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


They juxtapose “dream” with “day” while linking two related syonyms, “golden” and “shiny”. What, exactly, is a gilded dream? Perhaps it is a dream of accumulating wealth or some type of achievement. Now these dreams have translated into “shiny days”‘, signaling that there has been some change in their reality–that they have achieved their golden dreams.

As you can see, metaphor gives body to the aspects of memory White is trying to pull.

Secondly, White utilizes rhetorical questioning to emphasize the action of remembering. This is likely the most famous line in the song, based on the portions sampled on streaming services.

White begins large:

Do you remember the 21st night of September?

verse 1

It is unlikely that one will remember a specific date, especially if we are at as large of a temporal distance from that event as the lyrics suggest.

But a simple, second-person question prefaces the rest of the imagery in the song, leading the viewer to question their own memory before envisioning the lyrics in their head:

Say, do you remember?


This tone is more informal, and therefore lends itself to better recall. The usage of the exclamatory “say” before the question emphasizes the surprise of the question. (Therefore, we’re likely reflecting far into the past.) It reminds us that we should be looking back.

Lastly, White uses synesthesia to link the senses. This too emphasizes the act of recall. Have you ever heard someone tell you to chew gum while studying? Linking one sense, like taste, to another, like sight (the flashcards you are looking at, for example) is an integral part of memory.

only blue talk and love, remember, the true love we share today

verse 2

Using a color to refer to the sound of talk helps the listener characterize the talk by another powerful sense. This improves the specificity of their recall.

My thoughts are with you, holdin’ hands with your heart to see you

verse 2

Obviously, one cannot physically touch a heart, which does not have hands. But by linking the sensation of holding hands with the feeling of love, the figurative heart, White is able to again improve the specificity of the listener’s recall.

Of course, most of us are not recalling anything in particular. But throughout the song, White is addressing one specific listener, and we are able to imagine ourselves as if we are that listener.

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.

Life in “2009”

Mac Miller’s song “2009” from his album Swimming gives off an emotional rollercoaster effect. While Mac was writing this song, he was going through addiction, heartache, and depression. The song lets you into his mind and allows you to realize a fraction of what he was going through. The immense amount of pain and suffering he was going through alone was what let him create this song. Within the lyrics spoken by Mac, he expresses the feelings he got from drugs, depression, love and affection. Here is a portion of the lyrics from the first verse expressing him moving forward through his depression each day:

Yeah, okay, you gotta jump in to swim
Well, the light was dim in this life of sin
Now every day I wake up and breathe
I don’t have it all but that’s all right with me

Mac’s lyrics all seem to have a deeper meaning compared to some other artists. You can see in the example above that he draws you into his life by expressing his feelings poetically through music. His use of rhyme and rhythm in his songs make them catchy which adds to the eye opening writing. When listening to the song, Miller’s voice sounds calm and relaxed during this part which shows how battling through depression is a struggle, but he does it everyday. You can tell that his tone is a big part of his writing. The use of volume also has affected how I interpret what he means in his songs. He communicates his feelings through music and it is almost like you are there with him while listening to his music.

I don’t need to lie no more
Nowadays all I do is shine, take a breath and ease my mind, and
She don’t cry no more
She tell me that I get her high ’cause an angel’s s’posed to fly,

Mac Miller learns to take one day at a time by relaxing and being himself. Through these lyrics above, he also mentions his ex; Ariana Grande. She was an angel to him, hence him calling her angel. One of the people in his audience is Ariana who seems to have made a major impact on his life. These lines use imagery by painting a picture/scene of when Ariana stops crying and they are getting high together while she looks like an angel. We all interpret lyrics differently, but that is how I interpreted these lines.

It ain’t 2009 no more
Yeah, I know what’s behind that door

These two lines occur four times within this song. The repetitiveness happens for a reason, especially in poetry. The line constantly reminds the listeners that Mac did know that 2009 was over and that he knew what was going to happen. He released two mixtapes in the year 2009 and was not too sure where or what he was going to write next. He ended up talking about his personal struggle with drug addiction within this period of time.

Mac, throughout all of his songs, seems to use language that can be perceived as inappropriate and outstanding at the same time. Just like in poetry, you need to entree the reader by having words that have deeper meanings then it appears. Mac Miller does that in all of his songs, especially in “2009.”

Life Through A Telescope

“Telescope” by Cage The Elephant from their album Melophobia is a song of self-reflection that dives into the human experience of being alone and of feeling like you are going through the motions of life. The song talks about a man who lives as a recluse, separate from the rest of society, and the listener can subsequently connect in a variety of ways. They may themselves feels like that recluse, know someone who fits that description, or fear becoming like the person the song describes. Ultimately, “Telescope” invites the listener to reflect on their own lives, and what they choose to spend their time doing or find meaning in.

The song begins setting the scene of the reclusive man:

In a far and distant galaxy
Inside my telescope I see 
A pair of eyes peer back at me 
He walks and talks and looks like me

In these beginning lines, Cage The Elephant presents a juxtaposition between how this person seems strange and separate but also very familiar. The “telescope” in the second line emphasizes the distant nature of this man, but the fourth line encourages the listener to note the similarities they have with him. The listener is instantly pushed to think about how they may relate to the rest of the song. As the song continues, the lyrics include a simile in the chorus:

Time is like a leaf in the wind
Either it's time well spent or time I've wasted
Don't waste it

This simile gets at the main purpose of the song. The artist wants the listener to reflect on how they spend their time and what they find worthwhile. The comparison of time with “a leaf in the wind” emphasizes the fleeting nature of our own lives, and how quickly it can blow by. The manner in which Cage The Elephant ends this chorus, with a direct message to the listener, persuades the listener to continue in their own self-reflection. The next verse brings the song back to the story of the reclusive man:

Desperately searching for signs
Too terrified to find a thing
He battens all the hatches down
And wonders why he hears no sound
Frantically searching his dreams
He wonders what it's all about

These lines detail things that many listeners could relate to. Some of the things the man is doing seem irrational and contrasting, searching for answers he does not want to find. The last line of this verse suggests that the man is searching for meaning, something many people do. They don’t know where to look and they are afraid that they won’t find meaning or that the meaning they do find isn’t enough. The word “dreams” in this verse can serve two meanings; many people attempt to find their purpose in their goals and aspirations in the future, but this man seems to be looking in his dreams as he sleeps for hints of the answers he searches for, because he has prevented himself from finding any in his daily life.

“Telescope” provides listeners the opportunity to reflect on their lives and their own ideas of meaning. If we spend too much time searching for meaning, we may miss out on important things; if we don’t find meaning in anything at all, we may feel as though we are going through the motions and not truly living.

Budapest, but this song could be named Alaska and have the same meaning

George Ezra’s “Budapest” from his album Wanted on Voyage was released in 2014 and is part of the Folk Rock genre. The songs purpose although confusing, is not to talk about Budapest. Ezra’s purpose was to write a song about all the things he would give up for an individual and how important they are to him. It has been exposed that Ezra wrote this song after missing his train to his next stop and being stuck in Budapest another day because he overslept due to a little to much fun the night before.

My many artifacts
The list goes on
If you just say the words
I’ll up and run

Ezra’s use of the word artifacts gives the idea that he sees his past life without them as historic and old. Objects are referred to as artifacts when they are historically important as well. By using this word he puts forth the idea that although important his potential life with this person is far more important than his past.

They fear they’d lose so much
If you take my hand

In these lines Ezra refers to his family and their judgement if he were to leave his current life to be with ths person and it is poetic because he shows their importance to him by disregarding his families thoughts even potentially leaving his family with nothing. In his wording he says “if you take my hand” and that leaves the listener to wonder if he means take my hand in marriage or simply to hold him.

My house in Budapest
My hidden treasure chest
Golden grand piano
My beautiful castillo
I’d leave it all

This chorus line is the main point of the song that out of all these amazing things Ezra would sacrifice to be with them. He titles this song “Budapest” not because it is an ode to budapest but because it is an example of what he would give away. He then shows some exaggeration by mentioning a hidden treasure chest which one could only dream of finding. These things that many consider once in a lifetime, nothing compared to a life with the person he is talking about. This song is not as simple as a love song asking to run away together but one that compares amazing things to something Ezra cant even fathom anything better.

“Let Her Go”

by Jasmine Wood

Released by English singer-songwriter Passenger (Mike Rossenberg) in July 2012 as part of his album All the Little Things, “Let Her Go” tells the melancholy story of a brokenhearted man who is struggling to come to terms with the end of his relationship. As a folk rock hit single, “Let Her Go” exemplifies Passenger’s simple yet effective language and emotive storytelling technique.

The song itself utilizes oppositional irony and specific scenes to spread the message that it is important to appreciate relationships and people before they are gone and it is too late. Through the speaker’s obvious pain, the audience is able to emotionally connect to his struggle.

Throughout the entire song, the speaker references general experiences that everyone listening knows. For example, the song opens with the lines, “Well you only need the light when it’s burning low/ Only miss the sun when it starts to snow.” Stating examples that are impossible to not know, Passenger creates a situation to which everyone can relate, and sets up his message in a way that is easily receivable. Furthermore, by using the word “you” repetitively in his lines, the speaker builds a connection with his listeners by speaking directly to them, even though he is really referring to his own experience.

Next, the speaker shares his specific experiences in dealing with the aftermath of the breakup. One verse states,

Staring at the ceiling in the dark 
Same old empty feeling in your heart
'Cause love comes slow and it goes so fast
Well you see her when you fall asleep
Never to touch and never to keep
'Cause you loved her too much and dive too deep

While not everyone might have lain awake at night depressed after a break up, the specificity of this instance allows the audience to picture the speaker doing so, and in turn feel empathy for him. As a result, the speaker is further characterized as a miserable person who is suffering because of his actions (or lack thereof). Thus, the audience gets a glimpse of what their future will be like if they do not take heed to his message.

Another tool Passenger utilizes is repetition. In fact, the majority of the song’s lyrics is actually just the chorus that is repeated five times. While not the most important literary technique, this repetition does serve to emphasize the message for the audience:

Well 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
And you let her go

Lastly and perhaps most importantly, Passenger’s use of oppositional irony is what makes this song so compelling. By providing specific examples of the irony of not realizing something’s importance until it is gone, he further emphasizes the importance of valuing what one has. For example, he says, “Only know you’ve been high when you’re feeling low/ Only hate the road when you’re missing home.” Not only does this add unique wit to the song, but it also strengthens the overall message as it builds up to the final example, “Only know you love her when you let her go,” which is what he is really trying to say.

Overall, Passenger masterfully weaves together relatable anecdotes and emotive language to ensure that his audience receives his message to keep loved ones close. It is in this way the “Let Her Go” is both a poem and a song.

Time Is Our Worst Enemy

The ice age was a period long ago melted and washed away with the passage in time. In their song, “Ice Age“, How To Destroy Angels references this period in comparison to the human experience. “Ice age” is apart of the Welcome Oblivion album, which creates an atmosphere of despair and a lack of purpose. The subtle, deep electronic yet complex beat strings the album together. “Ice Age’s” central message is that everything is temporary, and no matter how much you try, people or things in your life will eventually fade away. Like a once frozen solid world, slowly melting away. This is an unavoidable truth that we all must accept.

“Ice Age” is the perfect example of a “Song-Poem” despite it’s few words. The song is nearly seven minutes long yet only consists of seven short stanzas. The time to stanza ratio adds to the poems meaning by drawing the listener further into the stanzas.

The poetic nature of the stanzas can be found immediately in the opening verse:

I find it looks the same but everything has changed
I find remembering gets harder every day
Sometimes I still believe who I pretend to be
Sometimes well everything’s exactly how it seems

The first stanza establishes poetic elements through it’s structure. The four line stanza follows an “AABB” format, common among more traditional poetry. The “I, I, Sometimes, Sometimes” verse design serve primarily to illustrate to the listener the band’s uncertainty in the past and what lies ahead. The first two lines of every verse establish what the vocalist sees in the present, and “sometimes” is reflecting on what once was. The same format can be found in every verse stanza, only broken by the chorus with it’s own, “ABAB” style.

In the following stanza, the feelings of despair continue:

I see the color of your eyes has turned to grey
I feel the wind is growing colder every day
Sometimes I open up the walls and disappear
Sometimes the crashing of the waves is all I hear

In the present, “eyes has turned to grey” and “growing colder every day” connote a feeling of lost time that can not be regained. This gives the listener the impression that what has already happened can not be reversed or prevented. The second half of the stanza continues this feeling with “disappear” and “crashing of the waves” suggesting the artist is fading away and slowly beginning to accept the situation. This strong image connects back to a feeling of hopelessness against a strong tide.

Help me find a way
Wash us all away

It is the chorus that completes the poem’s image perfectly. Throughout the poem, How To Destroy Angels uses words like “grey,” “colder,” “ice,” “waves,” and finally: “Ocean”. These are the words that make the listener feel the past melting away. The once great iceberg melts away into the larger ocean. Until the chorus, they resist the change, or rising tide. Once the listener reaches the chorus the mood shifts from one of resistance to acceptance. The lines “Ocean Help me find a way” brings acceptance and the hope of a new beginning.

That all things come to an end is a truth of life for all people, and this poem grapples with this struggle through poetic expression. The poem puts the image of an individual resisting the changing tide, until they finally accept the inevitable.

Embarrassing Honesty

by Mckale Thompson

In J. Cole’s song “Wet Dreamz” from his album 2014 Forest Hills Drive, he dives deeper into his first sexual experience. The song flows like a narrative beginning when Cole meets the girl, all of the way to when he ends up at her house. The listener gets inside information into Cole’s emotions every step of the way, his seemingly embarrassing honesty builds trust with the listener causing them to be invested in Cole’s journey throughout the song. But, why does Cole’s narrative come off as taboo when he’s talking about an experience that the majority of people have at some point in their lives? Cole uses poetic language to cause the listener to feel like they have privileged information about his first sexual encounter and draw them into his narrative.

Let me take y'all back man
As I do so well
Wasn't nothin' like that
Man, it wasn't nothin' like that first time

At the beginning of the song, Cole utilizes flashback to transport the listener to a different time. By beginning the song with a flashback the listener is immediately curious about where they are being taken, this prepares the listener to hear an important story. By addressing the listener as “y’all” the listener feels as if they are sitting across from an old friend with gossip. The use of 2nd person also ropes the listener into Cole’s narrative.

'Cause when I seen 'em thighs on her and them hips on her and them lips on her

Cole goes on to describe the appearance of the girl that he is interested in. By using polysyndeton, the reader is able to understand the ongoing attraction that Cole has. The continued use of “and” makes the listener feel that list goes on for longer than it really does. This draws the listener further into Cole’s narrative because she is no longer just a girl, she is an extremely attractive girl according to Cole’s account.

I wrote back and said "of course I had sex before"
Knowing I was frontin'
I said I was like a pro baby
Knowing I was stuntin'
But if I told the truth I knew I'd get played out son

Cole uses dramatic irony to add suspense to his story. He first explains what he said in reality, and then in the next line reveals his real thoughts about the situation. By letting the listener know that he really had no experience while he told the girl that he did, the reader is curious if he’ll be made as a fraud. He even reveals the stakes of his lie saying, “But if I told the truth I knew I’d get played out” meaning that if he was to be exposed as inexperienced he would be ostracized by his peers. Cole uses poetic language to create an unforgettable story, that also happens to have a pretty catchy hook.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Four words I live by and highly recommend you do too. Artist Bobby McFerrin sings one of the best songs ever in his album Simple Pleasures, the song is called: “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” The song was released in 1988 and won 2 grammys and if you haven’t heard it then I’m not sure what you’ve been doing all your life. It seems like every human is born knowing the classic whistle and hum from this song.

The overall theme of this song is a simple yet very powerful. The title sums it up by stating Don’t Worry, Be Happy but additional lyrics throughout the song highlight connecting ideas like how trouble in everyone’s life is guaranteed but by worrying it only becomes worse. He also explains multiple unfortunate situations followed by advice to stay positive and happy because having feelings of worry or negativity will only make things worse. An experience this song deepens is life itself because it provides generally applicable advice to peoples problems with a theme many people do not hear. Society frowns upon people who do not appear to care or worry about their lives problems and often deem such people as lazy, detached or foolish. But the “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” motto doesn’t mean you don’t care about your life and fail to accomplish anything, it simply means you operate with a positive attitude and don’t worry about dumb stuff. I think we all could take a page out of McFerrin’s book and worry about what truly matters, forget the rest, and be happy.

The first poetic device McFerrin uses to enhance the songs meaning is a motif. Obviously the motif is “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” which accounts for 50% of the lyrics used in this song. His repetition of this phrase enhances the poetic theme of his song by instilling this mantra in every listeners mind. You cannot listen to this song without recalling the most used phrase/the title and in doing this I think McFerrin is trying to teach us that with all problems in life, you must try to block out all possible distractions, excuses or reason to NOT be happy and instead, stop worrying and just be happy.

McFerrin states:

Ain't got no cash, ain't got no style
Ain't got no gal to make you smile
But don't worry, be happy
'Cause when you worry your face will frown
And that will bring everybody down

The imagery here of having no cash, no style, no gal and no smile is not only a catchy and amazing rhyme scheme but its great imagery. I can perfectly picture what type of man is lacking all of those things and in doing this McFerrin establishes fear and sadness in my heart because I worry that one day I may be that man. He quickly readjusts my thought process with the next lines, encouraging the listener to not worry and be happy while also teaching selflessness by stating that if you are sad, you will make everyone else sad. This furthers his theme of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by explaining to listeners that sadness will bring everyone down and thus, if you don’t worry and just be happy not only do you help yourself you help everyone else. He’s teaching listeners peace and love for oneself and society.

Lastly, his lines:

Listen to what I say 
In your life expect some trouble
When you worry you make it double

These lines exhibit simple allegory which alludes that worrying only makes your problems worse. Double trouble. This is a very true theme in that most would agree that worrying about things you cannot control is a waste of energy. On the flipside, worrying about things you CAN control doesn’t change anything either and only makes you feel as though you have more trouble. Execute on what you can control and don’t worry, be happy. This song is poetry because it is “the most condensed and concentrated form of literature, saying the most in the fewest number of words.” This really holds true in this song because although most of the lyrics are “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”, as a listener I interpret this simple words to mean so many thinks such as be grateful, be selfless, peace, love, happiness and more.

In other words, every little thing will be alright.

What Do You Follow: Head or Heart?

In his album, The Story of Us, Quinn XCII (92) collaborates with Chelsea Cutler to produce “Flare Guns,” a current favorite of mine. The song is about the one person who you know you shouldn’t call but can’t help but call. I think that the song addresses the struggle between the feelings in your head vs. your heart. When in your head you know you shouldn’t do it, but your heart tells you to go for it. In the end, Quinn XCII follows his heart. The first ten seconds of the song are of instrumental violins, which sets the tone for the rest of the song. In his first verse he sings: 

This love stays calm in the night, yeah, helps me heal and reopen
Why are we drifting away from everything we wanted to save?

These lyrics were very powerful because they talk about the end of his relationship but can also be used in other contexts. In his relationship, they ended because they needed to focus on themselves and be on their own, but they came back together and focused less on what they wanted to maintain. The same could be said about life. Many times people take breaks to focus on themselves or what went wrong before, but life happens and neglects what they wanted to do. This goes back to the idea head vs. heart, knowing what you need to do to better yourself, but follows another path. He follows those lyrics in his pre-chorus with: 

I told you I'd be down forever
Loving you is danger, but it don't feel wrong
It's old news, I should look for better

I love the line “Loving you is danger, but it don’t feel wrong” because of how perfectly it fits into the meaning of the song. There are times in life when we know something is wrong and that we shouldn’t do it but we become so consumed by it and fall into it. He is so invested in his relationship and how he feels, even though he knows he deserves better, and goes for it anyways. His head is telling him it is dangerous but his heart is telling him it is right. He reaches the chorus of the song. 

Flare guns go off in my head, saying not to call you this late
Still I dial those numbers every time
Why do I replay those messages that you left at the tone last May?
Slowly wishing you were never mine

A flare gun is used to create illumination to improve vision or as a distress signal. The use of flare guns was a perfect kind of symbolism to explain the warning signs that go off in your head. Bring to light all the problems that are going to happen and give clarity to the situation. But the heart is a powerful thing and more often than not, especially in his case, the heart wins. He puts himself though so much pain and second guesses by following his heart. His head is thinking logically and his heart is thinking passionately. Quinn XCII and Chelsea Cutler sing together:

See, I don't know better than to give up on loving
Why am I still holding on? I'm still holding on

These lines perfectly fit into Quinn XCII’s situation of head vs. heart. He has given up on love and has accepted that, but there is that part of him that still has hope, that is still holding on. That’s what head vs. heart is really. Knowing what is best and accepting that but still have a little sliver of hope and questioning that hope. Hope is a powerful thing and can make people do things they may not agree with. I picture the concept of head vs. heart like in cartoons when the devil is on one shoulder and the angel on the other and they usually end up following the devil.


Nujabes was a producer known for his atmospheric instrumentals with samples from hip hop and jazz. Nujabes would frequently collaborate with artist Shing02 for much of his work, including the Luv(Sic) hexalogy. The entire project is a strong example of poetry in music, but I will be focusing on part 1 of the series.

The hook of “Luv(sic)” is a typical example of how music is poetry,

Cause the beat plus the melody
Makes me speak of L.O.V.E eloquently so evidently

Here, Shing02 is directly saying that through music, he is able to convey his feelings and thoughts in a fluent (eloquent) manner. Poetry, in essence, is an expression of how one feels and thinks. Keeping this in mind, it is irrefutable evidence that poetry and music are closely related. Shing02 also mentions how music has provided him with an outlet to speak his mind,

God bless this opportunity for me to find a voice
For some words that have waited for way too long

This is clearly expressing that music is a way for people to have a voice and speak their mind which is, to all intents and purposes, what poetry is as well. Shing02 is also closely tied with poetry. When speaking about the project, he recounted,

It was a departure from my usual style, but a return to poetry I had written back in high school. In essence, rap is a form of creative writing and storytelling at its best. I was building a character that spoke in idioms and riddles, but also a narrative you can relate to by reading ‘between the rhymes.’

The entirety of the lyrics for “Luv(sic)” were derived from poetry, therefore the song cannot be anything other than poetry. Poetry comes in many forms and music is no exception.