My Grandma Just Died, and I Can Only Blame Myself

by Charles Dear

Imagine that your closest relative has just passed away. What do you do? What should you feel? The song “Helena” by American scene band My Chemical Romance is lead singer Gerard Way’s tribute to his late grandmother, and is a perfect encapsulation of all the raw feelings that arise in mourning. This song is part of the album Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge, which is a concept album about two lovers who die. One of them runs into the devil after death, who promises that the two can be together again if he receives the souls of 1,000 evil men. Now, this song does not assume the same vengeful tone as the rest of the album, and deals in pure fact rather than Way’s creation. It is the opening track on the album. I think Way did that strategically, putting his painful experiences with death as a lead-off.

As much as this album works as a whole, I feel that “Helena” stands out. Way describes the song this way, “It’s about why I wasn’t around for this woman who was so special to me, why I wasn’t there for the last year of her life…an angry open letter to myself.” He was also a heavy drinker during this period. The best representation of this mentality is in the chorus. It is a simple four-liner: (“What’s the worst thing I can say/Things are better if I stay/So long and goodnight/So long and goodnight”). Anyway, it is evident that Way is caught between staying around and moving on in the wake of his grandmother’s death. He chooses the latter because he can’t say anything, and dislikes himself for it. I would like to expand on the “So long and goodnight” line on its own as well. It is in parentheticals in some versions of the song. As such, I would contend it is its most important line. Humans do not say “So long and goodnight” to each other. Each phrase on its own, yes, but together it seems too ominous and serves to illustrate the damning finality of death.

The pre-chorus also touches on Way’s loathing. It runs thusly: (“And what’s the worst you take/from every heart you break?/And like the blade you stain/Well I’ve been holding on tonight”). Way’s drinking problem is upsetting his family. Simultaneously, he has just been holding on to his life and sanity in the wake of such a tragedy. Since the format of the song is a letter to himself, the “you” and “I” in the pre-chorus refer to the same person.

I love how touching and poignant this song is. It is very hard to cope with the death of a loved one, but Gerard Way does just that in this song, with a delivery that is emotional but not effusive.

Freedom Flies By

Simon & Garfunkel were a successful folk-rock duo back in the 1960s who had many popular singles and albums. Their song “El Condor Pasa (If I Could)” is the second song on their final studio album, Bridge over Troubled Water, which was released in January 1970. Paul Simon originally heard this song in Paris when the Peruvian group Los Incas performed it and he could include it in his album with English lyrics. The words “El Condor Pasa” translates to “the condor goes by,” which hints to the song’s focus on freedom and control.

I’d rather be a sparrow than a snail

Yes I would

If I could

I surely would

In the first verse of the song, they contrast a sparrow and a snail. A sparrow is free to spend its time on both group and in the sky, having no limit on where they can travel. Additionally, a sparrow is a swiftly moving predator that does not have worry about being hunted. Meanwhile, a snail is bound to living on the ground and is an animal of prey, constantly fearing for its life. It is important to note that sparrows eat snails, which adds to the argument that the speaker wants power and to be able to control their own life. This comparison emphasizes the speaker’s wish to live without fear and be able to take risks.

Away, I’d rather sail away

Like a swan that’s here and gone

A man gets tied up to the ground

He gives the world

The saddest sound

The saddest sound

Again, the song emphasizes the speaker’s wish to not be held back from freedom. The simile in the line “Away, I’d rather sail/ Like a swan that’s here and gone” articulates that the speaker wants to be free to go on their own adventures and like a swan, not be bound to one place. A swan is the image of total freedom; they can be in one place or moment and experience it and then move on to the next with no restrictions. The next lines focus on the reality of world. There is a much higher probability that a person will be stuck in one place and sucked into the painful monotony of life. As nice as it is to think about achieving true freedom, it is very unlikely.

I’d rather be a forest than a street

I’d rather feel the earth beneath my feet

The imagery of nature in both of these lines highlights the speaker’s wish to retreat from the society humans have constructed. The speak would rather be a forest, something that grows and expresses itself freely, than a street, which is trampled on daily by people. Additionally, in order for streets to be created, they had to destroy some forest and change nature. This point in strengthened by the speaker’s wish to feel earth on their feet. This line shows how the speaker wants to reconnect with a more simple time or place where there people had less responsibilities and were free to truly have full control over their lives.

Lastly, the repetition of the line “If I could” throughout this song adds a bit of reality to the tone. This whole song has a very wishful and dreamy tone to it. However, the repetition of this line makes the audience realize that all of the “I’d rather’s” are just hopes and not true. It is this break into reality that brings the audience a sense of sadness as they realize that the speaker is just reflecting on their life and the lack of freedom and control that they actually have.

Although this song does not contain many lyrics, I think that each line contains endless possibilities of interpretations. In fact, I think this speaks to how well this song conveys a deeper meaning with what may be seen as simple lyrics.

“Let Her Go”, By Passenger

The song “Let Her Go“, by Passenger, All the Little Lights, is an extremely popular song as the nature of the song describes a memory that many people can relate to. At the song’s core, it emphasizes how waiting too long to tell someone else how you feel may be too late and that person may have moved on. Nearly every line has tones of regret stricken through it especially in the lines

Well, you see her when you fall asleep
But never to touch and never to keep
‘Cause you loved her too much, and you dived too deep

This set of lines also has a rhyme scheme at the end of each line indicating the congruent thoughts and feelings. Rhyme schemes are also present in every other verse but very slightly. In this quote, however, the metaphor of “[diving] too deep” serves on levels because a person can dive, or fall, into sleep just as a person could dive into love.

But you only need the light when it’s burning low
Only miss the sun when it starts to snow
Only know you love her when you let her go
Only know you’ve been high when you’re feeling low
Only hate the road when you’re missing home
Only know you love her when you let her go

The chorus of the song makes many comparisons between what was and what is, allowing the listener to contemplate what they regret seeing, feeling, or hearing. The chorus also has a rhyme scheme which is almost all the same ending sound except for “home” which makes the word stick out. The listener is forced to confront first the definition of “home” and then what this might mean to the listener personally, simply enhancing the theme of seizing your opportunity. All in all, I think the song is beautiful and forces reality to emerge from often a blissful love story or from a tragic one.

‘Come Out Ye Blacks and Tans’: an anti-colonial diss track.

“Colonialism. The enforced spread of the rule of reason. But who is going to spread it among the colonizers?”

Anthony Burgess

It has been said that “great” britain’s largest export is independence days, and in fact there are only 22 countries worldwide that have never been a victim of english aggression.

The song “Come out ye Blacks and Tans“, was written during the Irish war for independence and later recorded by the band The Wolfe Tones. The song details the struggles of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) against the royal Irish constabulary, called the blacks and tans because of their uniforms.

Note: out of respect for my Irish ancestry and name I refuse to capitalize any proper nouns relating to britain or england other than Ireland.

This song has a very simple thesis: the british army (Especially the royal Irish constabulary) is a bunch of losers and the Irish will beat them in the end. After this the song does go into some entirely justified depictions of English brutality, colonialism and hypocrisy.

“I was born on a Dublin street where the royal drums did beat

And those loving english feet they walked all over us.”

These lines emphasize the experience of living under an english-controlled city and contrasts their (supposed) intentions with their actual actions. As elegantly put by Anthony Burgess, the british thought that they were doing everyone they invaded a favour by making them more ‘civilized’ and European. The song uses ‘loving english feet’ to describe how english imperialism brutalizes and alienates a population under the guise of developing it. The song declares such actions to be ignorantly hipocritical.

The song also decries the english military as weak and overconfident in their numerous successes over native populations.

“Come tell us how you slew
Them old Arabs two by two
Like Zulus they had spears and bows and arrows
How bravely you faced each one
With your sixteen pounder gun
And you frightened them damn natives to their marrow”

For the Irish, they’ve had enough of these highfalutin anglo-saxons slaughtering countless populations across the globe and then bragging about it. The Irish argued that annihilating indigenous peoples with guns, germs and steel was not something to be proud of. The dismissive diction of the verse, ‘them old Arabs’ and ‘them damn natives’ mirrors the dismissive nature of english policy (and english historians) towards their numerous conquests.

Conversely, the description of bravery in the face of underwhelming odds is echoed in how ‘bravely’ english soldiers massacred countless natives in an instant, like what the english did when subjugating Ireland. This verse offers solidarity for the many victims of European imperialism while simultaneously calling the english losers. The rational is that england would not have it so easy against a modernly armed people, like the IRA. This reasoning is reinforced by the continued taunting in relation to the disaster of WW1.

“Show your wife how you won medals down in Flanders”

The ‘blacks and tans’ (royal Irish constabulary) which were know for their retaliatory massacres of innocent civilians and brutal killings of dissidents were mostly made up of english WW1 vets. The taunting depicted can echo the sheer inhumanity of WW1, and how winning medals in Flanders is a result of slaying numerous men for little to no reason, much like what they did in Ireland. The line can also be a reference to how superior english leadership and technology cannot get them very far when it comes to fighting actual modern armies like the Germans or the IRA, as the song posits. And while I cannot determine whether or not the song caused the outcome, the Irish war for independence happened just as the song posits.

Is Adele a Poet, Singer, or Both?

Adele’s album 25, was released in 2015. This album was groundbreaking and was the fastest-selling US album ever. Once Adele finished her 25 world tour, she decided to take a break from creating a new album to spend more time with her child who was only three years old at the time. Six years later, Adele just released her new album 30 on November 19, 2021. This album already broke the 2021 sales record in just three days. Similar to many of Adele’s albums which address her love and breakups, this album focuses on her recent divorce. It takes the listener along with her on her journey of motherhood while she reconstructs her life. While many of Adele’s songs are powerful, I find “My Little Love” to be particularly moving.

This song demonstrates the complex feelings involved in a divorce, especially when a child is involved. Adele, as a mother, feels guilty for subjecting her son to the pain of his parents. Parents never want to inflict any pain on their children, but some emotional hardships are unavoidable. During these hard times, the parent-child dynamic is reversed. Adele is in so much pain herself that her child is actually helping her learn to navigate her new world.

Adele wrote,

When you lay on me, can you hear the way my heart breaks?

I wanted you to have everything I never had

I’m so sorry if what I’ve done makes you feel sad

Adele uses imagery to express the immense pain she is in. Her heart is literally broken and not only does she express visual images, but she also adds auditory elements and the sense of touch that listeners can relate to. This helps deepen the listener’s understanding of her pain and guilt. She feels like her son’s pain is her fault and hates that she has subjected him to any pain at all. In a way, she is trying to prove just how badly she feels for what she had done.

I don’t recognise myself in the coldness of the daylight

Adele juxtaposes coldness and daylight. This represents Adeles deeper feelings of isolation. She feels like a new person and is learning to live without her ex-husband. Her surroundings may have not changed but she feels a sense of internal displacement. Her son is one of the few consistent factors in her life, so she relies more heavily on him than ever before.

I’m having a bad day. I’m having a very anxious day

I feel paranoid, I feel very stressed

Um, I have a hangover, which never helps, but

Adele brings us into her own experience as she talks through the thoughts in her head. The short phrases demonstrate the chaos and emotional turmoil that she is experiencing. Her thoughts seem to be spinning and the listeners may be able to relate to times when their own thoughts may have been racing.

Adele in this album takes us on a deeply personal journey and through her words, allows us to experience some of her feelings. I think almost anyone could relate to either these feelings associated with the impact of a divorce on your own life, feelings of motherhood, or simply feelings of general pain and anxiety.

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.

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.

The Tale of a Wonderful Yesterday

When I first found this song I was watching a movie called “Our Idiot Brother” with Paul Rudd, and in the movie, there was a dog whose name was Willie Nelson, so naturally, the director of the movie had countless Willie Nelson songs whenever the dog showed up. The song “Wonderful Future” by Willie Nelson from the album The Willie Way discusses the life of Willie Nelson, as a person who has lived his life and experienced great things, and because of this he reflects on his life and expresses that his memories are all he has to remember, and because of these memories he has nothing for him in his future. Throughout this song the speaker is Willie himself, talking to someone who he loved (as in a relationship) and he is explaining his pain to them. This takes place possibly in Nelson’s home while reflecting on his life and how he feels now (or while he was thinking about his past). The song first begins by expressing his reflection of his dreams as he (metaphorically looks at them) or as though he is introducing to the audience the beginning of the walkthrough of his past. However, he explains that he is the same person of his past, and that the memories of his past still resonate with him in this moment of reflection. The song is explaining to the listener that holding on to the memories of your past is important but this then leads you to nothing in the future because you have lived the moments that leave you with imprints. More specifically the likes that struck me the most are:

I’m alone in the sweet used-to-be
My past and my present are one and the same

This part of the song (the introduction) tells the listener directly that as he walks through his past and dreams, though they are the same person (or he is the same person he’s always been) he is alone with only those memories to ponder

Yesterday’s kisses still burning
And yesterday’s mem’ries still find me
Scenes from the past keep returning

This part alone allows the reader to think of this song as the reflection of a relationship that ended (with the word “kisses”). Also, the use word “burning” alludes to pain from these never-ending memories that keep returning. It almost seems like he’s trying to escape this pain that he feels but the “scenes” of his past keep haunting him almost

You say there is happiness waiting for me
But I know this is just fantasy
Let me trade one tomorrows for one yesterday
Live in my garden of dreams

The use of the word “you” entails that someone specifically has said this but also that he’s speaking to someone, possibly someone he was in a past relationship with. Furthermore, the last line of this stanza reflects back to his “garden of dreams” similar to how his past keeps returning his dreams come back as well. What’s more interesting though, is when he explains that he would trade a day of his future to be able to live another day in the past, because it illustrates his sadness and desperation to live his past again.

This song, to me, not only tells the story of not being able to escape your emotions from the past but also that having those memories are important in the sense that you’ve lived such a part in your life that you want to go back to it.

Willie Nelson – Wonderful Future Lyrics | Genius Lyrics

Our Music Poetry Playlist!

I’ve combined all of my three sections of AP Lit — so it’s a broad as well as deep collection. Right now it’s just in artist alphabetical order (Mac Miller runs away with the Most Songs award with 5!), so shuffle if you want a more creative mix.

You have impressed me with the diversity of genre as well as including many artists I just do not know (and I listen to a lot of music — or so I thought!).

Thank you. This is the only end-of-2020 present I really wanted 🙂

Terrorists Working From Home?

“Where is the Love?” was a lead single released on June 16th 2003 as a part of the Black Eyed Peas’ album “Elephunk”. The song was a huge success and was able to hit 8th on the US Billboard Hot 100s charts and was nominated for “Record of the Year”, and “Best Rap/Sung Collaboration” at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards. The song was written about the state of the United States post-9/11 and had some very important messages that can be applied to the current condition of the world as well. The main theme/message of the song is that the US should first focus on resolving the problems within its own borders before getting involved with foreign conflicts outside of them. The use of language in this song is very complex and creates a unique experience for the listener. The lyrics to “Where is the Love?” by the Black Eyed Peas is in fact poetry.

The first usage of poetic language appears right at the beginning of the song.

Overseas, yeah, we try to stop terrorism
But we still got terrorists here livin'
In the USA, the big CIA
The Bloods and The Crips and the KKK

The word choice in these lines is very poetic and does a great job of providing the listener with a central message. In this excerpt, the word “terrorist” is used in a very unique way that helps the song deliver this central message effectively. The first appearance of the word is conventional but the second appearance is much more abstract.  It is easy for the reader to picture terrorists in foreign countries plotting against the USA. However, most people would not consider America’s own people to be terrorists as well. Many know about “The Bloods and The Crips and the KKK” but probably do not regard their members as terrorists. The repeated use of the word terrorist, bridges the problems happening abroad with our own, and creates a sense of similarity. The word choice is able to convey that all the issues happening within the US borders are just as big of a threat to the American people as the terrorism threats happening globally.

This next excerpt is my personal favorite usage of poetic language from the song lyrics.

But if you only have love for your own race
Then you only leave space to discriminate
And to discriminate only generates hate
And when you hate then you're bound to get irate, yeah

In these lines, The Black Eyed Peas provide insight as to how discrimination escalates conflict in the US. Having love for your own race is commonly seen as a very positive thing. However, these lyrics bring up the fact that having too much love for the people of your same race can actually result in distancing from the other races (ultimately leading to conflict). The purpose of these lines is to teach the reader to accept all people, not just those similar to you. The use of the first two lines mentioning “love” and “discrimination” allow the listener to remember and retain the message more clearly. In these lines, the rejection of “loving your race too much” first creates the enticing hook, and then the clever mention of how this actually facilitates more discrimination adds great depth and imagery to a unique take on how to combat discrimination (by identifying its cause).

This final excerpt provides the reader with a topic that relates directly to our current situation in 2020.

Wrong information always shown by the media
Negative images, is the main criteria
Infecting the young minds faster than bacteria

The goal of these lines is to prevent the corruption of our youths’ minds by sometimes false or biased news from the media. The lyricist uses a hyperbole and metaphor on the third line in order to produce an image in the reader’s head of what a child succumbing to the gradual brainwashing via the media would look like. I also noticed that the first word in each line has a very negative connotation associated with it. The use of the words “Wrong”, “Negative”, “Infecting”, create a negative tone for the entire set of lines. This will allow the listener to greater understand the importance of tackling the issues within the US before getting involved with the global issues abroad.

“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

chorus

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?

chorus

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Once Upon a Time

John Cage is perhaps most famous in popular culture as the poster child of the avant-garde music movement, with his piece 4’33” — which consists of 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence — reaching particular notoriety. While his style of challenging common notions of aesthetics is a fun novelty for most listeners, Cage put a lot of thought and work into building a considerable repertoire of cutting edge musical ideas. After earning his chops as a traditional composer early in his career, he shifted his focus to the avant-garde, including pioneering the concept of Aleatoric Music, or music with some sort of chance-based component. Aleatoric music has quickly grown in popularity and deployment since Cage’s time, particularly in video game and film music.

One of the pieces Cage composed pretty early in his career, Living Room Music, exemplifies his transition from more common styles of performance to avant-garde ideas. The piece consists of four movements, though the third is optional. The first, third, and fourth movements all have players selects items that might be found in a typical living room (cups, tables, papers; the particular items are at the players’ discretion) and use them to create a certain rhythmic pattern. The third movement also pairs this rhythm making with a melody to be performed on a suitable pitch inducing instrument.

The second movement, however, stands out. Unlike the other movements, this one can be performed without any auxiliary items. That’s because it consists of four individuals repeating a certain set of words with a particular rhythmic pattern and occasionally pitch bend. The words are a deconstruction, reordering, and layering of the first few lines of a lesser known Gertrude Stein children’s book called The World Is Round. The way cage deconstructs and re-arranges the words has much intrigue and meaning, and even begs the question about how lyrics that are part rhythmic and part message based and spread across multiple parts should be conveyed in non-musical writing, but alas this is after all an assignment for which I will be graded and looking at those things entails a tangent this post can not afford. So for the purposes of this post, I will analyze the base set of lines Cage uses to construct the work, as he conveniently includes them at the beginning of they score for the movement (linked above):

Once upon a time the world

was round and you could go on

it around and around.

So, what is this excerpt about? Some hint could come from the content of Stein’s book itself; through the book’s main character, Rose, it highlights the importance of asking questions and feeling a connection to the world. But it’s notable that Cage choses only to focus on this opening sentence from the book when he had ample musical “space” to include additional lyrics. What’s also telling is this particular movement’s title: “Story.” Much in the same way that the other movements of Living Room Music invert traditional conceptions of music by embracing the every day rhythms one might make with objects in their living room, “Story” takes the idea of a story at it’s very core, at it’s simplest form, and transmutes it into something that is halfway between narrative and song. Cage’s purpose, then, is to convey the non-story story — the archetypal stand in that captures infinite possibility because it embodies the very concept of a story.

A further examination of the phrasing in the excerpt Cage uses makes this point patently clear. Starting at the very beginning, the lyric opens with the phrase “Once upon a time.” On the one hand, this clause is serving a literal purpose — by placing the sentence in the past tense it set’s up a narrative trope of “retelling” that fits more naturally with the archetypal narrative of a story (as opposed to stories which are told in present tense, and therefore feel more like they are unfolding live than being retold). At the same time, “Once upon a time” holds an important place in popular culture as the classic opening to many children’s tales, so parroting this language here not only sets a tone of retelling but also places that tone specifically in the childhood story milieu. Finally, because the phrase does not specify a particular time beyond the ambiguous “once,” the sentence takes on a sense of timelessness (in the very same way the aforementioned children’s tales often seem timeless), allowing it to further invoke the archetypal concept of a story.

The next line is also notable in creating the sense of an archetypal story, but in a more innovative way. The use of the 2nd person in storytelling and especially children’s books is quite rare with perhaps If You Give a Mouse a Cookie being the only notable example. Yet here the use of the word “you” in “you could go on it” does not stand out as odd. This is because the “you” portrays a sort of “place holder” or “filler function” — it serves a similar purpose meaning-wise in the sentence as “one could go on it.” That is to say, it is not important who is going as much as that going can occur. However, the use of the word “you” does serve some sort of personalizing function as well by forcing the reader to place themselves in the sentence. Though the reader understands the generic function of the word “you” outlined above, the reader also can’t help but imagine themselves “going on [the world].” This serves to facilitate the reader’s understanding and relation to the story even though the story itself is fairly straightforward and uncomplicated.

Finally, the repetition of the word “around” in the last line secures the sentence’s meaning. In a literal way, the word points to the circular nature of storytelling: much like this particular story never ends but instead simply lands on the observation that one could go around, the archetypal story does not end in spirit even if it has a literal ending because it is perpetually repeated ad infinitum. Additionally, the vowel heavy sounds of the words “around and around” not only make this repetition literal (since the word around is repeated), but also by give this idea a more physical character as the round shape of one’s mouth when saying “around” and the lack of sharp stop constantans like t or p (except at the very end) give the word a circular feeling. By recognizing this innovative word construction, John Cage uses his work to convey broader ideas about not just the content but the form of stories.

Walking Through The Woods of Mac Miller’s Mind

Mac Miller’s song “Woods” is featured on his posthumous album Circles. This album was released a little over a year after the death of Mac Miller and was said to complement its preceding album Swimming, so that the two together create the concept of “Swimming in Circles.”

This song gives a great insight to the mind of Mac Miller, who died of a tragic overdose. Miller struggled with depression and addiction which he expressed through many of songs including “Woods”, in which he raps about being emotionally lost and how his relationship with a woman seems to have guided him. In the beginning of the song Miller states,

Things like this ain’t built to last

I might just fade like those before me

In these two lines, Miller refers to his relationship with a woman as being so positive to the point that he feels it’s almost too good to be true or it “ain’t built to last.” This shines a light on how intense the darkness was in Mac Miller’s life that when he finally had a relationship that was important to him he worried it wouldn’t last. He goes on to say “I might just fade like those before me.” This line carries several meanings. By using the word “fade” he refers to falling out of the music industry as preceding artists have while simultaneously referring to his life, body, and mind deteriorating due to drug abuse, also similar to many other artists. Miller continues on to say,

Too many days in a daze, better wake up

Put your face in the place where the space was

Again, Miller eludes to his two states of emotional struggle along with drug abuse. With the words, “too many days in a daze, better wake up”, Miller might be referring to several aspect of his life. As a popular rapper, his life includes the darkness that is drug abuse which he could be referencing when he states that he is in a daze. Miller could also be talking about his emotional state, expressing that he is stuck in a “daze” caused mental illness, or he could simply be expressing his lack of sleep and rest due to his fast-moving life as an artist. The following line displays how the woman he was with at the time filled an empty “space” for Miller, foreshadowing that this woman was a savior for Mac Miller. Nearing the end of the song Miller states,

So far beyond all our control

You saved a soul so close to broken

This final line is so powerful to me and what really makes this song poetic. When Mac Miller says “you saved a soul so close to broken” he sends out several different messages to his listeners. First, he provides an insight to the struggles he endured during his life that may not have been perceived by the public eye. He also seems to be referring to the same woman by saying that she “saved” him when he was “so close to broken.” I think this notion is so powerful because many people can relate to it. In our world today, people can be experiencing so many things and others on the outside might never know it but also how even the simplest acts of kindness can change someone’s whole life which is why this line is so relatable. Not only does it allow the listeners to experience Mac Miller’s personal experiences but it also connects to the listener’s lives as well. This is a quality that many of Miller’s songs hold which is only one of the many reasons why Mac Miller’s music is so significant in the music world today.