A First Person View of Struggle

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

I know how it feels to wake up fucked up

pockets broke as hell, another rock to sell

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

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

Heard TEC got murdered in a town I never heard of

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

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

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

Dealin’ with the dope fiend binges, seein’ syringes

In the veins, hard to explain how I maintain

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

Unto you: Shared Experiences Through Art

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Much a Dollar Cost?

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

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

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

Verse 1

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

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

Verse 2

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

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

Verse 3

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

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

Verse 3

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

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

(Sittin’ On) the Dock of the Bay

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Wastin’ time

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

Reading too deep into video game soundtracks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Love Story Across Time…and Space?

“Berenstein” Lyrics

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

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

“At another place in time

You were infinitely mine

Relatively alright

When Berenstein was fine”

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

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

“You were always certain that it did exist

Imagination so intrinsic all at stake

All the things we said when we were younger

Did it bend or did I break?”

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

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

“At another place in time

Only parallel to mine

The universe was alright

When Berenstein was fine”

The song also references time stating, 

“Wait for me, wait for me there

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

Wait for me I’m still somewhere

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


“All the things we said when we were younger”

Did it bend or did I break?”

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

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

Rivers and Roads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Song That Will Never Escape Your Mind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The most poetic stanza of the song is the fifth:

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

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

The Tartness of Cherry Wine

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

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

Cherry Wine, Hozier

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

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

Cherry Wine, Hozier

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

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

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

Cherry Wine, Hozier

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

So Poetry Goes

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That’s why I write this sonnet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For your eyes only”

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

How a Mirrorball Can Change Your Life:

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

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

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

In her extended metaphor, Swift says,

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

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

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

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

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

“spinnin in my highest heels.”

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

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

Hold It Horizontal

Throughout his career, Donald Glover’s various works serve as significant critiques of societies long-lasting, or profound effects on humanity. Under the musical persona of Childish Gambino, specifically on his second major studio album Because the Internet, Glover is able to unpack the animalistic behavior stemming from the dehumanizing nature of social media and the internet. Despite sounding on the surface like a traditional 21st century hip-hop track, his song “II. Worldstar” follows the albums central character, “the boy,” losing his sense of humanity, being consumed by his obsession of the idea of temporary internet stardom, using the popular mid 2010’s social media app Worldstar to do so, hence the name of the song. Through Gambino’s metaphorical lyricism, along with interludes from his brother, Glover gives the listener a sense of the consuming nature one experiences by attempting to achieve online fame.

I’m more or less a moral-less individual
Making movies with criminals, tryin’ to get them residuals

Within the first verse, Gambino is able to establish the boy’s fall to the captivating force of the internet, detailing how his time spent trolling internet goers on previous tracks of the album has led him to being less more or less a “moral-less” person than what he once was. Furthermore, within these two lines, Glover is able to display the crude motives of the boy, emphasizing his desperation to make money by filming fights with criminals through Worldstar.

When I hear that action, I’ma be Scorsese
My nigga, hold it horizontal, man, be a professional
Damn, my nigga, be a professional, what you doing, man?

Later in the first verse, Donald inserts a metaphor between the boy and Martin Scorsese in order to emphasize the boy’s enjoyment and excitement on recording fights on Worldstar that he deems to be on par with action movies directed by Martin Scorsese. He then couples this metaphor with the interjection of his brother Steve G. Lover demanding the boy to hold the phone horizontally as to seem more professional and to capture the maximum footage of the fight possible, upping their chances at a viral video.

Let me flash on ’em, we all big brother now

Towards the end of the second verse, Gambino further emphasizes how upon exposing those in physical confrontation to a flashlight from a phone or a device, it makes the person recording a sort of omnipresent force, giving them full control of the privacy of those in the altercation, essentially making them “Big Brother.”

[Interlude: Steve G. Lover]
Yo, bro, man, check out that video I just sent you, man
This shit is hilarious, man, it’s like this kid, man, he got like sh–
He got like hit on the side of the head, man, he’s like freakin’ out
Like, heh, it’s like he think he completely lost blood and shit
Hahaha, it’s hilarious, man…

Finally, proceeding the outro of the song, Glover introduces a second interlude from his brother, detailing the comedy in a Worldstar video he saw online. This final stanza is used to emphasize the overall theme of the corruption the internet brings in regards to overall humility in reacting to the violence portrayed on social media.

So Far Gone

Time after time again, Brent Faiyaz has created music that truly feels like a dream. So Far Gone, from his album Sonder Son, stands out most though. Faiyaz writes the story of how during his teenage years, he disregarded his family and school and the effect that, that had on his family. The beginning of his song starts with the perspective of his mother:

You say you trust us
But don’t pick the phone up
Act like we mean something to you
I know you doing you
I called your brother on the land-line
He said you ain’t never got no down time
You always working so late
Hope that you safe
Your family been missing you, you come ‘gon back this way?

Faiyaz then uses a switch to his perspective to show how he understands his mother’s concerns but that he feels lost in his life. The perspective changes really help show this experience because the listeners get to hear how his teenage years truly were, not just from the mind of a high school kid.

But out here baby boy’s so far gone
Lord knows I ain’t been home in so long
Game so deep and the drinks so strong
And I don’t trust no one at all

This stanza shows Faiyaz almost responding to what his mother had said previously. The first line shows him recognizing his mother’s concerns as he is her “baby boy”. In the second and third lines, he acknowledges how he hasn’t been home in a while but that the life he has now won’t allow it. Then in the last line, he refers to her saying that he’d said he trusted them (his family) and he admits that he doesn’t trust anyone at all.

Faiyaz’s mother’s perspective is shown once again in part two of the song. This time, it’s her speaking to him, almost warning him that they don’t have much time left and that it’s up to him to reconnect with his family.

It won’t be too long
Till I’m not here to say how much you mean to me
One day
I won’t be too long
I want you to stay strong
Cause it won’t be too long

Faiyaz repeats “it won’t be too long” to reiterate his mother’s warning to him. For me, it also provided a lot of imagery because you can really picture his mom in a kind of calm desperation of just wanting to see her son while also wanting the best for him.

This one’s for my child, my child

I’ll see you in your dreams tonight

This one here for my child, my child

I’ll see you in your dreams tonight…

At the end of the song, Faiyaz leaves listeners questioning what happened next. The aspect of his mother seeing him in his dreams could be alluding to death or that Faiyaz was simply too far gone…

Brent Faiyaz always manages to create poetic music. It’s undeniable that “So Far Gone/Fast Life Bluez” could be compared to any poem if not be considered a poem itself. He used imagery, repetition, and change in perspective, similar to techniques that “normal” poets use to convey their writing. In addition, his writing style and flow throughout the song make an extreme impression. “So Far Gone” is definitely my favorite poem!

A Poets Poet

The song “Dylan Thomas” by Better Oblivion Community Center, a band comprised of singer-songwriters Pheobe Bridgers and Conor Oberst appears in the band’s self-titled and only album. Bridgers and Oberst are known to have been long-time friends and partners in the music industry and although both contributed to lyrics for this song and others on the album, this particular song was written by mainly Oberst. This song encapsulates the feeling of knowing catastrophe is coming but not being able to do anything about it. Oberst and Bridgers use the combined circumstances of existing during the Trump administration and being overcome with addiction to portray this feeling. Bridgers herself is known to reference current events and popular media in her writing and this song follows that form. The song itself has many references to the poet Dylan Thomas with the first line being,

It was quite early one morning

This is a reference to Thomas’s collection of prose titled “Quite Early One Morning”. Bridgers and Oberst use Thomas, infamously an alcoholic, to portray the idea of addiction. They write,

So sick of being honest

I’ll die like Dylan Thomas

A seizure on the barroom floor


Im strapped into a corset

Climbed into your corvette

Im thristy for another drink

These lines explain to the listener how the speaker is tired of trying to get better and would prefer to die in a similar manner to Thomas, who famously drank himself to death at 39. This furthers the feeling of doom the speaker is trying to portray in the way that they know there is no hope for the future and going out with a bang seems easier. The second section also portrays this idea, the speaker feels they are living a life that simply repeats itself over and over in a mundane way, despite knowing that disaster is coming. Similarly, Oberst and Bridgers write,

If it’s advertised we’ll try it

And buy some peace and quiet

And shut up at the silent retreat

As well as,

I’m getting used to these dizzy spells

I’m taking a shower at the Bates motel

The first section is referencing rehab, which is constantly advertised through media and the speaker seems to be going along with the idea of getting help, but in the second section, it is clear that the speaker does not wish to get help because it feels hopeless in a world in which you know the disaster is coming anyway. This is portrayed by the last line, which is another reference to popular media, in which a character from the movie “Psycho” is stabbed in the shower at the Bates motel. This is referencing the idea that the speaker is willingly going to “shower at the Bates motel” or doing something they know is going to bring on disaster because nothing seems to matter anymore. It is also clear that the speaker simply wishes to continue on with the life they live as they are “getting used to these dizzy spells” alluding to the fact that they are comfortable with their addiction and would rather continue to live with it than get help.

Along with the idea of addiction Bridgers and Oberst also use this song to make commentary on the Trump administration and the feeling of hopelessness it brought many Americans. They write,

Starved for entertainment

Four seasons, a revolving door

This is a reference to the Four Seasons landscaping company where the Trump administration held a press conference, instead of the Four Seasons resort. This along with the first line explain how the speaker is so baffled that an administration such as Trumps could be running the country, and how they feel the world is simply “starved for entertainment” as in it doesn’t seem that anyone else is as concerned with the state of the government as the speaker is. Bridgers and Oberst continue this by writing,

These talking heads keep saying

The king is only playing

A game of four dimensional chess

This section is a reference to news reporters or “talking heads” speaking about the Trump administration. The speaker is emphasizing the feeling of being controlled, knowing that there is nothing they can do about the state of the government or their addicition but they have to continue, feeling like a pawn in a chess game. The feeling of despair and fear that the speaker feels is encompassed by Oberst and Bridgers in the line,

They say you gotta fake it

At least until you make it

That ghost is just a kid in a sheet

The speaker is emphasizing how their addiction and feelings of despair play out in such a way that they feel as if they must put on a happy face. The speaker also understands that while they are suffering they know that the world is in crisis and thier fears and problems are not as important or “that ghost is just a kid in a sheet” which is also a refrence to Bridgers solo work which fetures imagry of children weaing ghost costumes.

Killing Me Softly With His Poetry

While not the original version of this song, Fugees (featuring Lauryn Hill) does a solid version of “Killing Me Softly With His Song”. While featured on their album, The Score, this song not only conveys musicality but lyricism as well through its poetic lines.

The song presents the story of a woman who has heard a lot about a musician so she goes and sees him. The musician sings a song which she feels very deeply connected to. The lines “strumming my pain with his fingers/ Singing my life with his words” use the guitar as a metaphor for her pain as she watched this boy sing. The boy’s song “tugs on her heart strings” as some like to say. This metaphor establishes a spiritual connection between the woman and the boy’s playing. It exemplifies how music can deeply affect people and songs can resonate with people differently. The lines “Killing me softly with his song/ Telling my whole life with his words” also connects to this theme. She is being “killed” by his song because she resonates with it so much that it is bringing up feelings from the past that she doesn’t want to experience again and are causing her pain. The line “I felt he found my letters and read each one out loud” enforces how even though she had never met the musician and vice versa they had experienced something similar and he had sung about it and so she feels exposed and as though he knows her internal thoughts and feelings. All of this contributes to a deeper meaning of being so touched by something that it physically hurts. Additionally, it conveys the message that art can be used to communicate things that are difficult to speak about and share stories. 

Because “Killing Me Softly With His Song” has a deeper meaning, striking lyrics, and uses literary devices, I would argue that it is poetry. However, ultimately I think that art is up for interpretation. 


“Immortal” is written by J Cole, also known as Jermaine Lamarr Cole, for his 2016 album “4 Your Eyez Only”. The song follows a 17 year old struggling to resist selling drugs. For most of the album J Cole raps from the point of view of his friend, James, who was a drug dealer. The song expresses the weight that death has from both J Cole’s friends perspective as a dealer and from his own view as an artist. The opening four lines of the song touch on the initial attractiveness of dealing drugs.

Now I was barely seventeen with a pocket full of hope
Screamin’ “dollar and a dream” with my closet lookin’ broke
And my nigga’s lookin’ clean, gettin’ caught up with that dope
Have you ever served a fiend with a pocket full of soap?

J Cole opens the song with this in order to introduce the conflict that dealing drugs creates. It can get people out of poverty, however it can also get people killed or thrown in jail. That’s why in the first line he says “pocket full of hope” referring to his pockets being full of drugs and those drugs are his hope to make it out. He continues on to say, “Screamin’ ‘dollar and a dream’ with my closet looking broke” furthering the fact that he is broke and with the drugs are going to help him fulfill his dreams because in the next line he says that his friends who are dealers are “lookin’ clean” while his closet is “looking broke”. These three line show how and why he got into dealing and the influence that his environment had on him. The song then transitions into a much darker tone and begins to talk about the trauma and death that followed him down his path with the line “have you ever served a fiend with a pocket full of soap”. This pain and trauma is illustrated in the lines

Numb the pain ’cause it’s hard for a felon
In my mind I been cryin’, know it’s wrong but I’m sellin’
Eyes wellin’ up with tears
Thinkin’ ’bout my niggas dead in the dirt
Immortalized on this shirt

He has to ignore the pain that has built up inside of him after he chose to walk the path of a dealer because he has no other option as “it’s hard for a felon” to get a job, buy a house or do much of anything. The line also refers to the police being hard on felons as earlier he says “keep watch for the cops/God they love to serve a nigga three hots and a cot” showing that he is constantly on the lookout for cops that “love” to give them time. In the end he can’t control the pain as his eyes are “wellin’ up with tears” while he’s “thinkin’ ’bout my niggas dead in the dirt”. The gravity of death is something no one is prepared to hold. He tries to keep in the tears as he says “in my mind I been cryin'” however in the next line his eyes are filled with tears as the weight of death comes crashing down on him. later in the song J Cole himself shares his attitude towards death saying

‘Cause they only feel you after you gone, or I’ve been told
And now I’m caught between bein’ heard and gettin’ old
Damn, death creepin’ in my thoughts lately
My one wish in this bitch, “Make it quick if the Lord take me”
I know nobody meant to live forever anyway

J Cole references Jay-Z many times through this son however the first line of this stanza “‘Cause they only feel you after you gone, or I’ve been told” is pulled from when Jay-Z said “They say ‘They never really miss you ‘til you dead or you gone.’”. J Cole feels that he won’t be heard and his words won’t be understood until he is dead and that is reflected in the next line when he says “And now I’m caught between bein’ heard and gettin’ old” with being heard meaning that if he dies now he will be heard and understood but if he grows old his message will be forgotten and he won’t have the impact that he desired. He then talks about how death has been on his mind recently showing the weight that it has put on him. He then wishes that if death were to come for him, that it would be quick and painless as he has seen the impact that it has on people including himself.

In the Sun: Joseph Arthur

In the Sun, by Joseph Arthur is a song created for hurricane Katrina relief efforts. I believe the song has many interpretations and means something different to everyone. Some believe the song is about depression, faith, suicide, or a breakup. Personally, I think the song combines many elements to convey the difficulty of understanding one’s own purpose in life.

The song begins:

I picture you in the sun wondering what went wrong

And falling down on your knees asking for sympathy

And being caught in between all you wish for and all you seen

And trying to find anything you can feel that you can believe in

The narrator has just broken up a relationship with someone he feels deeply about. He pictures her ‘in the sun,’ symbolizing knowledge of the world- She opened his eyes to his own self on his journey to discover himself:

Cause when you showed me myself, you know, I became someone else

It was the girl’s knowledge that allowed him to see himself and ‘become someone else’. It was at this point he understood he must accept who he truly is or become someone who he is not. To avoid the guilt of the effect his dilemma would have on the girl, he decides to continue on his own. Speaking to God, he says,

Maybe you’re not even sure

What it’s for

Anymore than me

May God’s love be with you

The narrator finds that not even God can explain the complexity of life. The line ‘May God’s love be with you’ speaks to a saying that provided him with no substance or answers.

If I find my own way

How much will I find?

The narrator began his story with the line ‘And trying to find anything you can feel that you can believe in.’ He wishes for someone or something to tell him what to feel and believe. However, in the last two lines, he ultimately questions if he will ever discover who he is. To end, he repeats the line ‘May God’s love be with you’ to suggest that he will never know.

Dear Mama: An Ode to a Black Queen 

“Dear Mama,” is a hip-hop song written and performed by Tupac Shakur in his 1995 album, “Me Against the World.” Tupac Shakur was a well-known rapper, poet, actor, and activist during the golden age of hip-hop in the 1990s. Tupac was well-versed in poetic form and social issues. His mother was a former member of the Black Panther Party, a black-power political movement in the 60s and 70s, and he learned about political history from a young age. As a teen, Tupac was part of a special performing arts program in his high school, where he studied poetry, jazz, and music and acted in Shakespearean plays. In addition to his well-known hip-hop albums, he published a collection of haikus and a book of poetry. The influence of his formal training in poetry and his political awareness is visible in the lyrics and form of “Dear Mama.” Tupac uses form, chronological organization, and imagery to construct an ode of recognition and forgiveness to his mother, who struggled as a single parent with drug addiction to raise him and his sibling. In the song, he wants his mother to know that he appreciates her and understands the struggle she went through, despite the challenges it made him face as a child.

Tupac wrote “Dear Mama” in the classic form of an ode, with strophes, anti-strophes, and an epode. A strophe is a storytelling stanza, an anti-strophe is a repeating chorus, and an epode concludes and summarizes the poem. Tupac used the following form:

  • Strophe x 4
  • Antistrophe 
  • Strophe X 4
  • Antistrophe
  • Strophe X 2
  • Epode.

The strophes generally tell stories of his childhood, while the anti-strophes offer a refrain of recognition of his mother, and the epode focuses on his reflections and forgiveness. By using the form of an ode for his song, Tupac reinforces the idea that his song is a celebration of his mother and a recognition of what she sacrificed for him.

Tupac also organizes his poem in chronological order, starting with memories of his early childhood, and ending with the present moment, to demonstrate his reflective perspective and forgiveness. At the beginning of the song, he reflects on moments when he went through a hard time. For example, he remembered when he ran from the police and his mother punished him: 

And runnin’ from the police, that’s right

Mama catch me, put a whoopin’ to my backside

Towards the end of the song, Tupac switches back to the present day, as he’s writing the song, and looks back on his memory with forgiveness, understanding the struggle she went through to raise him:

But the plan is to show you that I understand

You are appreciated

When Tupac moves from his past and present self, he creates a contrast between his childhood understanding of his experiences and his present understanding of his experiences within the larger systems of oppression in poor communities. He demonstrates a critical understanding that the fault of his mother’s behavior was not entirely individual, but due to larger social forces at play. 

Finally, Tupac uses a back-and-forth between positive and negative imagery of small childhood moments to illustrate the complex relationship he had with his mother, feeling her love, yet wishing, as a child, for more. For example, there are several negative images early on in the song, such as::

it was hell

Huggin’ on my mama from a jail cell

Later, his mental images turn more positive: 

And I could see you comin’ home after work late

You’re in the kitchen, tryin’ to fix us a hot plate

Toward the end of the song, he emphasizes his positive memories: 

And all my childhood memories

Are full of all the sweet things you did for me

These switches show a maturing attitude towards his mother, both understanding and appreciating her, through sifting through the childhood memories in his head and ending up focusing on the positive. 

Tupac uses his complex knowledge and skillset to construct a song that sends a message through both its form and its imagery. As an ode, listeners are already primed to understand this is a song of recognition. Yet, Tupac makes the song more complex by showing both the good and the bad, perhaps summed up best in his lines:

And even as a crack fiend, Mama

You always was a black queen, Mama

I finally understand

For a woman it ain’t easy tryin’ to raise a man

These contrasts between good and bad heighten the listener’s awareness of Tupac’s internal struggles with forgiveness and love for a Black Queen.

A Little too Late

The song “Let Her Go” by Passenger (Michael David Rosenberg), in the album All the Little Lights is a really fascinating song because all the lines have various types of intricate language which I never realized when listening to the song. After analyzing the lyrics, I remember parts of my life of people coming and leaving like the song suggests. Passenger creation of this song could go both ways, it is one of those songs that could work as its own poem instead of a song and nobody would know the difference. 

The overarching meaning of the song represents losing someone you really cared for and not realizing what you had or how much you really appreciate the person in your life until they are gone. This song especially focuses on the thoughts and struggles within re-memory and further reminiscing about regrets in your life. For Passenger, this song was used as a way to express the loss he felt after a loved one left him. Subsequently, he conveys that he took for granted her affection and presence and assumed she would stay no matter what. The song’s layers are so significant because each line talks about different ideas that all interconnect. Throughout the song, the motif of the sun frequently emerges as a metaphor to his regrets. 

Lyrics to “Let Her Go” Passenger – Let Her Go Lyrics – Genius

The beginning of the song starts off with this line which is repeated throughout the song as a way contribute to the overall meaning of the story and add a multidimensional meaning to each part.

“Only miss the sun when it starts to snow”

This line is an alliteration because the “s” sound is repeated at the beginning of words in the same line. The sound helps the lyrics flow better which completely enhances the meaning throughout, and expresses feelings through the words “miss” and “sun” used to convey his regrets. Similarly, the word “only” is repeated throughout half the lines to emphasize that you only relate to what the singer is describing after you have lost someone or something you love. This experience is parallel to many poems that allow you to either relate or immerse yourself in an experience or situation.

Once again, Passenger includes the word “only” in a line, that still has a completely different meaning.

“Only know you’ve been high when you’re feeling low”

This is an example of an oxymoron since people can’t feel high and low (happy and sad) at the same time. However, it enables the listener to think about the text more, and in one sense make it seem a little humorous. The contradictory terms high and low appear in conjunction with one another to reiterate the struggles he is experiencing, while still being in such a low after this breakup. 

“Only hate the roads when you’re missing home”

Passenger uses this to compare missing his home to the road, more specifically his homesickness of the person he loved and misses that made him feel so at home. Although, this part has multiple meanings, for example fighting and also comfort in a relationship. Passenger insinuates his own relationship may have been fighting and bliss.

“Only know you love her when you let her go”

Throughout the song the phrase is repeated 15 times to emphasize the idea. Passenger wanted the listener to understand that the reason the couple broke up is because the man was not trying hard enough so the woman let go. Ultimately, he lost her not because he didn’t love her at all or enough but because he loved her too much.

Overall, Passenger sings about losing a loved one and the two dimensions that comes with it: pain and heartache. Through these troubles, he utilizes strong poetic language to express the toll and affect this had on him. He mourns his actions and feeling a mix of many things but especially, what he could’ve before it was too late. This song is a way for him to release everything he had been thinking, parallel to poetry. Altogether, the meaning of this song relates to loss and remorse.