A First Person View of Struggle

Biggie Smalls album “Ready to Die” was groundbreaking when it was released in 1994 due to the subject of the stories being told in it. This does not mean subject as in topic, but as in the person that it focuses on. Most rap before Biggie focused very much on being an objective view of the conditions the rapper found themselves in, like a journalistic account, whereas Biggie made his own life the focus of the album, teaching the audience what it was like to grow up in these struggling neighborhoods through his own real experiences. “Everyday Struggle” is one of the most depressing and brutal songs that Biggie has ever made, achieving a dismal feeling using the harsh reality that Biggie experienced every day. He describes selling drugs not as glamorous as some rappers have but instead as a daily grind not unlike any other, just with an added fear of losing your life every day you continue,

I know how it feels to wake up fucked up

pockets broke as hell, another rock to sell

This shows how desensitized the people forced to live through these experiences of a new trama everyday become, as he refers to crack cocaine as just “another rock to sell”.

Later in the song, we progress along Biggie’s life track to him being higher up in criminal life, but still just as miserable. He describes how another dealer recently got killed in a gun deal,

Heard TEC got murdered in a town I never heard of

By some *** named Alberta over nickel-plated burners

This along with a description of Biggie using a girl as a drug mule who then gets caught caps off the second verse by emphasizing that although he has gained upward mobility within it, he is still living this life surrounded by death and destruction of everyone he knows, and makes him realize that no matter how high he goes within it, he will always be in the “Everyday Struggle”.

As the song progresses into the third verse we see how Biggie again moves forward in his life and gains new troubles along the way, this time it being how to explain the life he lives to his daughter.

Dealin’ with the dope fiend binges, seein’ syringes

In the veins, hard to explain how I maintain

This shows how having a daughter is making him see how his life not only affects her but also how it has affected him his whole life, with these last few lines capping off this story of the struggle Biggie has experienced. This song and the whole of the “Ready to Die” album was incredibly influential in the new wave of storytelling in rap, with its affects still being seen today as the influence for many rappers. This new style of first person storytelling in rap was especially revolutionary in how it was able to draw in those entirely removed from the circumstances described in the music. The viewpoint allowed anyone, privileged or not, to get view into what that life was like. This view into a world entirely different from your own is one of the factors that allowed Biggie Smalls to achieve such widespread popularity, and reach audiences that would previously been unreachable with past styles.

Unto you: Shared Experiences Through Art

“Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst” lyrics

In “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst,” Kendrick Lamar explores themes of identity, loss, and redemption through his own experiences and observations. The song’s title refers to Lamar’s desire to be remembered and have his story told through music, even after his death.

Throughout the song, Lamar grapples with the complexities of his identity and how it has been shaped by his positive and negative experiences. He reflects on his poverty, violence, and addiction; and how they have impacted his sense of self.

At the same time, Lamar also speaks to the broader disenfranchisement and injustice he sees in the world around him. He speaks about the struggles of marginalized communities and the ways in which they are often overlooked or mistreated by society.

The lyrics are deeply emotional and introspective, and Lamar’s delivery is raw and powerful. Through his music, he confronts his own struggles and encourages others to do the same, offering hope and redemption.

I woke up this morning and figured I’d call you
In case I’m not here tomorrow
I’m hopin’ that I can borrow
A peace of mind, I’m behind on what’s really important
My mind is really distorted
I find nothing but trouble in my life
I’m fortunate you believe in a dream

Kendricks’s reference to death and dreams shows the hopelessness and misanthropic inner monologue he developed in his childhood. Hope is all he has, as he hopes for a better life. The line “I’m fortunate you believe in a dream” may reference Martin Luther King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech, which described his hopes for a future free of racial segregation. Mym find

My plan’s rather vindictive
Everybody’s a victim in my eyes
When I ride it’s a murderous rhythm
And outside became pitch black
A demon glued to my back, whispering “Get ’em!”

As he said before, his “mind is really distorted,” so now that Dave has been shot, his brother wants revenge.

Dave is a friend of Lamar’s who was killed in a drive-by shooting. Dave’s death is a central theme in the song, as Lamar reflects on the loss of his friend and the impact it had on him and those around him.

Lamar uses Dave’s story to explore more prominent themes of identity, mortality, and social injustice. He reflects on how Dave’s death has affected him personally and how it reflects the larger issues of violence and inequality in society. Dave’s story becomes a way for Lamar to explore these broader themes and challenge listeners to think about the impact of these issues on their own lives.

This Piru shit been in me forever
So forever I’ma push it, wherever, whenever
And I love you ’cause you love my brother like you did
Just promise me you’ll tell this story when you make it big
And if I die before your album drop, I hope— [Gunshots]

The term “Piru shit” refers to the Pirus, a street gang based in Compton, California. The Pirus are known for their involvement in drug trafficking and other illegal activities, and the term “Piru shit” is often used to refer to the gang’s activities and culture.

Lamar references the Pirus and “Piru shit” in the song as part of a larger exploration of identity, mortality, and social injustice. He reflects on how the culture of gangs and violence, such as the Pirus, has affected him and those around him and how it reflects larger issues of inequality and injustice in society.

Kendrick also expresses his love for someone else, likely a friend or family member, who has a close relationship with the speaker’s brother. They ask this person to tell their story and share their experiences if they ever become successful or “make it big.”

The reference to the gunshots and the speaker’s hope that they don’t die before Kendrick’s album is released is likely a reference to the violence and danger associated with gang culture and life on the streets. It suggests that the speaker is aware of the risks they face and hopes to see the other person succeed before meeting an untimely demise.

Reading Poetry is Self Care: An Analysis of “Self Care” by Mac Miller

August 3rd, 2018 – About a month before Mac Miller died of an accidental drug overdose, he released his fifth album entitled Swimming. This album is full of poetic songs, one of which is the song “Self Care.” In this song, Mac Miller uses multidimensional language to convey his conflicting emotions and fight to overcome his personal struggles. Mac Miller often sings about obstacles in his life. In this particular song, he focuses on finding his path to happiness, and like the title states, caring for himself. He starts with the chorus:

“I switched the time zone, but what do I know?

Spendin’ nights hitchhikin’, where will I go?

I could fly home, with my eyes closed

But it’d get kinda hard to see, that’s no surprise though

Self Care is simultaneously hopeful and sorrowful. He ends the first two lines with fairly open-ended questions, asking about the direction his future may take. The “time zone” and “nights” refer to his current state of fame in the music industry. This can be interpreted both literally and metaphorically. He is now able to travel and has the money to do whatever he wants. Furthermore, he talks about how he spends his time and how he changes his mentality. In the last two lines of this quote he is talking about returning to his true self. He knows himself well, as exemplified by the image that he doesn’t need to see in order to “fly home.” However, Mac Miller also acknowledges that it is becoming harder to do so as he sinks deeper into addiction and strays further from his roots in Pittsburgh. He keeps with this theme as he continues:

“When it’s feelin’ like you hot enough to melt, yeah (melt, yeah)

Can’t trust no one, can’t even trust yourself, yeah (self, yeah)

And I love you, I don’t love nobody else, yeah (else, yeah)”

The first line presents the image of the immense amount of pressure Mac Miller felt from fans, his music production and record label company, and himself. During these times of stress, he shares that he feels like he can’t rely on himself or others. Additionally, he shows that despite this, he loves one woman. He speaks directly to her, strengthening the impact of how central she is to Mac Miller’s songs. Another verse that is repeated is:

“Tell them they can take that bullshit elsewhere (yeah)

Self-care, I’m treatin’ me right, yeah

Hell yeah, we gonna be alright (we gon’ be alright)”

In this section, Mac Miller is reassuring himself that he will come out of the darkest times. He is prioritizing himself, instead of listening to the criticism that others have for him. He doesn’t define self-care traditionally, instead conveying the message that he is on a journey to become a better person. He wants to improve himself, and do things that are good for him instead of the self-destructive path he used to be, or still is, on.

Finally, the tone and speed of the song changes as Mac Miller ends the song with the word “oblivion.” Oblivion is defined as the state of being unaware or unconscious of one’s surroundings. He raps that it is both a “beautiful feeling,” and “didn’t know what I was missin’,” implying that while he may be happier when he is not present, he actually regrets not fully being there. Addiction played such a big role in his life and consequently his music, emphasized through the repetition of the word “oblivion.” It illustrates that although he wants to change, it is difficult due to the nature of addiction. Overall, Mac Miller beautifully portrays his struggles with fame, addiction, and putting himself first in the song “Self Care.” He is deliberate in the way he uses language and sound to make the listener feel his emotions while writing. This song truly deserves to be called poetry.

Was I just there?

In the breakup song Romantic Homicide, the central protagonist has already emotionally moved on. Glancing at the song’s lyrics, it’s arguable who triggered the separation; it appears more that his partner made the decision, but the singer believes it was the right one. That is clearly indicated in one phrase in particular: I don’t mean to be complacent with the decision you made, but why? These lines suggest that the choice was taken by another party. It would also explain his despair in the opening words, by which he says that he thinks the other person doesn’t care:

I don’t mean to be complacent
With the decision you made, but why?

However, d4vd here seems to address the breakup differently than most folks do in the initial stages. To have reached a stage where he had successfully processed the breakup of the relationship. He expresses two things in a way that distances the other person from him or her emotionally:

I’m scared, it feels like you don’t care
Enlighten me, my dear
Why am I still here, oh?

The two ideas mentioned above are typically two crucial steps in processing a breakup: erasing that person from our lives in order to fully accept that they are no longer a part of them, and developing natural hatred for them in order to make up for any remaining feelings of love that may still be present in our hearts. These two actions enable us to emotionally detach.from that individual and begin to rebuild our lives. That does not imply that d4vd is content with who he is. At some point later in the song, he also expresses grief, in addition to his earlier expression of fear:

In the back of my mind
You died
And I didn’t even cry
No, not a single tear

We won’t create barriers to our destiny if our self-love remains unaffected and if we continue to feel that we deserve love and will receive it. And before a breakup, we should all act in that manner. After all, you left me alone, and I won’t chase you—this is the true meaning of the lines in Romantic Homicide. You are dead to me because I despise you. I begin the reconstruction and move forward with these two ideas in mind: love will come knocking again at the appropriate moment.

How Much a Dollar Cost?

The song “How Much a Dollar Cost” is featured on Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy award winning album, “To Pimp a Butterfly.” This album dives deep into the recesses of racial oppression and materialism as well as serving as an anthem for the Black Lives Matter movement. Songs such as “Alright” and “Hood Politics” are both notable examples of the powerful message Lamar sends, but “How Much a Dollar Cost” stands out amongst the rest.

The song focuses on a specific incident that Lamar, the speaker, found himself in at a gas station in South Africa. The song is a combination of Lamar’s internal thoughts and conflicts and an interaction with a persistent homeless man, who asked him for 10 rand (one US dollar). Throughout the song, Lamar ponders the true value of money and why people such as himself make such a big deal out of it. His questions and wonderings all contribute to a bigger, deeper question: Can money cost someone their place in heaven? The song begins with a description of the environment Lamar is in and how he feels in this specific instance. In order to convey the sense that Lamar has a feeling in his gut that something is wrong, he uses the metaphor of a parasite in his stomach.

Parasites in my stomach keep me with a gut feeling, y’all
Gotta see how I’m chillin’ once I park this luxury car
Hopping out feeling big as Mutombo

Verse 1

Parasites are well known for their detrimental effects on their hosts, who gain nothing from the parasites being attached to them. The parasites in this case are Kendrick’s sins that are feeding off of his soul, which is described as his stomach. This line very creatively and powerfully demonstrates the feeling of guilt that people get when they are aware of any wrong doing on their part. The reference to Mutombo shows the vain attitude that Lamar has at the beginning of the song, even though he was driving past many homeless and poor people. This excerpt foreshadows the following verses to come, which includes Kendrick facing the homeless man that sparks a profound internal realization.

He’s starin’ at me in disbelief
My temper is buildin’, he’s starin’ at me, I grab my key
He’s starin’ at me, I started the car, then I tried to leave
And somethin’ told me to keep it in park until I could see
The reason why he was mad at a stranger
Like I was supposed to save him
Like I’m the reason he’s homeless and askin’ me for a favor
He’s starin’ at me, his eyes followed me with no laser
He’s starin’ at me, I notice that his stare is contagious
‘Cause now I’m starin’ back at him, feelin’ some type of disrespect
If I could throw a bat at him, it’d be aimin’ at his neck
I never understood someone beggin’ for goods
Askin’ for handouts, takin’ it if they could
And this particular person just had it down pat
Starin’ at me for the longest until he finally asked
“Have you ever opened up Exodus 14?
A humble man is all that we ever need”
Tell me, how much a dollar cost?

Verse 2

In this verse, Lamar pours effort into the details of the interaction he has and sets the final verse up for a climactic ending. The repetition of the phrase “he’s starin’ at me” emphasizes the power that the homeless man had over him in that moment. Kendrick could have easily ignored this man, but something urges him to stay. He becomes intrigued and angry and expresses his desire to make the man stop what he was doing. Lamar’s thoughts are interrupted by the homeless man asking him if he has ever read Exodus 14, a biblical story that includes God choosing Moses to lead his people through the Red Sea. This describes the power that one man in an influential position can have on people that look up to them. Kendrick knows that he is a man in that position and is reminded of the importance of staying humble. This line is also the first clue that the homeless man represents God. From this point on, Kendrick starts to have the realization that seems to be a divine intervention.

Guilt trippin’ and feelin’ resentment
I never met a transient that demanded attention
They got me frustrated, indecisive and power trippin’
Sour emotions got me lookin’ at the universe different
I should distance myself, I should keep it relentless
My selfishness is what got me here, who the fuck I’m kiddin’?
So I’ma tell you like I told the last bum
Crumbs and pennies, I need all of mines
And I recognize this type of panhandlin’ all the time
I got better judgment, I know when n***a’s hustlin’, keep in mind
When I was strugglin’, I did compromise, now I comprehend
I smell Grandpa’s old medicine, reekin’ from your skin
Moonshine and gin, n***a you’re babblin’, your words ain’t flatterin’
I’m imaginin’ Denzel but lookin’ at O’Neal

Verse 3

In this section of the final verse, Lamar starts to have a realization that he is wrong in his thinking and begins to ask himself why he is getting so angry over something so small. Nevertheless, he continues to come up with excuses and recognizes that his selfishness caused him to become wealthy. At the end of this excerpt, he ironically alludes to the fact that when he was struggling himself, he would have given the man some money, which exemplifies the effect being rich has had on him. He uses another excuse of alcoholism and tries to validate his claims by remembering when his grandpa had a drinking problem. He mentions Denzel (Washington) and O’Neil (Shaquille), which is a reference to the 1998 film “He Got Game”, a film in which Denzel Washington did not take Shaquille O’Neil seriously as an actor just as Kendrick isn’t taking this homeless man seriously either. The song ends with a climactic ending that reveals the true identity of the homeless man.

And I’m insensitive, and I lack empathy
He looked at me and said, “Your potential is bittersweet”
I looked at him and said, “Every nickel is mines to keep”
He looked at me and said, “Know the truth, it’ll set you free
You’re lookin’ at the Messiah, the son of Jehovah, the higher power
The choir that spoke the word, the Holy Spirit
The nerve of Nazareth, and I’ll tell you just how much a dollar cost
The price of having a spot in Heaven, embrace your loss—I am God”

Verse 3

Lamar’s ego takes a hit at the beginning of the excerpt when the homeless man calls his potential bittersweet. Kendrick is provided with a global platform that can affect people in many positive ways, but that is tainted by his greed and lack of humility. The dialogue also alludes to another biblical verse in which Jesus decides who will enter the gates of Heaven. Kendrick has a revelation that causes a rebirth within him. He refused to lend the man a dollar before he realized that he was God incarnate. Kendrick’s unwillingness to give the man (God) a dollar costs him his spot in Heaven.

There are many possibilities as to how much a dollar truly costs. For the homeless man, a dollar meant everything. To Kendrick, a dollar meant nothing. This was a test to see whether or not Kendrick would give anything that God gave him back to those who truly needed it. This song took a situation that many people reading this are familiar with and, through the use of many powerful metaphors, made the listener contemplate how they choose to act and evaluate their true level of selflessness.

(Sittin’ On) the Dock of the Bay

(Sittin’ On) the Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding in the album of The Dock of the Bay is a R&B/Soul song released in 1968. I chose this specific song as I find it pleasing to listen to but the lyrics seem intriguing everytime I listen to it.

I left my home in Georgia
Headed for the Frisco Bay
‘Cause I’ve had nothin’ to live for
It look like nothin’s gonna come my way

We can see that these four lyrics in the beginning of the story tells a story of a man (perhaps the singer himself) experience loneliness and depression. It seems that he has given hope from others and in himself. Later on in the song, we are presented with a more presentable idea of what the lyrics mean in a deeper sense.

Look like nothin’s gonna change
Everything still remains the same
I can’t do what ten people tell me to do
So I guess I’ll remain the same, yes

Sittin’ here restin’ my bones
And this loneliness won’t leave me alone, listen
Two thousand miles, I roam
Just to make this dock my home

Here, we can see desperation and struggle. Even more so, a call for help. These lyrics are like internal thoughts and the individual is desperately trying to see the meaning of life or a use of change but decides to stay the same. It seems like he has found acceptance towards the end of the lyrics of “making this dock his home” even after trying to escape this loneliness and emptiness inside him. This may be due to having no real meaning for ones self in life and needing to find a steady pace of life in order to be content.

Sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Wastin’ time

At the very end of the song, we are presented with the man saying “Wastin’ time.” This can come off across of being bored of life and not finding a real reason to make it exciting. This intrigues me as how deep the lyrics are despite being behind cheery tunes and the singer’s tone throughout the song. Not only do the lyrics talk about the individual being presented in the song being lonely and not content with life, we can also see him trying to change, giving hope to himself until he lost it all and went back the same path he started.

Reading too deep into video game soundtracks

“The Hot Wind Blowing” is a song written by Jamie Christopherson that focuses on ideas of independent thought, militarism, and imperialism. It takes place from the perspective of a veteran of the Iraq War.

Just like the buffalo
Blindly following the herd
We try to justify
All the things that have occurred

The speaker doesn’t understand the reason behind his orders, he only understands that he needs to follow them. Because he is following without thinking, he is left confused at what happens around him. The concept of following something without questioning is not only relevant to the military, but also to the world outside of it. When people blindly follow without making an effort to understand the events taking place around them, they will never understand what is happening and can be easily manipulated into doing what another person wants.

I don’t know what I’ve been told
But the wishes of the people can’t be controlled
I don’t know what I’ve been told
But the wishes of the people can’t be controlled

The speaker does not understand the cause he is fighting for, he only understands that he is fighting to impose “freedom” on other people, believing that those are the wishes of the people he is fighting to liberate. These lines can be interpreted as a comment on people who take a stance on an issue or conflict without really understanding both sides or their own stance. When people don’t understand their cause, but believe they are correct, they can end up advocating for and doing things they would never support if they understood what they meant.

Out of the ashes
The eagle rises still
Freedom is calling
To all men who bend their will

These lines are meant to be interpreted as a commentary on American imperialism. The word “freedom” in the third line is not being used to refer to the idea of having the ability to make your own decisions and live your life as you see fit. Instead, it is an ironic use of the word “freedom” that is referring to the idea of being under the control of the United States of America. Overall, these lines are being used to make the statement that imperialism cannot be used as a tool of freedom, since it requires somebody to bend their will.

A Love Story Across Time…and Space?

“Berenstein” Lyrics

My song, “Berenstein” by THE BAND CAMINO, was released as a single in 2017. In trying to keep my selection relatively random, I just chose this song because it was one of the first songs that happened to pop up on my phone. I’ve always enjoyed listening to it for its sci-fi, synth sound and mysterious lyrics which I’ve never really dived into that much. I would encourage you to listen to the whole song to get the whole “feel” of it, but here I’ll give some of my thoughts on it:

Essentially, the speaker, audience, and occasion are pretty standard in a sense; a lover, the person he loved, and thinking back on what could’ve been; a “lost” relationship. The meaning, if only “x” things were different, we could have been together, but it never worked out. A classic theme across many songs. However, the song quickly takes on a more compelling meaning starting with its refrain, 

“At another place in time

You were infinitely mine

Relatively alright

When Berenstein was fine”

The inclusion of “Berenstein” is an allusion to the Mandela Effect, a phenomenon where a significant number of people insist that they remember something happening when it never did. Famous examples include Nelson Mandela dying in prison in the 80s when he really died in 2013, or for people who grew up reading the “Berenstain Bears” children’s books, an insistence that they were pronounced “Berenstein Bears”. A popular explanation for this phenomenon is the existence of parallel universes where these small details really exist the way we remember them. In this way, the song’s allusion to Berenstein actually cuts deep, the speaker is possibly alluding to a different universe or “another place in time” where “You [the speaker’s lover] were infinitely mine” and “Berenstein was fine”. The song then is a love letter across realities with a wish to travel between time and space to that universe when Berenstein, rather than Berenstain, was fine. The subtle inclusion of just one word changes the song from a catchy pop tune to a multidimensional love letter that contemplates reality. 

To further emphasize the existence or significance of this idea of an alternate reality, the song employs personification to describe said reality,

“You were always certain that it did exist

Imagination so intrinsic all at stake

All the things we said when we were younger

Did it bend or did I break?”

“It” being the alternate reality is described as something that may have “bent”, not a literal term we would associate a reality of having, but one that gives us more context into the song. Perhaps a relationship never worked out for the speaker because of some event in their reality that “bent” the potential for said relationship the wrong way. Then again, just as in one universe things may bend the wrong way, in another they may have bent the right way and the speaker would have experienced the relationship he dreams of. The personification of reality “bending” gives more power to the idea of multiple universes and/or the idea that such realities are malleable, and in turn, the things or relationships across those realities could also be malleable. Once again, the inclusion of certain elements in this song leaves the listener thinking about more than just a romance between two people but questioning the properties of love and reality. The personification of a universe being “alright” or a reality “bending” gives the idea that love is a malleable thing with many different variations across realities.

Finally, the song employs a constant motif of time and age to tie together its elements of love and parallel existences. In addition to its constant refrain,  

“At another place in time

Only parallel to mine

The universe was alright

When Berenstein was fine”

The song also references time stating, 

“Wait for me, wait for me there

I’ll die if you die, wait for me I swear

Wait for me I’m still somewhere

You’re getting older without me, I’m scared”


“All the things we said when we were younger”

Did it bend or did I break?”

The explanation of time within the speaker’s relationship makes it clear that the speaker has known their lover for a long time, and they probably regret both the timing of their relationship in their reality and yearn for a better timing in a different reality. The theme of time is literally important to understand the speaker’s relationship across their own life and whatever parallel lives they may have, but I also think it is meaningful for sparking a reflection on what time really signifies in a relationship. In our reality, time is linear and moves in one direction, if things didn’t work out in the past, that’s just how it was destined to be, and it’s fixed in the past. This perspective lets the reader challenge that, if one could jump between realities as the speaker wishes to, time would no longer be linear; relationships that never worked out could be re-explored and re-lived “at another place in time”.

Overall “Berenstein” by THE BAND CAMINO uses the allusion to one word, “Berenstein” to open a trove of poetic devices and philosophical wonderings. The song illuminates the multidimensionality of a relationship, capable of being lost between two individuals in our world, but also capable of being lost between realities. Whether it is the time motif, personification of realities, or the initial allusion to the Mandela Effect, Berenstein takes its listeners on an unorthodox journey through time, space, and love.

It’s Not Goodbye

The Alexander 23 song “See You Later“, the first track of the album I’m Sorry I Love You released in 2019 is a song of poetry. The song “See You Later” expresses the difficulty of saying goodbye to someone you love, but it does not mean they are gone forever. Through his use of lyrics and first-person perspective, he deepens our understanding of what he feels because he puts us in the experience that he is going through, an experience that we can relate to by listening to the song.

I don’t want to go
But I can’t afford to miss this flight

This is the first line of the first verse. Throughout the whole song, Alexander 23 uses a first-person perspective. Using the first-person perspective allows us as the listeners to be part of the experience that he is going through of having to leave someone he cares for. He follows Perrines’s definition of poetry as Perrine states “Its function is not to tell us about an experience but to allow us to imaginatively participate in it”. He later writes in the chorus,

When we’re both crying
In this broke down elevator

Alexander 23 puts us in the experience that he is going through because we see the emotions that he is feeling and we are experiencing the journey and emotions with him. Not only do we experience it with him, but we feel what he is feeling and we can relate to that feeling.

Furthermore, Alexander 23 uses personification to exemplify the conflict and emotions that he is going through. We can see how is going through a hard time of having to leave the person he loves. Instead of just writing that, he uses what his heart is saying but what his legs are doing to represent the difficulties he is in. He writes;

Yeah, my heart says “Stay”
My legs are walking on their own

Finally, he uses an oxymoron, as he writes in the first verse, he contradicts himself by saying

Sometimes the only way to get over hurt is to hurt

However, by using this we can see that he is in pain and we see the struggles that he is going through. This line represents the meaning of how hard it is to say goodbye to someone but to get over that feeling, you can not push it away, you have to experience it.

Finally, he uses repetition of the line “see you later”. This is also the title of the song, but this line is repeated many times in the song, it emphasizes the meaning of the song, that it is so hard to see someone you love leave, but it doesn’t mean that they are gone forever, you will see them again.

Rivers and Roads

As our time in high school comes to an end and all seniors begin to set eyes on the next chapter of life, The Head and the Heart song “Rivers and Roads” off the album The Head and the Heart, tells a story and displays emotions that many may be feeling at graduation. A somber tone sets the mood for the head singer to tell a story about missing loved ones and doing whatever it takes to see them again. As humans we all crave love; it’s a feeling that gives us purpose and passion. Therefore, when our lives take us in separate directions from those who make us feel that indescribable sense, an emptiness takes over.

A year from now, we’ll all be gone
All our friends will move away
And they’re goin’ to better places
But our friends will be gone away

The opening lines make the theme clear, and to me, it’s all in the in-exact repetition of the second line. A person is coming to the conclusion that a chapter in their life is coming to an end; it may be moving to a different state or going to college. Although this change might be for the best, the simple pleasure of hanging out with friends will no longer be possible and that presents an inevitable tsunami of sadness on the horizon.

Nothin’ is as it has been
And I miss your face like hell

The next two lines display a similar somber tone; however, now it is from a different perspective. The first verse is the speaker thinking about the glooming future and then it switches to the present moment of the speaker having gone through the change and reflecting on what he misses. This POV change is sudden and speeds up the storyline of the song. It also emphasizes how painful the situation is. It wasn’t necessary for the writer to include the first verse but by doing so it deepens the overall sadness. They have already been feeling misery for a year and that probably won’t end any time soon.

Rivers and roads
Rivers and roads
Rivers ’til I reach you

Lastly, these lines are repeated throughout the song. At first glance, one would envision that rivers and roads are very similar. They are in some respects both long and large ways to travel. However, thinking more about it, this analogy is more complex than one may think. A road is a man-made structure meant to get you from point A to point B directly as fast as possible. A river is a naturally winding, sometimes rapid, and sometimes slow body of water that cuts across the world. Notice the writer doesn’t say roads ’til I reach you, he says rivers. Meaning it wouldn’t be a simple trip to rekindle their relationship, it might take years to see their old friends again.

A Song That Will Never Escape Your Mind

Bob Dylan’s “Tangled Up in Blue” is an expertly crafted poem that draws you in and refuses to let go. It tells the story of a man’s life, his relationships over the years, and his journey to get back to one person in particular. By the time you’re finished listening to the song, you feel like you’ve lived the speaker’s life right alongside him. The song achieves this effect through its unorthodox usage of perspective and time.

Dylan has a tendency to alter his lyrics in live performances and on different recordings, so there are several different iterations of “Tangled Up in Blue.” The most significant, aside from the album version, is an earlier recording that makes the theme of perspective evident. On the album version, the narrator speaks in the first person in each of the seven stanzas, but in this alternative recording, stanzas one through three and six refer to the same events in the third person, as if the narrator were retelling stories he heard second-hand. This difference in point of view establishes Dylan’s interest in playing with perspective, which is made more evident in the song’s final lines (which are the same in both versions).

But me, I'm still on the road
Headin' for another joint
We always did feel the same
We just saw it from a different point of view
Tangled up in blue

Dylan uses the song’s fairly repetitive structure to sweep the listener up into the flow of time, positioning them in the shoes of the speaker as his memory drifts around from one point in his life to another. Each of the seven stanzas is composed of eight lines that set the scene for whichever stage in his life the speaker is remembering, followed by four lines that resolve that stage, followed by the refrain “Tangled up in blue,” which describes the speaker’s state of being tangled up in his memories.

The stanzas flow together, but they aren’t in chronological order. The first stanza establishes the moment the speaker presently occupies before he starts his walk down memory lane:

Early one morning the sun was shining
I was laying in bed
Wondering if she'd changed at all
If her hair was still red

However, the only lines that are actually in present tense come in the final stanza:

So now I'm going back again
I got to get to her somehow
All the people we used to know
They're an illusion to me now

This frames the stanzas that come between as motivation for the speaker’s current journey. The stories/memories that are told in these stanzas range from moments on one specific night to accounts that condense what could be years of the speaker’s life, but they all make the same argument to the speaker: he must return to the woman he left years ago.

The most poetic stanza of the song is the fifth:

She lit a burner on the stove
And offered me a pipe
"I thought you'd never say hello," she said
"You look like the silent type"
Then she opened up a book of poems
And handed it to me
Written by an Italian poet
From the thirteenth century
And every one of them words rang true
And glowed like burning coal
Pouring off of every page
Like it was written in my soul
From me to you
Tangled up in blue

This verse perfectly encapsulates the meaning of the song (the song is so purposefully crafted that you could make the same argument about any section) by turning a seemingly mundane interaction into a moment of enlightenment that holds great significance in the speaker’s memory. In it, Dylan describes a moment where he was struck by the beauty of a poem in the strikingly beautiful lines of his own poem. He signs the verse “from me to you,” as if he is giving the listener the same gift that the woman gave him in the book of poems.

Double meanings in Ultraviolence

Lana del Reys second album, Ultraviolence, shocked people after its release due to its surprisingly melancholic tone and slow pace. One of the most significant songs in the album is arguably the song “Ultraviolence”. The song uses repetition, symbolism, and double meanings in order to convey an abuser’s manipulation. In an interview, Lana del Rey explained that the song was about a past abusive relationship with a cult leader. The song opens up with,

He used to call me DN/That stands for deadly Nightshade/Cause I was filled with poison/But blessed with beauty and rage 

The mention of deadly nightshade introduces the motif of alcoholism and drug abuse. Deadly nightshade, also known as Bella Donna, is known for its controversial theories surrounding its effects on alcoholism, with some believing that it cures alcoholism. The lyrics after, about being filled with poison, can be interpreted as being filled with alcohol. 

He hit me and it felt like a kiss/Jim brought me back, reminded me of when we were kids

The violence inflicted on Lana feels like a kiss and the combined unbalanced power dynamics convey that the man is idolized so much that his violence is seen as affection. The abuser is manipulating the victim to the point where they end up believing that love is shown through violence. 

I can hear sirens sirens/he hit me and it felt like a kiss

Sirens refer to both police sirens and mythological sirens. In mythology, sirens would lure their victims into the water with their alluring voices and then kill them. The metaphor and double meaning of sirens show that while she hears sirens, the siren-like allure of the cult leader solidifies the control he has on her, which is further shown through the lyric about his violence being like a kiss being repeated throughout the song. 

I can hear violins, violins/Give me all that ultraviolence

Violins are sung in a way that makes the word sound very similar to violence. Violence and violins are also near homophones. The second lyric saying violence further shows the hidden yet obvious double meaning.  This lyrical choice seems like a portrayal of a cry for help, with the indirect wording of violence under the guise of talking about a violin. 

The Tartness of Cherry Wine

Hozier’s Cherry Wine is one of my personal favorite songs from his first album, Hozier. The album is riddled with meaningful songs that cover many different messages, some more obvious than others. Cherry Wine is a song that sounds incredibly romantic, the softness of Hozier’s tone and calmness of the guitar in the background disguises the dark reality of the lyrics and their story.

“Hot and fast and angry as she can be
I walk my days on a wire”

Cherry Wine, Hozier

Cherry Wine in its most basic form, is a song about abuse, both physical and emotional. However, unlike many other songs that discuss domestic abuse, Hozier explores a narrative that is generally passed over. The song details domestic abuse with the man as the victim. Lines such as:

“Thrown at me so powerfully
Just like she throws with the arm of her brother”

Cherry Wine, Hozier

The metaphor’s used little hide the physical abuse Hozier, who acts as the speaker and victim, experiences. The use of ‘thrown’ and ‘throws’ could be used in the literal sense, where she could be throwing an item at him. But, it could also mean that this behavior might be normal in her family as well.

The chorus of the song is what makes the abuse especially transparent, But the chorus lyrics also create hold some of the best portions of the song in terms of poetic verse.

“The way she tells me I’m hers and she is mine
Open hand or closed fist would be fine
The blood is rare and sweet as cherry wine”

Cherry Wine, Hozier

The title and final word of cherry wine plays into the idea of the speaker’s romantic relationship as a whole as well. One the outside it looks sweet, a happy couple without any issues, while their actual relationship is actually extremely bitter. This is the beauty of Hozier’s music, using whimsical wording and sound he can hide the reality of a song, but like how we never really know what relationships are like behind closed doors.

So Poetry Goes

Mac Miller’s album, “Swimming”, was released only a month before the artist was found dead in his apartment from a drug overdose. The album was Miller’s fifth release and – being composed in the aftermath of a breakup – focuses on self love, healing, and growth. The last song, “So It Goes”, however, is a humble acceptance of the end. It expresses both satisfaction with life and an exhaustion that welcomes finality.

“So It Goes” is simultaneously haunting and guiding. The song broadens the listener’s experience through multidimensional language by allowing them an insight into Miller’s life in fame and in the music industry. In the beginning, he states, “You could have the world in the palm of your hands / You still might drop it / And everybody wanna reach inside your pockets.” The image of Miller carrying the entire world in his hand yet dropping it illustrates both his satisfaction with success and the overwhelming feelings that came with it. While Miller had achieved the goal of sharing his art, he was inhibited by others who only focused on fame, jealousy, and the responsibility that came with his name. He goes on to say, “My god, it go on and on / Just like a circle, I go back where I’m from.” This simile further conveys Miller’s comfort with coming to an end. He has found himself in success, but desires to return to his values, which are found in art rather than fame. This description of an end can be seen as beautiful, but it is not limited to beauty and rather serves to counteract the glamour that many associate with the life Miller was living. 

Furthermore, Miller references drugs throughout the song, expressing his resorting to substances as a way to cope with his life. In the second verse, he writes, “My eyes on the enterprise / Nine lives, never die, fuck a heaven, I’m still gettin’ high / Nevermind, did I mention I’m fine?” This complex portion of the song conveys Miller’s persistence and determination to succeed in life, however the quick shift to a hopeless tone reveals a desperation for change. The question after reverts to his previous obligation to put on a mask of satisfaction as a way to please others, which his listeners may otherwise not see. Similarly, Miller expresses that, “It’s like, in every conversation, we the topic / This narcissism, more like narcotics, so it goes.” The alliteration in “narcissism” and “narcotics” serves to conflate the ideas. It references both the addicting nature of fame and the actual drugs that Miller mentions throughout the song.

Ultimately, Mac Miller’s use of multidimensional language in his song “So It Goes” serves to deepen the listener’s perception of resolution and personal discovery while broadening their experience by providing insight into Miller’s life and welcoming of an end.

Crazy Man Michael

The song “Crazy Man Michael” (full lyrics here) by the band Fairport Convention is undoubtedly an example of lyrical poetry. But before we can talk about the actual content of the song, we should have some context.

Crazy Man Michael is an original composition written in the style of a folk song, similar to other songs on the same album (Liege & Lief), which are all either an adaptation of folk material or original compositions in a similar style. It was composed following a tragic bus crash that killed Fairport Convention’s drummer, Martin Lamble, and guitarist Richard Thompson’s girlfriend.

With this knowledge, we can more easily see the what of the poem. The song narrates the story of a man (Michael) who consults an oracle to try to see the future or at least seek comfort from it. The oracle (a raven) tells him that he will kill his true love. Michael, in a fit of rage, kills the raven, believing it has cursed him. Then he realizes that the oracle was his true love all along, and has fulfilled its prophecy. Michael was punished by the oracle for trying to see the future, and he struggles to cope with the grief he feels for the death of his love.

The poem conveys this message in multiple ways, but the most prominent is the use of metaphor, as can be seen in the lines

The bird fluttered long and the sky it did spin
And the cold earth did wonder and startle

“The bird fluttered long” indicates that it did not die quickly, adding to the trauma of the situation. “…the sky it did spin / And the cold earth it did wonder and start-o” could signify the earth spinning around the raven as it falls to the ground, or more poetically, Michael’s shock and confusion cause his perception of the world around him to distort and “spin.”

Crazy Man Michael he wanders and calls
And talks to the night and the day-o
But his eyes they are sane and his speech it is plain
And he longs to be far away-o

Michael, in disbelief, wanders and calls aimlessly into the night and day. He is clearly in grief and unable to cope with what has happened.
“But his eyes they are sane and his speech it is plain” My interpretation of this sentence is that Michael has lost his passion for life, he speaks very simply.
“And he longs to be far away-o” Michael longs for an escape from not only his surroundings, but the memory of what happened, but this cannot be, as is revealed in the next passage.

Michael he whistles the simplest of tunes
And asks the wild wolves their pardon
For his true love is flown into every flower grown
And he must be keeper of the garden

Michael desperately seeks forgiveness from the wild wolves, though he knows they cannot give it to him. He now sees his love in everything around him (every flower grown), and Michael has set himself to the task of “keeping her garden,” which can be interpreted literally as a garden (possibly where she died), or as some other way of preserving her memory.

Now that we can see the how of the poem, we can even clearer see the message it gives. Clearly, it was composed following the band’s tragic accident, and the character of Michael embodies the feeling of guilt the author had. It conveys this experience beautifully through the medium of a folk song, and uses (as is usual for most folk tales and songs) a lot of metaphor to help the listener better swallow the message. I believe this is not only an example of poetry in lyrical form, but is also one of the best examples in it’s contemporary folk genre.

Real people love; love deeply

Hozier is known for his soulful music and his lovely lyrics. “Like Real People Do” is from Hozier’s eponymous debut album that combines the genres of alternative/indie, electropop and country. It is a seemingly simple song that houses a lot of complex emotions, typical to Hozier’s lyricism.

I had a thought, dear
However scary
About that night
The bugs and the dirt
Why were you digging?
What did you bury
Before those hands pulled me
From the earth?

Hozier begins the song by presenting a detailed image of a person digging through the depths of the earth to find a person. On the surface level, the lyrics make the song an exploration of folk themes, something Hozier loves to do. The imagery of unearthly hours, unquiet grave and bog bodies is evident in the person who comes to the graveyard to bury their secrets and accidentally exhumes a dead soul. This soul doesn’t ask them to reveal their secrets and sympathizes with their dire situation, yearning for a kiss instead.

Digging up the dirt, that person was looking for something they’d buried and said goodbye to. Instead, they met this soul and unearthed him. This indicates their dark past and the awful things they’d been through. There is an unmissable touch of romanticism in the way his soul had been feeling “dead” after being “buried” without love but the seeker’s hands pulled him back to life. Surely, love has found him once again.

“Honey just put your sweet lips on my lips
We should just kiss like real people do”

Their love turns its back on the ghosts of the past and decides to bloom right now. He says they should kiss like real people do and this refers to normal happy couples who live without worries. Even though they haven’t been able to attain that picture-perfect contentment in love like “real people” before, they can certainly try to live like them now. Their love will now grow organically and healthily in a place far away from the shadow of their misery. In this way, they teach each other the joy of loving and living again which their previous relationships were not able to provide them.

J.Cole’s 4 Your Eyez Only is truly a Love Letter

J.Cole’s 2016 album, 4 Your Eyez Only tells the story of a young man’s struggle to survive while living in the projects of North Carolina. The album describes the same character named James, slowly transition from a life of drug dealing and violence to starting his own family and even having children. Nevertheless James feels that he can’t escape his past and fears his eventual demise. This comes to a front on the album’s title, and outro track “4 Your Eyez Only.” The song begins with Cole (as James) talking about the difficulties of living in Fayetteville, and how he’s reached beyond desperate to get by. However the song shifts at the end of the first verse as James reveals this to be a poem to his daughter in case of his death.

“That’s why I write this sonnet

If the pressure get too much for me to take and I break

Play this tape for my daughter and let her know my life is on it”

The smooth transition from James’ perspective from Cole to his daughter is highlighted by his tone. When talking to his daughter James’ voice raises as he speaks in a more hopeful, albeit desperate voice. He pleads for his daughter not to pursue the life he did, and to look for a man who isn’t hard-hearted like so many that James knew.  He even tries to relate to his daughter by stating his father passed at a young age, and ponders her opinion on his life. 

The third verse hints at even more rushed speaking as James begins to believe his time is running out. It’s here that James reveals the entire album to be a letter to his daughter in case he can’t be with her. In spite of this he hangs to threads of hope in his final lines. 

“But maybe there’s a chance that it’s not

And this album remains locked in a hard drive like valuable jewels

And I can teach you this in person like I’m teaching you to tie your own shoes

I love you and I hope to God I don’t lose you”

The song’s final verse comes directly from Cole, who conveys that James’ prediction of his passing has come true. Cole compliments James to his daughter for being real, but not for the reason’s one would have thought. 

“Nah your daddy was a real n***a, not ‘cos he was hard

Not because he lived a life of crime and sat behind some bars

Not because he screamed f**k the law, although that was true

Your daddy was a real n***a ‘cuz he loved you”

For your eyes only”

Cole later attributed the character of James to a real friend, to whom the album is dedicated to. The track perfectly conveys the message of hope in youth, being killed by one’s past. Cole uses the tone of James to display these emotions as well as the switch in perspectives of James. Cole’s ability to perform these feats make “4 Your Eyez Only” one of hip-hop’s many great storytelling songs.

Mitski’s “I Will”

Everyone wants a person that they love to write them a love song. “I Will” from Mitski’s 2014 album Bury Me At Makeout Creek is exactly what she wishes that someone would say to her. The “you” she sings to in her song is herself and the lyrics are everything that she would need to hear from someone else to make her feel safe and comfortable and loved. She begins her song  by establishing the unconditional love she already has for “you.”

“I will wash your hair at night

And dry it off with care

I will see your body bare

And still I will live here”

These lines clearly have a deeper meaning than just literally seeing “your body bare” and still staying. These lyrics represent seeing you for everything that you are and accepting you not despite your flaws but because of them. This concentrated phrase expresses loving you for every part of yourself. These poetic lines have a clear emotional and deeper meaning of what comfort in a relationship really looks like. The next part of the song goes beyond just unconditional love. These lines bemoan all of the issues that you carry throughout the day and offer to take this load off of your hands for you.

“And all the quiet nights you bear

Seal them up with care

No one needs to know they’re there

For I will hold them for you”

These lyrics make you aware of the fact that you are no longer alone, that this relationship is a true partnership where your load is carried by your partner. And these lyrics also imply an unspoken promise that you will carry some of your partner’s load as they carry yours. In life, most people need someone to tell them” that it will all be okay” when they are going through an experience that takes an emotional toll on them, and in this song where Mitsuki is expressing everything that she wishes that she was hearing from someone else. These lines are saying to her that everything will be okay because I am here and you are safe. These lines do not just tell you about someone carrying your load they place you into the experience. Whether one reads the lyrics or listens to the songs they live the “quiet nights” and experience sealing them up. At the end of the song Mistki sings.

“And while you sleep

I’ll be scared

So by the time you wake

I’ll be brave”

These last lines are so powerful. They express to you that your partner is willing to postpone their own feelings in order to “be brave” for you. Mitski’s song “I Will” is most definitely poetry.

How a Mirrorball Can Change Your Life:

You can dislike Taylor Swift, but you can’t dismiss the brilliance that goes into some of her pieces.

As a part of her eighth studio album, Folklore, Swift’s Mirrorball takes on multiple different meanings but ultimately speaks to the societal pressure people face to always have to be perfect.

A mirrorball as a physical object is a shining sphere that is held high on the ceiling for people to look at. Its purpose is to reflect light, glisten, and entertain those surrounding it.

In her extended metaphor, Swift says,

“I’m a mirrorball. I’ll show you every version of myself tonight.”

Society holds people to such a high standard that they feel pressure to always have to be on top of their game, whether that’s through a job or a relationship. In the spotlight, everyone knows everything about someone and judges them. A mirrorball is broken into a million pieces, but that’s what makes them shine. It has all eyes watching it. When the light comes off it, it is still on the ceiling doing its job, even when no one is watching.

“Hush, when no one is around, my dear. You’ll find me on my highest heels love, shining just for you,” 

This is also representative of a celebrity feeling the pressure of the public’s eye and their expectations. When they break down, all eyes will be watching them. But when no one is watching, they’re still expected to be perfect.

A mirrorball is fragile, much like a person. Through her extended metaphor, I think Swift is shining light on how much the spotlight/pressure can break someone down. Even if they’re doing everything they can, it’s never good enough.

“spinnin in my highest heels.”

“I can change everything about me to fit in.”

This song resonates with me because I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself to do well. I don’t know if it’s because of playing competitive soccer for most of my life, but I am able to connect with the way Swift talks about pressure , internally and externally.

champagne problems

On December 10, 2020, Taylor Swift announced her 9th studio album, evermore; released at midnight as a “sister album” to folklore. Swift’s last few albums have departed from her own experiences and delved into those she’s crafted stories about and imagined. The song “champagne problems” is the second track on evermore, composed by Taylor Swift and William Bowery, who fans have pleasantly learned was the pseudonym for her adored boyfriend, Joe Alwyn. The knowledge of these lyrics having both a female, Swift, and male, Alwyn, perspective helps listeners better understand both parties in the song.

The story is set in a pristine estate, filled with family and friends who are anticipating a marriage proposal. Little do they know that the fiance-to-be will turn down her long-time lover. The song takes us through unrequited, lost love, the damage it causes and the hope that one day it can be mended. Mental illness is also touched on in this song which Swift has spoken out on, including her own battles with it.

You booked the night train for a reason

So you could sit there in this hurt

Bustling crowds or silent sleepers

You’re not sure which is worse

It’s clear in this first verse that someone is running away from something that has caused them tremendous hurt. Listeners learn that this is the person who was rejected. The first two lines suggest that they’re deeply ashamed, embarrassed and disheartened which is why they’re on the night train, fewer people, yet possibly knew all along that this would be the outcome. He was easily able to escape from the pitiful eyes of his loved ones by having this ticket. The last two lines, however, make it seem that he’s questioning whether being on a quiet train was the right decision because it allows him to wallow in his sorrows and contemplate everything.

Your mom’s ring in your pocket

My picture in your wallet

Your heart was glass, I dropped it

Champagne problems

The narrator now takes us back to before her partner proposes to her and when he has the world or his future in his pockets. It’s certain that he’s intending to propose and not just that, but with his mother’s ring which illustrates how important she is to him. Additionally, he has a picture of her with him wherever he goes, driving the point of his love for her even further. The tone shifts in the third line because this is the moment when she denies the engagement. The narrator held his heart in her hands but ultimately shattered it, leaving him in despair and everyone else in utter shock. The last line and title of this song make reference to the problems and issues of the upper-class, nothing in comparison to what others face on a daily basis. Swift reiterates the line throughout the song, suggesting the ability to overcome the ordeal, yet not discounting the man’s feelings because this is probably the largest problem he’s faced so far.

One for the money, two for the show

I never was ready, so I watch you go

Sometimes you just don’t know the answer

‘Til someone’s on their knees and asks you

The first line dates back to a children’s rhyme and signifies a countdown. In this context, it might be the narrator counting down the time left with her ‘lover.’ In the second line, the narrator seems to allude to a battle that she’s had with herself for a long time, being mentally checked out and yearning to leave, but not physically being able to commit and take that step forward without him. She seems to get that clarity and strength when he finally proposes and she’s left with no other choice but to stay in a one-sided relationship or take that leap of faith despite all odds and voices surrounding her. In this story, the narrator makes a heartbreaking decision for all parties, but one that she believes is best for everyone in the long run.

But you’ll find the real thing instead

She’ll patch up your tapestry that I shred

The narrator essentially closes their relationship by ensuring her past lover that he will find someone who’s right for him and will say “yes” when he proposes. This new person will fix all of the cracks and fill all of the holes in his heart that the narrator left. She understands the situation she left him in and the sadness she caused and hopes this small piece of assurance will be enough.

This song, despite not having a happily ever after, leaves listeners wondering what could have been and what will be for these two characters. There are so many possibilities for both of them which is what happens when you close a chapter in your life.