form, giving structure to the song and making it easier for the reader to fully hear and feel the message. A critical part of postmodernism revolves around the sensitivity of one’s image. The 1975 claims that it is difficult to be yourself when you are overly sensitive to others’ opinions, since you cannot truly control them. Only if you focus on your own opinion, a form of self-love, can you be and love yourself.

“You try and mask your pain in the most postmodern way”

 In this line, The 1975 directly links their song to the concepts of postmodernism, using alliteration with pain to add power to the word postmodern.

What is postmodernism, the central theme of this song? – Here is my explanation:

Modernism arose in the early 1900s, when technology and scientific discoveries advanced and religious devotion was seen as less important. Modernism was the idea that humanity was on the right track, following science and finding out the best ways to live. Then came the Vietnam War, the two World Wars, and decades of racism and sexism and horrid acts. This set the stage for postmodernism, the concept that no one really knows what is true or right except with ourselves, leading to self-awareness. However, since one could never know what is right, there was lack of trust with one another and a general disconnection between individuals as people avoided disagreement.

A Trip Away

Music is a universal language understood by people across the world, not only today but since the beginning of time and until the end. Music connects people it is an outlet of emotion that artists use to share with the world a story about their life, much like in poetry. Along with music poetry has been shared since the beginning of time begging the question, are the two really all that different? Poetry is stories told with rhythm and line breaks, with accompanying tone and even sound of the voice. Sound familiar? Much like poetry, lyrical music is a story told orally with accompanying tone, rhythm, and music.

The song “Sailing” by Christopher Cross is an example of lyrical music that fits quite closely into the format of poetry, like most songs it is split into verses that are structurally similar to the stanzas of poetry but more specifically the words and ideas. The main choros of sailing goes as follows “Sailing/Takes me away to where I’ve always heard it could be/Just a dream and the wind to carry me/And soon I will be free” Just the choros alone is full of meaning, and can be analyzed as if it were poetry not only is it structurally almost identical but it can also be analyzed the same way. In the choros of sailing the speaker is a man who dreams of leaving where ever it is he is and to a place that seems like a fantasy to him. But unlike a prose passage, the song uses images in the language as well as the tone and musical background to give an even fuller image that would be given if the speaker were to simply say sailing takes me to a better place. Which is the main idea of the pong/poem.

Self-Expression Through Music Poetry

Poetry can be a type of literature that conveys a thought, describes a scene, or tells a story in a concentrated, lyrical arrangement of words. So then what is music? It seems to be poetry sung with instrumental sounds added in the background.

Ritt Momney’s song “Put Your Records On,” the viral cover of Corinne Bailey Rae’s hit debut single, is musical poetry. It is a joyful, hopeful song and, if read aloud as a poem, reveals a deeper meaning within the lyrics.

This song is very motivating and almost empowering for everyone. In this song, the singer is reassuring all the girls out there that it’s going to be okay. They do not need to stress too much about how they look. Many girls and boys put too much pressure on themselves to be “perfect”. They try to alter how they look and hide how they truly feel so that they get accepted by the world. But this song is basically saying that it does not matter what the world thinks. What really matters is what you think and how you truly feel about yourself.

Don’t you let those other boys fool you
Gotta love that Afro hairdo

The lyric is a message to the original artist’s, Bailey-Rae’s, younger self to embrace her natural hair. When she was a teenager, the trend was to have straight hair and the singer feared being out of step if she didn’t follow the fashion.

When you gonna realize that you don’t even have to try any longer?
Do what you want to

Girl, put your records on, tell me your favorite song
You go ahead, let your hair down

The hair down is a metaphor to get loose, not to worry, and embrace your inner beauty, which is cool since it’s what many of us do when we are at home and want to relax. We let our hair loose and enjoy the feel of being ourselves.