The Queens of Poetry

The song “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen is, for many, easily one of the greatest songs of all time. An important reason that “Bohemian Rhapsody” has been so popular for over 40 years is that it embodied everything Queen is known for and combines everything they do so perfect together. The overall theme is  relaying how different his life could have been, and how much happier he might have been had he just been able to be himself his whole of his life. What you may not know by just listening to the song once is that it is filled with many different types of poetic devices.

Right off the bat in the intro in the song the song starts off with:

Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality

Starting the song off with a metaphor like this is a perfect way to portray the overall theme of the rest of the song. With this metaphor Queen is saying that Freddie Mercury is in the middle of too many things happening at once. He feels as though he is stuck and has no way to escape. We know it is a metaphor because he is not actuly stuck. This was just a perfect way for him to explain his situation of being stuck in unconquerable problems to his readers.

Next Literay device is a little bit more stuttle:

Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me, for me, for me!

This allusion may slip by some listeners ears if they do not fully understand it. An allusion in poetry is when there is a brief, intentional reference to a historical, mythic, or literary person, place, event, or movement. In this example, there is a reference to Christan belifs. Beelzebub is another name for the devil or satan. He uses the allusion to express that he feels he needs to be punished for his actions and sins. These sins are so bad that they will give him his own devil, put aside just for him.

Lastly Queen is able to use a hyperbole perfectly in their record:

So you think you can love me and leave me to die?

This a clear exaggeration/ hyperbole because he will clearly not actually die if he is to be left. Him being left behind is being exaggerated because he wants to show the pain he will be in, in such a large way.

At the end of the day Bohemian Rhapsody would not be where it is today, heard by everyone, inducted into the grammy hall of fame, without its poetic devices in its lyrics. It gives the song a deeper meaning then just the words heard by the listener.

Poetic Analysis of “I Never Told You What I Do For A Living” by My Chemical Romance

INTYWIDFAL is the final song in the concept album Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge.

A concept album is an album with a storyline to it. In this album, the story builds off the story from the previous album, centering around two people called the Demolition Lovers.

According to lead vocalist Gerard Way, the story of the album goes like this:

“The concept for the record Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge, was the story of a man and a woman who are separated by death in a gunfight and he goes to hell only to realize by the devil telling him that she’s still alive. The devil says you can be with her again if you bring me the souls of a thousand evil men and so he hands him and a gun and he says I’ll go do it.”

The final song on the album centers around the killing of the last evil man, which turns out to be himself. He cannot see his lover for now but hopes one day, they will be reunited again, shown by the line: “Another night and I’ll see you”

Throughout the song, we also almost see a sense of self-disgust for the protagonist after having killed all those people. He wants his lover to clean him off, but he feels the stains will never come out. This is likely a homage to Macbeth, where Macbeth, after killing King Duncan, feels so much guilt and feels that no water could wash the blood of his hands.

“Another knife in my hands, a stain that never comes off the sheets / Clean me off, I’m so dirty, babe”

However, we see the protag rationalize what he is doing through the lines:

“Touched by angels, though / I fall out of grace / I did it all, so maybe / I’d live this every day”

The protag wants to be alive and return to earth, so he took up the task. However, by noting he fell “out of grace”, he knows he is not a great man.

We now arrive near the end of the scene where the protag realizes he will not be able to see his lover. Although the protag is upset, he remains hopeful that one day, through some circumstance, he will be reunited with his lover again.

“And we’ll love again, we’ll laugh again / We’ll cry again, and we’ll dance again”

Overall, this is a gutwrenching song about loss, death, hope, and murder with incredible music to accompany it. I find it to be a good ending song to an album with an amazing story. I also this the album does a good job at continuing the story from the first album “I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love”. I would recommend listening to both albums if you like horror movies, theatrics, or just a good ominous story.

Some Champagne Poetry

After a two year hiatus, Drake released his highly anticipated, “Certified Lover Boy.” The intro to this album is the song, Champagne Poetry. In this intro, Drake cuts the song into two parts. In Part 1, Drake speaks about how he has done so much to get to where he is now and others in the rap game still think they are above him or better than him. In Part 2, Drake stops talking about his accolades or his money, and just expresses what it’s like to be at the top. With all the pressure weighing on him, his family, the city he lives in. But its all more of a reason to keep going for him.

I’m tryna just relay what I can see through my own eyes

And nothin’ tell the truth like the eyes will

This quote from Drakes song truly sums up the first part of the song. I can feel the exhaustion in the way he wrote this. Drake wants the listener to feel like they are sitting together having a conversation. This isn’t the strongest example of simile or imagery, but I feel this is an important quote in the song.

I even got the cleanin’ staff plotting extortion on me

My parents’ divorce is on me

My therapist’s voice is making the choices for me

And I always censor myself ’cause no matter what, they reporting on me

The pressure is weighin’ on me

In Part 2 of the song, Drake starts to have this therapy session with himself. His use of diction makes the reader/listener feel sympathy for him. He describes and gives examples about how the pressure of things in his life is getting too much for him. Even though he is a man of high stature, he still feels certain ways like we all do.

My chef got the recipe for disaster baking slowly

My heart feel vacant and lonely, but still

I’m makin’ the most of this shit and more

Every single move is like rolling dice on the board

The simile used in this quote sums up how Drake is living life. He doesn’t know what the dice will say but he’s hoping he’ll get lucky. Through all the pressure boiling and the world falling apart, Drake still finds a way to be content and live life like “rolling dice on the board.”

Musixmatch

Fireworks

Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit’s song “Fireworks” is just one example of poetry on their amazing album Ruins. While the singing and instrumentals were what originally drew me to the song, it has great lyrics and is a wonderful example of music poetry.

Like many songs on the album, which was created after a broken engagement, the song is about a breakup. “Fireworks” uses lyrics and music to bring the listener into the speaker’s mind and world.I took a trip out to the frozen lake

And it felt so far away

But I could feel it washing over me

There’s no escaping the harsh light of day

The poem repeats motifs of water/lakes and light. I would describe the musical aspects of the song as flowy and bright, making these motifs more effective and present in the poem. I’m not sure what these motifs represent or are trying to convey, but the song effectively transports the listener into the speaker’s situation with powerful imagery.

Why do I do this to myself every time?

I know the way it ends

Before it’s even begun

I am the only one

At the finish line

One of the most powerful lines in the poem is “Why do I do this to myself?” This is repeated many times throughout the poem and puts the listener in the speaker’s mind. The chorus (lyrics below) is repeated three times during the song. The repetition demonstrates the speaker’s regret and how their mind is stuck, repeating the same questions over and over.

I would highly recommend giving First Aid Kit a listen. Every song features comforting and bright harmonies, but the band also takes a lot of risks ensuring that every song sounds different. Every First Aid Kit song is a powerful piece of music poetry.

Poetry in Frank Ocean’s Pink+White

As conveyed in the title “Pink+White”, Frank Ocean explains his passion for a person and his perspective on the world through his memories. He interlaces the ups and downs that come with feelings of love and attachment by comparing them to either light or darkness with seemingly no in between. 

The first set of lyrics in the song serves to describe a strange pink and white landscape then contrast it with a more realistic black and yellow landscape in order to highlight the randomness and lack of control we have in the world. 

“That’s the way everyday goes

Every time we’ve no control

If the sky is pink and white

If the ground is black and yellow

It’s the same way you showed me”

The following verses make an undeniable statement about the importance of love and trust during disastrous times. Ocean uses a metaphor about the atmosphere and north and south geography to describe his attachment to someone he loves. The description of feeling “south” contradicts the cold loneliness of the north and provides a sense of comfort. The comparison to the Earth and its atmosphere describe how Ocean felt powerless in such a vast world and was unable to grasp the events taking place in his own life. 

“If you could fly then you’d feel south

Up north’s getting cold soon

The way it is, we’re on land

So I’m someone to hold true

Keep you cool in this good life

Won’t let you down when it’s all ruined”

Ocean uses vivid imagery throughout the song to tell specific memories from his earlier life. The peaceful music and fond portrayal of the memory give the listener a sense of peace yet the subtle ominous intermissions scattered throughout, such as the mention of a hurricane, send a different message. The guitar strums softly in the background while the lyrics recall children playing. 

“In the wake of a hurricane

Dark skin of a summer shade

Nosedive in the flood lines

Tall tower of milk crates

It’s the same way you showed me

Cannonball off the porch side

Older kids trying off the roof”

On the surface the song seems to be recalling fond memories from his past until the end of the piece. Ocean uses repetition of the line “the same way you showed me”. The repetition of this line, written in the past tense suggests that he had been talking about the happy memories and affection of someone he lost throughout the song. After repeating this line multiple times in seemingly random spots in the song he sings 

“That’s the same way you showed me, showed me

You showed me love

Glory from above

Regard my dear

It’s all downhill from here”

This shift in tone continues until the end of the poem where he reminisces about cigarettes and tragedy and how he has nostalgia for his past despite the fact that it was a more difficult time in many aspects. As the song progresses from fond memories to more dark moments of his past it becomes apparent that Ocean’s purpose in these lyrics was to describe how relationships tend  to go wrong after the “glory”. This however does not mean that the two were never good, in fact using the term “glory” suggests that at one point things were going very well between them. Instead he is pointing his experiences in how after a relationship reaches a peak it begins to fail shortly thereafter each and every time leaving him feeling out of control.

“2009” by Mac Miller is Poetry

Mac Miller is a 21st century rap artist who sadly passed away in the year 2018 by a tragic drug overdose. The song “2009” starts off with a wonderful piano solo that really sets the mood for the song as a whole. The song then transitions into Miller himself who comes in with a very soft tone of voice. Mac has always been known for his well thought out rhyme schemes and he shows that here in this song as well.

The song starts with the chorus that is repeated many times throughout.

“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, and
I ain’t askin’ “Why?” no more
Oh, no, I take it if it’s mine, I don’t stay inside the lines
It ain’t 2009 no more
Yeah, I know what’s behind that door

These lines here specifically hit hard to the listener and to Mac himself. They represent his past times and what he had to go through in that specific year which was 2009. Mac battled many things including depression that was fueled by a deadly drug addiction, as well as relationship issues that were also prominent in the ideas for his songs.

This song specifically I think can really fit into that category of poetry. The song throughout has a rheme scheme representing that as of a poem and flows like a poem as well.

” Nowadays all I do is shine, take a breath and ease my mind, and
She don’t cry no more”

These specific lines really show Mac Miller’s ability to use a certain flow and his descriptive langue to show his troubles with his relationships and how he is coping with them and as well as how he is doing in the moment of the song.

Verse 1 also features some extremely powerful lines that if read out loud you would assume is poetry.

“Now every day I wake up and breathe
I don’t have it all but that’s all right with me
Take it nice and easy, took a flight to see me
Send you back home with a light that’s beamin’
The whole team ’bout to figure it out
We ice cold, that’s what winter about
And sometimes, sometimes I wish I took a simpler route
Instead of havin’ demons that’s as big as my house, mhmm

Have a ball with a dribble and bounce”

Here, Mac Miller uses an aaaabbbbb rhyme scheme that also features a metaphor. Using this scheme and combing it with a metaphor helps the reader better understand how Mac is feeling mentally at this state in this song (at this state in his life). Mac’s lines here also show his thankfulness for just the fact that he was here and living at this point in time, even though he may not have everything in life.

Verse 2 also illuminates some very powerful lines

“You don’t ever gotta worry
Even when it’s 7:30 and the time is runnin’ low
When your heart get cold
See what’s behind all them unturned stones
And I’m a pro when it come to my job
But really I’m just tryna start believin’ in God
Now when it gets hard
I don’t panic, I don’t sound the alarm”

Once again, Mac uses rhyming to emphasize the significance of woman in his life. Mac also shows his newfound relation and hopefulness that he can now make God significant in his life. Comparing praying to God and sounding the alarm creates a powerful metaphor and really shows how much god means to him and how he feels safe to have him.

This song truly represents poetry. It lines not only represent things much bigger than the words on the page like poetry, but also has a form and rhyme scheme like an actual poem. Mac Miller is an artist and with his use of words, he could easily have written an award-winning poem if he were still here today.

No Role Modelz

“No Role Modelz” is a song written by J. Cole, featured on his album 2014 Forest Hills Drive.

No Role Modelz

J. Cole portrays multiple themes is this song, and I am going to focus on two of them.

The first theme that I am going to focus on is the one of lack of male role models. J. Cole immediately addresses this by saying,

“First things first: rest in peace Uncle Phil

for real

you the only father that I ever knew”

This is an allusion to a TV show called “Fresh Prince of Bellaire”, in which a character named Uncle Phil looks after a young boy for the large duration of his childhood due to him not having a father figure. J. Cole immediately addressing Uncle Phil shows the importance to him of a male figure who stepped up as a parental figure. The line “you the only father that I ever knew” implies that he did not have a male parental figure growing up, and the fact that he relied on a TV show to gain a positive male influence shows the lack of a male parental figure in his life, and how important it is to have one.

He shows his belief on how important it is to have a male parental figure when he says “I get my b**** pregnant I’ma be a better you.” His desire to be an outstanding Dad for his child displays his belief in importance of a strong Dad in a boy’s life.

J. Cole develops another theme by attacking the people in Hollywood, specifically woman. He develops a theme that some women are good individuals and respectable, but that most aren’t, and that is takes a smart man to decipher and decide between the two. While the theme and the way he portrays it is definitely condescending towards women, he also talks about how men, including himself, play into this role and make it possible for women who he morally attacks to be prosperous.

The main chorus of this song demonstrates this perfectly,

“Don’t save her, she don’t wanna be saved.

Don’t save her, she don’t wanna be saved.

Don’t save her, she don’t wanna be saved.

Don’t save her, she don’t wanna be saved.”

The repetition shows how he believes the majority of woman do not deserve to be “saved” in Hollywood.

J. Cole tells a story about an encounter he has with a woman in Hollywood that he believes to be morally poor.

“Out in Hollywood bringin’ back five or six hoes

F*** ’em then we kick ’em to the do’, n****, you know how it go

She deserved that, she a bird, it’s a bird trap

You think if I didn’t rap she would flirt back?

Takin’ off her skirt, let her wear my shirt, ‘fore she leave

‘I’ma need my shirt back'”

In this excerpt he dehumanizes the women he had a sexual experience by calling them birds in order to enforce that idea that the majority of women in Hollywood do not deserve the type of respect you would give to an ordinary person. It is clear he believes they are only talking to him because he is famous, and want to attach themselves to him, which he symbolizes him preventing by taking his shirt back.

In this excerpt J. Cole shows how he feels “these type” of women should be treated, but then shows how men feed into this role and make it possible. In another sexual encounter with a women,

“Last night I was gettin’ my feet rubbed by the baddest b****

Not Trina but I swear to God, this b****’ll make you call your girl up

And tell her, ‘Hey, what’s good?

Sorry I’m never comin’ home, I’ma stay for good'”.

This experience shows how he plays into the role that allows morally poor women to thrive by choosing a girl that he finds extremely attractive over a girl that has a good personality. This shows that attractiveness can take a women very far in the lifestyle that he lives, because famous men like him prioritize it so much.

We All Need a Burning Pile

“Burning Pile” is a song by Mother Mother and was on the album “O My Heart”. The song is about how us as people go through struggles all the time and sometimes we fell as though we are drowning in a pile of shame and anxiety that has been pushed onto us by the world. However, we can all prosper if we throw all of our problems into a theoretical burning pile.

Throughout the entirety of the song, the band describes different scenarios in which the main character of the song is describing that things that they do and how they believe that they are a horrible person for doing them.

All my money been a long time spent

On my drugs, on my rent

On my saving philosophy

It goes, one in the bank, and the rest for me

Mother Mother, “Burning Pile” O My Heart

Immediately after each of the stanzas where it talks about the shame, the song then switches the tone and says how there is hope for the main character and all they need to do is throw them in a burning pile and they will start to be happy.

all my troubles on a burning pile

All lit up and I start to smile

Mother Mother, “Burning Pile” O My Heart

The song gives the reader a feeling of hope. That even though things seem bleak, we all still have the ability to be happy and at peace with ourselves. All we need to do is throw our problems at a burning pile and forget about them.

Hurricane

On his hit 2021 Album Donda, Kanye West had several popular rap songs with lots of deep meaning behind the lyrics. One of the most prevalent tracks on this album is called Hurricane written and produced by Kanye West himself, featuring The Weeknd (Abel Makkonen Tesfaye) and Lil Baby (Dominique Jones). The three artists featured in this song rap about their past experiences with certain vices, hardships, and mental struggles (of which they are not proud) and how they have escaped their past through finding God and devoting their life to Christianity. This song can be considered poetry because of the several striking lines and deep meaning in the song.

One of the most powerful segments of the song comes during Kanye West’s first verse when he says;

Sixty-million dollar home, never went home to it

Genius gone clueless, it’s a whole lot to risk

Alcohol anonymous, who’s the busiest loser?

These lines are especially powerful because they each convey a struggle that West has dealt with despite his fame and great success. The first line represents how West is unable to spend time with his family because of his job. This is especially powerful because it is coming at a time where West is going through a divorce and will likely never be with his family in the same way he used to. The second line represents West’s lack of direction in his life. He is often referred to as a lyrical and musical genius, but when he says he has “gone clueless” this represents the lack of purpose and direction in West’s life. The last line shows that West still struggled with substance abuse even when he became rich and famous. Overall West’s verse on the song represents the inevitable worldly struggles faced by everyone.

In The Weeknd’s (Abel Makkonen Tesfaye) chorus he sings about how religion has saved him when he says;

I see you in 3D, the dawn is bright for me
No more dark for me, I know You’re watchin’ me
Eighty degrees, burnin’ up the leaves
Finally, I’m free, finally, I’m free
As I go out to sea, I can walk on water
Won’t you shine Your light? Demons stuck on my shoulder
Father, hold me close, don’t let me drown
I know You won’t

This final chorus contains several striking lines. In the first two lines, Tesfaye describes how God’s guidance has opened his eyes and given new meaning to life. The final two lines are debatably the most powerful of the entire song. Tesfaye describes how he has put his full trust in God. Overall Tesfaye’s verse represents rebirth and renewal through God and how God is more powerful than worldly problems.

West and Tesfaye’s verses have a very stark contrast in terms of message and meaning. But when seen in context next to each other we can see the meaning behind the juxtaposition of these two verses. West describes the hardships of being a human, and how money fails to solve these hardships, while Tesfaye describes God’s ability to solve any problem no matter how great. When combined these two messages represent West and Tesfaye’s struggles in life, they thought that riches and fame would solve these issues, but in the end, they learn that God is the answer to all of their worldly problems.

An Ode to Hypocrisy

In the song, “Rät” from her Public Void album, Penelope Scott airs her feelings of disappointment and betrayal stemming from her disillusionment with “the tech cult that is Silicon Valley.” The song, originally debuted in its stripped-down acoustic version on Tik Tok, was initially called “Elongated Muskrat” as a reference to Elon Musk, one example of the Silicone Valley scientific community that the speaker had looked up to. Through the song, Scott conveys the experience of idolizing scientists and innovation before feeling betrayed and used after being exposed to the selfishness and greed endemic among the people she had once looked up to.

While she begins the song with a whirlwind of complex words and allusions delivered at great speed, when she reaches the chorus, she slows down and puts more emphasis on each simple word. The juxtaposition gives the impression that she is initially using her education and the complex tangents she goes on to circle around her feelings. However, during the choruses, the simplified language and repetition suggests that the speaker is confronting the simple truth of her feelings, that she was fooled and used by the people she considered heroes.

I loved you

I loved you

I loved you

It’s true

Scott also uses allusions to famous scientists in the past and in popular culture to help express her feelings, such as Nicola Tesla, Thomas Edison. Thomas Malthus, Charles Darwin, and Selmers of the video game “Night in the Woods.” For example, she sings,

I bit the apple cause I trusted you, it tastes like Thomas Malthus

Your proposal is immodest and insane

And I hope someday Selmers rides her fucking train

First, she references the story of Adam and Eve from the Bible, suggesting that that the audience that she is talking to convinced her to do something wrong. That thing “tasted like Thomas Malthus,” a man who famously suggested that feeding the poor would be futile because it would lead them to reproduce and ultimately to more people to feed. His “scientific” ideas were used to justify a lack of assistance for the poor for many years, incorporating an example into the song of a scientist attempting to solve one of humanity’s major problems while instead callously writing off the deaths of the less fortunate as the price to be paid for the continuation of bourgeois society. The “immodest proposal” likely refers to the rebuttal to “A Modest Proposal”, a satire intended to counter Malthus’ argument. Selmers, in “Night in the Woods”, is infuriated by the growing inequality in Silicon Valley of millionaires making millions more, while wages remain stagnant and the price of living rises. She talks about wanting to ride a train to Silicon Valley and burn it to the ground, which the speaker seems to support. While the audience may not be familiar with all of the subjects Scott alludes to at first, when they are considered together, they incorporate even more stories of selfishness and pain caused by people who claim to use their minds to better the lives of others while instead disregarding those whose lives most need bettering.

Lastly, Scott uses a specific audience to make her arguments more personal. Instead of specifically naming the tech industry or the scientific community, she rages against a “you” that betrayed her after convincing her that they were going to change the world with the creations of their mind. While it is present throughout the song, the most prominent example of this is in the chorus, when she repeats that she “loved you”, but it is also displayed to effect when she sings,

So fuck your tunnels, fuck your cars, fuck your rockets, fuck your cars again

I can’t believe you tore humanity apart

With the very same machines that could have been our brand new start

And the worst part is

I loved you, I loved you, I loved you, it’s true

The listener gets the sense that the speaker is talking to a person rather than the greater community that the song is directed at and the experience of the betrayal that they are experiencing through the song feels more personal. The speaker wasn’t harmed by the idea of a shining future where technology is used to help those who need it most being shattered by corporate greed. By using the word “you”, she can convey the same message while simultaneously conveying the idea that a specific person broker her heart and showed their selfishness after promising her the world. The clear jab at Elon Musk in the song’s title and the references to him throughout the song also help to personalize the song because listeners can connect the ideas presented in the song with his story, especially through lines such as,

When I said take me to the moon, I never meant take me alone

I thought if mankind toured the sky it meant that all of us could go

This line seems to be a reference to Musk’s sale of commercial flights into space for the extremely wealthy and serves as another example of resources that could be put to the betterment of humanity being spent on selling one-of-a-kind experiences to the incredibly rich. The references to Musk give listeners a person to connect the song to and make the song more personal and easier to connect to as a listener.

“Rät” is a complex song absolutely stuffed with poetic language and meaning and these are only my favorite of the strategies that she uses to support the experience of the song, of idolizing a community and an idea that reveals it greed and selfishness, leaving the speaker feeling betrayed and used.

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.

“The Blacker the Berry” Paints Vivid Picture of American History

The roots of racism in America can be traced back to the 1500s, when the first enslaved people were brought along the Middle Passage from West Africa to the Caribbean Islands and what would become the southeastern United States. The institution of slavery lasted for more than three centuries in the Western Hemisphere, with the importation of enslaved people to this area of the globe ending in 1808 and the practice of enslaving people ending shortly after the American Civil War. But racism in America, extreme prejudice taken against African-American people, has existed up until today, even through the Jim Crow and Civil Rights Movement era.

Given this context, when an artist writes a song about institutionalized racism in America, it is difficult for it not to sound cliche or dissolve into the basic moral of “everyone is human and should be treated equally.” But Kendrick Lamar’s The Blacker the Berry creates raw images of America’s institutionalized racism from both sides that make the song last in the listener’s mind as poetry.

The song begins with an interlude that seems to be from the perspective of a white slaveowner. At the end of each line, the perspective switches to that of a black person being sold into slavery.

Everything black, I don’t want black (they want us to bow) / I want everything black, I ain’t need black (down to our knees) / Some white, some black, I ain’t mean black (and pray to the God) / I want everything black (we don’t believe)

The Blacker the Berry, Interlude

Each line of the first stanza begins with a white slaveowner who wants to purchase an enslaved person — he “want(s) black” but at the same time does not — and ends with the perspective of a black person thinking the thoughts the slaveowner doesn’t want them to think. The black person knows the manipulation and unfair labor they are about to endure, but cannot speak up to the white slaveowner, who makes all the choices and holds all the power. The idea of songwriting from the perspectives of the oppressor and the oppressed, rather than from a modern-day perspective, is what makes this song vivid poetry.

Lamar’s lyrics shift through time into the first verse, when the black man is a free, independent person who thinks what he wants to think and says what he wants to say. In this verse, he seems to being prosecuted for a crime illustrated in the bridge (“six in the morn / fire in the street”).

I’m the biggest hypocrite of 2015 / Once I finish this witnesses will convey just what I mean / Been feelin’ this way since I was sixteen, came to my senses / You never liked us anyway, fuck your friendship, I meant it

The Blacker the Berry, Verse 1

Back in the present, Lamar portrays the speaker as someone who is angry at the treatment of black people throughout history. He seems to be predicting what the white man is about to say (“I’m the biggest hypocrite of 2015”). He responds by telling the white man that he has come to his senses since his youth. This heated exchange conveyed through the mind of the oppressed illustrates modern-day racial stereotypes without directly saying them.

Every song is a poem, as long as it does not preach morals by giving the listener direct thoughts from the lyricist’s mind. A song is what you make of it, but you can only make something of it if it forces you to think about the lyricist’s emotions and motive for writing the song.

This is what “The Blacker the Berry” does, and this is what makes track 13 of “To Pimp a Butterfly” pure poetry. Switching back and forth between past and present, Lamar forces the listener not to hyperfocus on present-day racial prejudice (as songs like Lil Baby’s The Bigger Picture do), but to think about the centuries-long institution that made this racial prejudice come to be.

Continuing to switch back and forth between past (“Woi, we feel a whole heap of pain, cah’ we black / And man a say they put me inna chains, cah’ we black”) and present (“You hate me, don’t you? … Muscle cars like pull ups, show you what these big wheels ’bout”), Lamar calls out white people on their generational oppression of black people, pointing to the success black men such as him have today.

Before the outro, Lamar raps his final verse with defiance, establishing pride in his culture and racism as a generational issue.

The plot is bigger than me, it’s generational hatred / It’s genocism, it’s grimy, little justification / I’m African-American, I’m African / I’m Black as the heart of a fuckin’ Aryan”

The Blacker the Berry, Verse 3

In Lamar’s last verse, he creates a call to action for the future, implementing all tenses into an issue that has defined American history.

A Fine Line of Meaning

When Harry Styles released his second studio album, most expected it to be the same type of music as his first. Slow, British rock, with a hint of pop. However, Fine Line was anything but expected. Even with how much more vibrant it was than the first album, it closed off with a 6 minute, melancholy finale, the namesake song for the album. While many of his other songs are pop-focused, “Fine Line” is a stand-alone piece of poetry. The song only has two main verses, but they are jampacked full of meaning. “Fine Line” takes a stab at analyzing the fine line between love and hate, or even more so, the fine line between entering a relationship and leaving one.

Put a price on emotion

I’m looking for something to buy

The song begins with a bold statement, making the listener wonder if there is a price on emotion, and how is it bought, even metaphorically. A reoccurring theme throughout the song, the speaker is struggling with finding the right way to go about love. This is almost a personification of a feeling, it could also be seen as a metaphor. Is love something that can be bought? And what is the cost?

My hand’s at risk, I fold

This is objectively the most meaningful line, or at least most poetic, in the whole song. To view its meaning as an allusion to gambling, like love being dealt like a hand of cards, it emphasizes the risks that come with love. To view this line as a metaphor of love, would be like saying that the second love is a risk, or a relationship is at risk for the speaker, they shut down and don’t know how to respond. This song uses lyrics as poetry to convey, or characterize, what the essence of love is and how easy it is broken.

Getting Better

Upon a first listen, the song “I Wanna Get Better” from Bleachers’ album Strange Desire can be seen merely as a catchy song to be blasted from car speakers while speeding down the highway. Upon further listening to the lyrics, however, you quickly realize that it is an emotional experience about someone battling depression merely moments away from killing themselves. The song, from the point of view of someone who is in a back and forth battle with themselves for their own life, details the extreme power depression can hold on a person and the devastating effects if that person can’t find an escape. The speaker’s deep sadness and longing are highlighted through the lines

While my friends were getting high and chasing girls down parkway lines

I was losing my mind ’cause the love, the love, the love, the love, the love

That I gave wasted on a nice face

In a blaze of fear I put a helmet on a helmet

Counting seconds through the night and got carried away

So now I’m standing on the overpass screaming at the cars,

Hey, I wanna get better!

The speaker is merely moments away from killing themselves in that instant, but they are stopped by a desire to get better. Bleachers use of rhythm illustrates the overwhelming panic and pain that the speaker was feeling and how quickly they were driven to the overpass. Although all else seems lost, they hold on to life because they have one person that inspires them to do so. The speaker then says, directly after the previous lines

I didn’t know I was lonely ’til I saw your face

I wanna get better, better, better, better,

I wanna get better

I didn’t know I was broken ’til i wanted to change

I wanna get better, better, better, better,

I wanna get better

This one person in the speakers life is the only one that gives them the motivation to keep going. Bleachers is able to demonstrate the importance of finding and keeping those people close to you for when it does seem impossible to keep going. Bleachers’ use of repetition serves multiple purposes in the song. Not only does it get stuck in your head, but it shows how the speaker is at their breaking point. Many people face depression and loss on a daily basis and sometimes it looks like there is no way out or reason to keep living. It is also often difficult to know, like the speaker, the extent to which you are feeling lost or that there is no way out until it is too late. It is only because of that one person in the speaker’s life that the speaker does actually want to get better and keep going.

Bleachers is able to detail the extent of the speaker’s sadness through use of specific words and phrases. the lines

Now I’m a stranger

And I miss the days of a life still permanent

Mourn the years before I got carried away

So now I’m staring at the interstate screaming at myself,

Bleachers use of the words ‘stranger’, ‘permanent’, and ‘mourn’ highlight the speaker’s desire to return to a consistent life that they once had. They feel alienated and alone and feel as though they have lost themselves, a feeling that many people share at some point in their lives. In addition, the shifts in time throughout the song serve not only to communicate the backstory of the speaker, but also to provide a link between what the speaker is thinking in the moment to the audience. The speaker and audience may share some of the same feelings and emotions and provide solace for the audience by showing them that they are not alone in their feelings.

Throughout the rest of the song the speaker goes through a back and forth on that overpass of whether or not they will keep living before, ultimately, the song resolves with the chorus of them deciding to keep living and get better. Through this song, Bleachers conveys an important and powerful message to the world. The song serves to remind people that there are people in the world who love you and care about you and even though sometimes it may look like there is no hope left they are there to support you in getting better.

The Toxicity of Dependence

The song “Paul” was released in 2016 as a part of Big Thief’s album Masterpiece. The song follows the speaker’s reminiscence of a previous relationship. As the narrative unfolds the sentiment of the speaker becomes more clear: healthy relationships can not flourish when one of the individuals is not healthy themselves. 

This overarching theme is established in many ways, the most notable of which is a consistent allusion to alcoholism. Throughout the song, the speaker includes mentions of drinking in a manner that suggests that her position in her former relationship was similar to that of an alcoholic. In the first verse, the speaker chastises herself, having almost “let him in ” again. While ruminating over this regret she remembers, 

“Then he pulled the bottle out, And then he showed me what love was.” 

The speaker is nodding to the idea that her and Paul’s love was similar to a bottle of alcohol – she knows havoc will ensue from indulging and yet she continues too because of an addiction. This idea come up again in lines like,

“I’ll be your real tough cookie with the whiskey breathe,”

And,

“We were just two moonshiners on the cusp of a breathe,”

And,

“I’ve been burning for you baby since the minute I left.”

All of these lines fit into the analogy of alcoholism which establishes the idea that this relationship was one of dependency and irresponsibility, rather than stability.

In addition to this analogy, the speaker uses a self effacing tone to establish her volatility in her relationship with Paul. This tone is first sparked in the chorus, 

“I’ll be the killer and the thriller and the cause of our death.”

At first, this self deprecation is taken as playful in the context of the height of their relationship, but as the song goes on and the audience is guided through the course of their love, it becomes more clear that the speaker’s instability will be their demise. The speaker goes on to except her self doubts,

“As I realized there was no one who could kiss away my shit.”

This self-hating tone is once again sparked in the final moments of their relationship,

“I couldn’t stay, I’d only bring you pain.”

Taken altogether, the speaker’s self awareness creates a tone of progressing self loathing which helps the audience understand that the reason the two ultimately couldn’t stay together was because of the speaker’s unreliability. In conjunction with the analogy about alcoholism, it is established that the speaker learned from her relationship with Paul that she will never truly be content with another before she is content with herself.

2,000 years in 9 minutes

In “Pyramids,” Frank Ocean shows how the power dynamic between Black and Europeans have shifted dramatically during Westernization through commentary from a Black male lover on a Black female lover in ancient Egypt and present day Las Vegas.

In the first part of the song, Ocean introduces “Cleopatra,” historically know as one of the most beautiful, important queens in world history. However, Cleopatra is not bathing in her lavish lifestyle. Instead, she is being chased, as there is “a thief out on the loose.” It appears that someone is trying to steal Cleopatra.

Later in the first part of the song, the speaker says, “I found you laying down with Samson and his full head of hair.” This line establishes that the speaker is a lover of Cleopatra and that he found her cheating on him. To further establish Cleopatra’s disloyalty, the speaker says, “Set the cheetah on the loose.” “Cheetah” can be heard as “cheater.” Furthermore, the line about Cleopatra cheating on her lover introduces the element of race. Samson, thought of as a white biblical figure, has stolen the queen of the black speaker. The speaker then says, “I found my black queen Cleopatra, bad dreams, Cleopatra.” To the speaker, Samson, or Europeans in general, has created nothing but “bad dreams” between him and his lover.

The next stanza, which can be identified in the song by a beat switch, mentions the speaker seeing the sun through the “motel blinds.” Instantly, we are in a modern era, 2,000 years detached from the first part of the song. To connect these two seemingly distinct parts, the speaker says, “Wake up to a girl/
For now, let’s call her Cleopatra, Cleopatra.” The speaker is still a Black lover, however, it can be inferred that Frank Ocean is the speaker himself. And similarly to the first part of the song, he loves a girl named Cleopatra.

Ocean describes this modern Cleopatra with her “lipstick,” “six-inch heels,” and “panties” to allude to the audience that Cleopatra is a stripper or sex worker. This description contrasts with the first part of the song. While Cleopatra was first the world’s most important, famous queen, her relationship with Samson, which can represent interaction with Europeans, has turned her into a low-status stripper.

To connect everything together, Ocean repeats the line, “She’s working at the pyramid tonight.” Ocean is referring to the “fake” pyramid in Las Vegas, not the real ones of Giza. This line confirms that Cleopatra is a stirpper or sex worker, but it also alludes to where Cleopatra, or black women, actually belong. Because Ocean shows a black woman working at a fake pyramid, it can be implied that he thinks she doesn’t actually belong, especially because she is still being referred to as Cleopatra. Cleopatra should be returned to her rightful pyramid where she is appreciated as a queen.

Doja Cat, A Poetic Genius

Doja Cat also known as Amala Ratna Zandile Dlamini, also known Miss Poetic Mastermind just recently released the most versatile album of 2021, Planet Her. Despite all of the songs being masterpieces, one outshines the other. “Woman,” the first track, not only does it have a positive message, it conveys it through so many literary elements. Throughout this song, Doja is able to convey how we as women need to be aware of how complex we are and stay unified because society will always try to pit us against each other.

My favorite thing about Doja Cat is her versatility, her central theme always stays more or less the same but each flow she spits out will be unique

Gotta face a lot of people of the opposite
‘Cause the world told me, “We ain’t got the common sense”

This line shows extreme significance to the message Doja is trying to convey. When she sings “the people of the opposite”, she is referring to men and then she leads into the next line saying how the world will bring down women. It’s a great use of personification seeing as the world can’t physically speak. But the use of personification goes to shows the impact the world has and what expectations they hold women to.

They wanna pit us against each other
When we succeedin’ for no reasons
They wanna see us end up like we Regina on Mean Girls

This line supports the theme as it is able to convey the significance of women being unified by using a similie. A modern one at that. This shows how women tend to be pitted against each other when we succeed. There’s this notion that there can’t be more than one woman succeeding at a time and if there is then they should be in competition. In the movie Mean Girls, The main character was at odds with Regina George – the school mean girl (and most popular) because the main character was gaining more popularity than Regina George. Regina is notorious for making girls life miserable hence the similie ” they wanna see us end up like we Regina on Mean Girls”

She give tenfold, come here, papa, plant your seed
She can grow it from her womb, a family

The use of extended metaphor here does a great job at highlighting another complexity that comes with being a woman. She compares a woman’s ability to get pregnant and the act of reproducing to a plant/flower growing. She extends this metaphor across the two lines, starting with

Papa, plant your seed

This compares the act of insemination to planting a seed, and planting a seed can also be defined as building a foundation. I think you can interpret this metphor in a numerous of types of way and that speaks a lot about her versatility.

These are a couple of examples as to why I asmire the way Doja Cat presents her music.

Cardigan

Most, if not all, of Taylor Swift’s music, is poetry. The most popular song on her Folklore album, Cardigan, is just one great example of how her lyrics incorporate poetic devices to weave a story with a deeper meaning.

Cardigan is a song about first love and first heartbreak. The passion and excitement of first love are enthralling. The innocence and the bond between the two young lovers lead to heartbreak as their relationship ended and trust was lost. This song comes from the perspective of a heartbroken young girl, who feels her first love was truly a heartbreak, although she is aware that “when you are young they assume you know nothing.”

First, Swift uses imagery to symbolize the innocence of young love.

I knew you

Dancin’ in your Levi’s

Drunk under a streetlight, I

I knew you

Hand under my sweatshirt

Baby, kiss it better

The youthful scene described here gives a vivid image of the fun, innocent love the two share. It also depicts the nature of their relationship: exciting, intimate, candid. The speaker knows her lover; she remembers every minute of their relationship. This scene perpetuates the idea that she was truly in love with him despite her age because after all these years she still looks back fondly at their memories and is able to recall the specific moments that made her fall for him.

As the song moves chronologically through the relationship, similies are used to describe the depth of emotion of the speaker caused by the betrayal of her lover.

I knew you

Leavin’ like a father

Running like water

She chooses to describe her lover as “leaving like a father,” arguably the most tragic betrayal imaginable, in order to both convey the intense emotion she felt towards him, and to draw a connection between her lover and her father, who also left. The line serves both to describe the level of heartbreak he caused her and to compare her lover to her own father, implying that from the beginning she was worried about the relationship ending in the manner it did, and has consequently lost her trust in men completely.

Taylor ends the song using metaphors to describe the impact the relationship had on her psyche.

I knew you’d haunt all of my what-ifs

The smell of smoke would hang around this long

‘Cause I knew everything when I was young

In this line, Taylor compares the lingering memory of her lover to the smell of smoke. The vivid memories that haunt her burning relationship have hung around, she still wonders what could have been if things were different. This line reveals that all along Taylor knew the outcome of her relationship would be torture, but was unable to remove herself from it.

This song represents the paradox of young love. Adults judge the naivety of teen romances, but this song argues that young people are very much aware of the pain these short-lived relationships will cause. Despite the struggles, this song defends young love as a necessary experience that teaches those in them more about themselves and helps create expectations and dealbreakers for a forever partner.

This entire song is filled with metaphors, similes, imagery, personification, and so many more poetic devices. The reason I love this song is that it achieves a highly personal, deeply relatable meaning using beautiful poetic phrases. The way she writes her music makes listening to it an experience, you have to pay attention to understand the real meaning behind it. I highly suggest everyone listen to not just “Cardigan,” but the entirety of Taylor Swift’s discography because much of her music is written in a similar manner.

A Bittersweet Love

In “A Case of You” from Joni Mitchell’s album Blue, Mitchell is explaining to her ex romantic partner that no matter what happens in their relationship, no matter how intoxicating he can be or how unhappy he makes her, she can still separate herself from him and their relationship and whatever happens she can still come out of it okay and standing on her own two feet. 

This is best demonstrated in the chorus;

Oh you’re in my blood like holy wine

You taste so bitter and so sweet

Oh I could drink a case of you darling 

Still I’d be on my feet

When describing him as “in my blood like holy wine”, she’s saying that he’s a part of her, he’s in her blood. Relating him to wine gives the sense that he can be almost intoxicating. But then she goes on to say how she could drink a case of him, continuing the simile of him being holy wine, and she’d still be standing on her feet. She knows that she won’t get swept away by him, he doesn’t have that much of an effect on her. While he’s a part of her, she can still separate herself from their relationship and be able to stand on her own if she needs to. Additionally, she describes him as both bitter and sweet. This implies that she knows that this love could be bad for her but she thinks it’s worth it. She can justify being with him because she knows if anything did happen she would be okay. 

She again shows her confidence in her ability to survive any possible conflict in the relationship in a conversation she has with his mother.

I met a woman

She had a mouth like yours

She knew your life

She knew your devils and your deeds

And she said

“Go to him, stay with him if you can

But be prepared to bleed”

This conversation between her and his mother isn’t exactly painting him in the best light. She mentions his devils and deeds and his mother warns her that she should be prepared to be hurt. These lines are immediately followed by another version of the chorus where she maintains, even after this warning, that she’ll be okay without him if she needs to be. The warning from his mother of “be prepared to bleed” clearly means she should be prepared to be hurt. However, when it’s followed with “you are in my blood” it seems to suggest that if something did happen and he did hurt her she could bleed him out and get him out of her system. Throughout the song-poem, she continues to express how she doesn’t think he can really hurt her because he doesn’t have that much of an effect on her. She again emphasizes this in these lines by saying that if something did happen she could get him out of her system and get over it.

What lies beyond the illusion of life

Disguised in recognizable electric guitar riffs, a distinctive organ solo, and catchy rock enthusiasm, Kansas’s hit 1970s rock song “Carry on Wayward Son”, written by band member Kerry Livgren and included in the album Leftoverture, is, at its core, a philosophical exploration of the purpose of life.  

Following the first chorus and instrumental riff, the narrator begins the second stanza by describing their life as full of “noise and confusion”.  They wish to escape this chaos, to “get a glimpse beyond this illusion” — which is to say, they wish to find a higher purpose to a life of pain.  Yet, they fail in their attempts to discover this higher purpose to life, revealed through an allusion to Greek mythology — specifically, the myth of the inventor Daedalus and his son Icarus.  In this myth, Daedalus fashions two pairs of wax wings to allow himself and his son to escape imprisonment; however, Icarus becomes overconfident and ignores the warnings of his father, deciding to fly higher and higher until the sun melts his wings and he falls to his death.  In alluding to this myth, it seems that Livgren implies that finding a higher purpose in life is not a simple act of will — rather, it requires anyone seeking this higher purpose to remain grounded in reality.  But, this allusion does not hint at what Livgren believes to be the higher purpose of life, only how to achieve it.  The former is the job of the chorus:

Carry on, my wayward son
There'll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don't you cry no more

Spoken to the narrator by “the voices”, the chorus is the key to understanding what Livgren implies is the higher purpose of life.  The first step in understanding the meaning of the chorus is deducing what, exactly, the narrator must be “done” with in order to have peace.  The aforementioned second stanza describes the narrator as attempting and failing to escape a chaotic life of “noise and confusion”, so we can make the relatively safe assumption that “the voices” are telling the narrator that there will be peace when he is “done” with these vain attempts to escape chaos — that is to say, “the voices” promise peace when the search for the meaning in life is abandoned, and the chaos is accepted as a part of life.  Though it seems counterintuitive at first, this philosophy is notably reminiscent of that of Meursault in The Stranger — life is unchangeable and must be accepted for what it is, without any higher purpose at all.

In the following stanza, the narrator describes themself as “Masquerading as a man with a reason” — which is to say, they are portraying themself as someone they are not, implying that after hearing the advice of “the voices”, they have accepted life as not having reason or a higher meaning, but are just not willing to publicly show this.  This hesitancy to reveal their belief is entirely understandable — after all, one of the most important features of The Stranger is the constant societal dismay towards Meursault’s nonemotional and existential mannerisms.  In order to avoid this societal dismay, the narrator goes to long lengths to hide his existentialist beliefs, even setting out in search of “winds of fortune” — that is, material profit and benefit — in order to appear to broader society as holding the belief that there is actually a purpose of life: to profit materially, a widely-shared belief in modern capitalist societies, allowing the narrator to blend in well and avoid the consternation of society.

But in the eighth stanza, we run into an issue with this entire assumption that “the voices” are offering the narrator an existentialist perspective on life.  “The voices” tell the narrator that his life is “no longer empty”, implying that he has found a purpose in life, and the following line tells the narrator that “surely heaven waits for you”, clearly establishing that “the voices” were telling the narrator from the beginning that a higher purpose of life does, in fact, exist: religion and reaching the afterlife.

But how is this reconcilable with all of the evidence that I used to argue that “the voices” were existentialist?

Well, one of the beauties of poetry is that it is open to interpretation. The interpretation that “the voices” were existentialist is entirely valid — it just likely is not the songwriter’s intended interpretation.

Going back to the chorus, in order to explain that “the voices” were existentialist, I assumed that the chorus was telling the narrator that there will be peace when he is “done” with his vain attempts to escape chaos.  But another, equally valid interpretation is that the chorus was telling the narrator that there will be peace when he is “done” living — that after a life of chaos comes an eternal afterlife of peace.  Under this interpretation, the narrator is not hiding his existentialism when he is “Masquerading as a man with a reason” or plotting “a course for winds of fortune”; instead, he seems to be resisting the advice of “the voices” to continue living life with the purpose of reaching an afterlife, and instead is only pretending to live a religious life as he continues to seek profit from material fortune — at least, until “the voices” return and tell the narrator again to trade the material for the spiritual.  And of course, the myth of Icarus teaches us that to ignore the advice of authority would be a dangerous decision.

I’d love to know — what do you all think?  Do you think Livgren intended to teach the audience that religion and reaching afterlife is the ultimate purpose of life, or that there is no ultimate purpose of life at all?  Or do you have a totally different idea of the purpose of life that Livgren and Kansas promote in “Carry On Wayward Son”?