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.

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”

Or 

“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.

Crazy Man Michael

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That’s why I write this sonnet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For your eyes only”

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

Mitski’s “I Will”

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

“I will wash your hair at night

And dry it off with care

I will see your body bare

And still I will live here”

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

“And all the quiet nights you bear

Seal them up with care

No one needs to know they’re there

For I will hold them for you”

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

“And while you sleep

I’ll be scared

So by the time you wake

I’ll be brave”

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

Musical Poetry: “You’re On Your Own, Kid” by Taylor Swift

“You’re On Your Own, Kid” is the fifth track on Taylor Swift’s newest studio album, Midnights. The song offers a vivid, though somewhat intangible, tale of growing up, which is interspersed with specific anecdotes that ground the song in a truly poetic way. 

Opening the song, Swift sets the scene by singing “Summer went away/Still, the yearning stays.” This is an example of a technique Swift uses often, where she uses seasons and seasonal imagery to convey the passage of time. The idea of summer fading into fall signifies the passing of a phase in one’s life, and could be argued to allude to a summer romance mentioned in several of her other songs. In the second half of that stanza she continues: “I wait patiently/ He’s gonna notice me/ It’s okay, we’re the best of friends/ Anyway.” These lines sharpen the image of a young girl waiting for an anticipated dose of male attention, and even sacrificing her own emotional wellbeing in the interest of waiting for him to “notice her.” The tone is bittersweet as she longs for affection while simultaneously trying to grow up and realize herself. 

Later, in the second stanza, Swift continues to narrate the disproportionate emotional labor done by a teenager with a crush: “I hear it in your voice/You’re smoking with your boys/I touch my phone as if it’s your face.” This scene conjures up an image of the narrator pining over this guy, while he is unaware of her pain simply living his life without her. The simile of her touching her phone “as if it’s your face” is an especially vivid image for gen-z teenagers: when your phone is your connection to someone you care about, it can sometimes feel like it takes on a greater significance as your link to them. Taylor goes on: “I didn’t choose this town/I dream of getting out/ There’s just one you could make me stay.” This part gives the listener more detail in their mental image of the pining teenager. She has big dreams far beyond her hometown, but her feelings for this boy who doesn’t value her are still holding her back. 

Taylor continues the motif of seasons and images of growing up in the pre-chorus with the line “From sprinkler splashes to fireplace ashes.” These images show another transition from summer to winter, whereby sprinklers represent playing outside in summer and fireplaces represent winter. But at the same time, sprinkler splashes imply a certain youthfulness and fireplace ashes conjure a more mature image. Going a layer deeper, it could also be argued that a sprinkler splashing gives life and beginning while fireplace ash represents the end of something and what remains after a struggle. The repetition of this line adds a powerful meaning to the song about growing up and about the story of this girl letting go of the guy she pines for and finding her own identity. 

She begins that process of letting him go in the next verse with, “I see the great escape/So long, Daisy May/I picked the petals, he loves me not/Something different bloomed/Writing in my room/I play my songs in the parking lot/I’ll run away.” Here Swift alludes to “Daisy May,” an innocent young girl who she feels she is leaving behind in order to realize her dreams. She then references an old childhood game little girls play, where you pick leaves off a flower and with each petal say “he loves me” then, “he loves me not” for the next petal. The phrase that lands on the last petal of the flower is supposed to tell the fortune of if a crush likes you back. Swift uses this allusion here to conjure up childlike innocence

while showing that the narrator, presumably Swift herself, has learned that she can’t make this man reciprocate her feelings. She then talks about writing and performing songs, showing that she has moved on to chasing her dream of being a singer-songwriter and realizing her own goals.  

She then presumably throws herself into her career to a stressful extend, because by the next verse, after another “From sprinkler splashes to fireplace ashes” she narrates “I gave my blood, sweat, and tears for this/I hosted parties and starved my body/Like I’d be saved by a perfect kiss.” She has now poured everything she has into performing, only for it to destroy her in the process. She also comments on how she still craves male attention, to the extent of body image issues that cause her to starve herself. This sentiment is shared by many women trying to survive in an industry where their success is so often reliant on sexualization and male approval. She continues this idea in the next stanza with “The jokes weren’t funny, I took the money/My friends from home don’t know what to say” to show that she has given into some of the shadier parts of the music industry and feels like she’s lost herself in the process. 

In the bridge, however, the song has a sort of volta where Swift transitions to talking about finding joy in life that both comes from within and focuses on what is happening in the moment. She sings: “‘‘Cause there were pages turned with the bridges burned/Everything you lose is a step you take/So make the friendship bracelets/Take the moment and taste it/You’ve got no reason to be afraid.” These lines mean that everything we lose and hurt ourselves with in the process of growing up is a learning experience that shapes our future. So the only real way to get through it is to focus on each day—to “take the moment and taste it.” 

Swift closes the song with a last repetition of the chorus line and a closing statement: “You’re on your own, kid/Yeah, you can face this” This manta highlights that the maturity and self-realization she’s been narrating can only come from within, and no one else can do it for you. 

For these reasons, the emotional journey this song takes the listener through is visceral in a way only poetry can be. To classify this work as anything else would be borderline disrespectful to its beautiful lyrical message. 

L.A.

Recording artist Brent Faiyaz’s debut album Sonder Son shows the harsh reality of the inevitable loss of innocence that everyone goes through in life. The word “Sonder” is a neologism and it translates to the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own. The whole album is based on this neologism, and how we respond to it throughout times in our life. The seventh song “L.A.” speaks about a specific part of people’s lives when they move to a new big city or place and try to make it into the career they’re chasing. And what often comes with moving to a big city is learning the new environment you’re now stuck in and how to survive on your own. “L.A.” speaks in the first person from Faiyaz’s experiences of being an up-and-coming R&B singer in Los Angeles and the struggles he’s going through while also expressing how he wouldn’t give it up for anything else.

The song begins with an introduction, “City of Angles, Land of God. The City of Demons, Looking for Us(2x).” Faiyaz begins by setting the tone for the rest of the song by saying how the “City of Demons” is looking for the “City of Angels” showing how Los Angeles is composed of good and bad people. The song immediately separates people into categories already showing how different people are compared to each other. Next, he sings, “L.A., L.A., The Place of All Places. Drug use and dark faces can make or break you.” Faiyaz is explaining how even though Los Angeles is the most popular city in the world and people make it big here, you can still be brought into dark times by bad people trying to use you for your new fame. But even still, knowing the risks he chose to achieve his goal of making it big in music.

When Faiyaz later sings, “Yeah, I’m proud that I’m chasing something. ‘Cause I don’t know better than being broke, bored, and back at home.” He wants people to understand that he chose this life of nothing but drugs, violence, and money willingly all for the intoxicating feeling of chasing his music dreams. This status that Faiyaz is chasing can only be attained through hard work and dealing with the good and bad people in your life. He then sings “But oh, what a feeling (How it feels). Oh, what a thrill (You will kill). To look down from these hills. Put the life I knew behind.” Faiyaz is expressing that the life he’s chasing consists of so much excitement and thrill that people would “kill” for his position. This balance between danger and fame is exactly what Faiyaz was chasing from early on in his career. The lyrical phrase, “to look down from these hills,” is to refer how Faiyaz has made it to the top and is looking down on all the people who haven’t made it to fame yet. However, fame means a lot of people are going to come into your life and some of them will be bad. Towards the end when Faiyaz sings, “And everybody wanna know me, Just to say you own me,” he means people want to be friendly with him just to get some of his fame. Fake people in Los Angeles are coming for him to take some of his fame like leeches sucking him dry. Overall, the song expresses Faiyaz’s emotions and events going on while he pursues his career. While doing so he is learning that everyone around him lives a vastly different life with very different goals and he has to cope with this feeling of being alone because he is so different but also there is a feeling of being together because we are all so different together.

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.

The importance of Cool It Now

Cool It Now is a hit song from the 1980’s by the band New Edition. When I first listened to this I instantly knew why it was a hit song. From the catchy beat and the amazing usage of words telling a story of the lead singer Ralph and his obsession with a girl. With his friends trying to keep him in check the song creates a poetic feature of how Ralph wants to live his life.

My friends say I'm love sick 'cause I
All I keep thinking about is her in my arms
(Got to see what love is all about)
And I won't be the same until she is mine
And my friends keep telling me to

This is the speaker or Ralph speaking about how his friends think that he is in love and he doesn’t know what he is doing. But in reality he does and he is just really attracted to a girl. With the fact that he is telling himself that he wants to get with this girl really bad and that he won’t be the same without her. Which is a multidimensional aspect of the story because his physical relationship would start with a woman. While achieving the mental aspect of winning the girl he has been desiring and really wanted to get with.

Cool it now
You got to cool it now
Oh watch out
You're gonna lose control
Cool it now
You better slow it down 
Slow it down
You're gonna lose control

This section is right after the first stanza of the song which is the one above. This section is the chorus of all Ralphs friends and telling him to cool it and be cool. But also at the same time trying to get him to not fall in love because he is so young. As well as what he says later in the song as trying to control his life and what he does. It could be some type of jealousy but it is defensibly his friends just looking out for him because he is so obsessed with the girl.

Why you all coming down on me
Tryin' to tell me how my life is supposed to be 
I know you're only trying to help me out
Tryin' to show me what life is really about 
But this time I'm gonna make it on my own
So why dontcha fellaz just leave me alone
Ronnie, Bobby, Ricky and Mike
If I like the girl who cares who you like

This is towards the end of the song and it cuts back to Ralph and him explaining that he can make his own decisions. By telling his friends that he has it under control and that he wants to try to get with this girl. And he tells them that he knows they are trying to help but he has it on his own. Also naming all of them showing that he cares about this girl and doesn’t care what his friends have to say or what they like in general when it comes to the girl he wants.

Altogether, the band New Edition makes an amazing song that is definitely a poem through the powerful messages and the way it was created with the diction together and really gives us an understanding of a young life and being able to cool it.

Significance of “Sign of the Times”

Harry Styles’ first ever released album, Harry Styles, includes his poetically genius song “Sign of the Times” as the second track. His debut album explores his mix of angst, frustration, and wonder about the future after his band separated and he became a solo artist. This album was released in 2017, but he released “Sign of the Times” earlier as a debut solo, and to this day, he sings it at every concert even after releasing two other albums.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, he revealed that the song was about the fundamentals of life, such as struggles of equality, race, and rights in our world, and is written from the point of view as if a mother was giving birth, and although the child would be fine, she was not going to make it. Through the song, Styles touches on his belief that it is not the first time the world has been through a hard time, and it is not going to be the last. In his lyrics, he uses the story of the mother being told she will die, but her child will survive to show that the mother is aware and saddened that her child is being born into a troubled world, but that they will meet again. This song is about the mother using her last breaths to tell her child to go forth and conquer, in her last five minutes of living.

“Just stop your crying, it’s a sign of the times”

In this opening line, we can assume that the baby comes out crying, therefore symbolizing the message that the child knows he or she was born into a troubled world, and the mother is affirming this to the child. The “sign of the times” are the troubling events that are occurring in the world, which shows Harry’s frustration with the state of the world and that it is a sinister place. The mother telling the baby to stop crying is a symbol of reassurance, that bad things happen in the world, but it will all be fine.

“Why are we always stuck and running from/The bullets?/The bullets”

These lines seem to show the mother talking to herself, questioning why the world is the way it is. Styles also is getting at the idea that we have overcome hard times before, and that we just have to push through them, like the child needs to push past this moment with the mother, and how we cannot be afraid of the world nor try to escape what is happening. The significance of the repetition of the bullets throughout the song shows that there is always something wrong occurring in the world, and it can metaphorically be seen as the things that come into our lives that we cannot stop from happening, like the mother finding out she will die after the birth. The bullets themselves can also be interpreted to represent the hardships of the world, so Styles uses that to convey the mother’s concern for the world she birthed her child into.

“Remember everything will be alright/We can meet again somehwere/Somewhere far away from here”

These lines are introduced in the middle of the song, and the mother is telling the baby that it is only the end for now and that they will meet again. It can also be inferred that Styles is making a reference to his ex-band here (what most of his fans like to think), meaning that they will meet again sometime in the future. However, his clever use of anadiplosis in these lines causes the listener to focus on where the mother and baby will meet and be able to be happy together.

All in all, the Harry Styles fandom seems to have many different interpretations of this song, such as his love for an old band member of his, but the song has much more meaning. Styles himself said it was the song with the most personal lyrics to him and his feelings about the inequality in our world.

Wish You Were Here: A Conversation With Your Former-Self

The namesake of Pink Floyd’s ninth studio album, “Wish You Were Here” is one of five songs on the English rock band’s concept album released in September, 1975. Wish You Were Here was the first album released by Pink Floyd following lead guitarist Syd Barrett’s departure as a result of mental health and drug abuse problems. In response to Barrett’s leave, band-members and songwriters Roger Waters and David Gilmour dedicated their next album to him, with heartfelt slow-burns such as “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” reminiscing over the camaraderie that was lost amidst Barrett’s absence. While the song “Wish You Were Here” may have been written an ode to Syd Barrett, over the years the lyrics have merited a more universal interpretation of it as a documentation of the loss of innocence and the changing outlook on the world as one ages.

So, so you think you can tell
Heaven from hell?
Blue skies from pain?
Can you tell a green field
From a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?

In the first stanza of the song, the speaker ponders on one’s ability to distinguish between juxtaposing ideas, such as heaven and hell or blue skies and pain. The juxtaposing words have positive and and negative connotations; heaven, blue skies, green fields, and smiles are all associated with happiness and hopefulness, whereas hell, pain, cold steel rails, and veils are more representative of uncertainty, punishment, and disappointment. The speaker employs these juxtaposing ideas in order to show that to some people, these ideas are not so back and white. Especially as children, many have naive outlooks on the world, blurring the lines between things that are considered good and bad. Even into adulthood some people choose to remain ignorant in difficult situations, rather than have their hopeful outlook on the world shattered. It would seem that the speaker is addressing their past self through reflection and reconsideration of what they had once falsely thought to be “heaven” or “blue skies”.

Did they get you to trade
Your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
Did you exchange
A walk-on part in the war
For a leading role in a cage?

In the second stanza, the speaker shifts from asking questions about distinguishing between emotions to pondering over the loss of innocence over time. Continuing the theme of juxtaposing ideas, the speaker compares soothing, warm thoughts with cold, uncomfortable ones. The loss of innocence is often associated with a changing, increasingly negative outlook on the world. The line “Your heroes for ghosts” is an example of the loss of innocence through the idealization of things as children which transitions to pragmatism and acceptance of reality when one gets older. Heroes, in this case, are symbolic of the glorified and magnificent world seen by children, whereas the ghosts are symbolic of these dreams crushed by reality. Change is also an effect of the loss of innocence. To have to trade “cold comfort for change” is often a result of growing older, since as age increases the weight of responsibility does as well. To continue the theme of loss of innocence, the line “A walk-on part in the war/ For a leading role in a cage” represents the shift from the glamorized idea of hardship as a young person to the suffocating reality of it as an older person. Through this stanza, the speaker expresses the loss of innocence as a result of trading realism for romanticism. 

How I wish, how I wish you were here
We’re just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl
Year after year
Running over the same old ground
What have we found?
The same old fears
Wish you were here

In the final stanza of the song, the speaker reveals their gradual understanding of the ways of the world. While the speaker used to view the word as gloriously full of opportunity, they have reached a point in which they’ve found that life is merely tedious, confining, and repetitive. By using metaphors comparing the speaker and the audience to lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, the speaker connotes the idea that human beings are trapped by the degrading nature of life. Despite changing and aging, the speaker finds them-self confined to the same situation as they had before. In the final line, “Wish you were here” the speaker expresses their desire for their past self to return so that they can regain a little bit of the innocence that they have lost.

In effect, “Wish You Were Here” takes the listener not only on a journey into the speaker’s loss of innocence, but also forces the listener to reflect over their own outlook on life. This song dispels any romantic idea of life, causing the listener to reconsider their own heroes, blue skies, and cold comfort.

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. 

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.

Silhouettes

The song “Silhouette” comes from Aquilo’s album Silhouettes, it’s the namesake song of the album piecing together the story of the artists’ beginnings being told. Though Aquilo put out different EPs prior reflecting the same style, Silhouettes was the debut album of the band released in 2017. Silhouette is the opening track of the album portraying life as different memories and old identities compiling into one experience. When listening to the song the confusion and loss of being unable to really know what their life has been or will become is evident while still hoping everything will turn out alright.

I can remember being nothin' but fearless and young
We've become echoes, but echoes, they fade away

These opening lyrics to the song show the reflection on past relationships and memories, the “echos” mentioned representing the wanting to hold onto who they were and what they had while the “fading” represents the knowing of not being able to hold onto everything once possessed as the artists grow in their careers.

(I heard you say)
The devil's on your shoulder, strangers in your head
As if you don't remember, as if you can forget
It's only been a moment
It's only been a lifetime
But tonight you're a stranger
Some silhouette

The chorus explains the change others have seen in the pair and also the things they knew becoming distant. The feeling of becoming unrecognizable to people they once knew and unrecognizable to even themselves is heavy, leaving behind things familiar. These “silhouettes” they mention represent the haunting of these memories and the people they once were remaining to be seen, not being completely gone, while still being unsure of who they are now. They explain how different lived experiences shouldn’t be that easy to forget because in the moment they felt like lifetimes. However, the notion of something having the ability to be a moment and a lifetime in one reveals that the things you know will always fade even when wanting to keep those moments.

Just hold me
Just hold me

The repetition of these lines four times in the bridge encompass the desperation of wanting the ability to have specific moments last forever before going back into the reality, that is the chorus, mentioned before.

Let's go out in flames so everyone knows who we are
'Cause these city walls never knew that we'd make it this far -- 
So let's dance like two shadows, burning out a glory day

This part hints to the doubts they unquestionably faced and their decisions to leave and prove to others and themselves that they could make it. Though this highlights the real feeling of loss of self and the lives they’d known, they know the journey they’re on will prove to be something great. Throughout the song the battle with letting go and accepting is seen but in the end we see the beginning of them knowing what they had have in fact become things that at one point they’d known, becoming silhouettes.

Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve: Is Taylor Swift Overrated or Overhated?

Taylor Swift is one of this generation’s most widely recognized musical artists. She has had many hit singles, albums, and even broken records she has set herself. However, with her widespread popularity, some people do not connect with her music and will vocalize their opinion any chance they get. But no matter how a person may feel about her music, there is one thing that everyone should agree on: Taylor Swift is a lyrical genius.

“Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve” is a bonus track on Taylor Swift’s Midnights (3am Edition). The whole Midnights album consists of songs she wrote during her sleepless nights. This track is about her ex-boyfriend John Mayer, who she dated when she was nineteen and he was thirty-two. In this song, now thirty-two herself, she reflects on her relationship with him and why it was so problematic and wrong.

If I was some paint, did it splatter
On a promising grown man?
And if I was a child, did it matter
If you got to wash your hands?

In the opening lines of the songs, Swift is already addressing the fact that this relationship has defined both of their careers. She compares herself to paint, almost creating the idea that her speaking out about her relationship with Mayer “smeared” his career and her own. Despite all of her accomplishments, her previous relationship is always dragged into the conversation. She also points out that he was the “grown man” in the relationship and calls herself a “child.” This further pushes the point that he had all the power in the relationship and would get to control the narrative of how others viewed it while she, “the child,” would be seen as immature and foolish no matter how it ended. Mayer could “wash his hands” of the relationship, ultimately taking no responsibility for what happened during it and how it ended. However, Swift combats his behavior by saying that since she was a child when this happened, can he truly be able to “wash his hands” of it? Lastly, by including that Mayer is a “promising grown man” implies that he still has not lived up to the expectations the world has set for him and has not done anything truly striking. He is, most likely, widely known for this horrible relationship.

I would’ve stayed on my knees

And I damn sure never would’ve danced with the devil

At nineteen

And the God’s honest truth is that the pain was heaven

Before her relationship with him, Swift was religious and was very connected to her ideals. She illustrates that if she had never met Mayer and started a relationship with him, she would have stayed on the path of religion. She would have been connected to a much simpler and less painful life. However, since she was nineteen and didn’t know any better, the pain that she felt in this relationship was something that was seen as excusable. She wanted his validation and didn’t understand that the way he was treating her was horrible and damaging.

God rest my soul, I miss who I used to be

The tomb won’t close, stained glass windows in my mind

Stained glass windows are often used to depict Catholic and Christian stories. By stating that they still linger in her head, one can assume that she remembers brief memories of her previous life. However, they are shattered and will remain memories, nothing more. Swift mentions that she issues her old ideals and life. However, her relationship is something she wishes she could do away with. However, it won’t go away. No matter how many songs she writes expressing her feelings about the situation, this will be something that will always linger and haunt her. 

If clarity’s in death, then why won’t this die?

Years of tearing down our banners, you and I

Living for the thrill of hitting you where it hurts

Give me back my girlhood, it was mine first

When her relationship ended, she expected to fully understand the damage and trauma she was left with. However, years later, she still has questions and is confused about the whole thing. They have both said horrible things about each other and have denounced each other in hopes of distancing themselves from the relationship. However, they are still connected in some way. By denouncing his character to the public, Swift is able to find some comfort in the situation. However, this will never change the fact that because her relationship was so toxic, she had to grow up fast, effectively ruining her childhood. The last line is her pleading and begging to have her girlhood back because it may bring some clarity to this situation. 

All in all, this song is a reflection of an extremely toxic relationship that has left Swift with over a decade of trauma and sleepless nights. Her artistic language fully encapsulates this idea and really stresses to the listener how damaging a relationship with an older person can be. While people may only know Swift’s upbeat and carefree songs, they shouldn’t denounce her character or her music. She has proved time and time again that she can create brilliant songs, storylines, and carefully crafted music videos. So, if you view her music as overrated, simple, or boring, I advise you to get a new opinion. 

Touch

Daft Punk’s Grammy winning album Random Access Memories is the duo’s seventh and final album and features the song Touch featuring Paul Williams. The song was used in a video announcing the duo’s split in 2021, and has since become associated with the end of Daft Punk. This is fitting as the song’s lyrics and themes have to do with memories and the loss of better times. Similar to their previous songs such as Human After All, Touch is a song about a robot capable of feeling human emotions. This robot, who’s experience is displayed via the lyrics sung by Paul Williams, illustrate a deep sense of longing the robot feels for these emotions. The lyrics begin with the robot saying:

Touch, I remember touch.

Pictures came with touch.

A painter in my mind,

Tell me what you see.

This opening establishes the robot’s memories of the feelings of touch that he’s felt. Lines like “a painter in my mind” establishes their disconnect from the feeling. Instead of being their own experiences, they are pictures created by another person in their mind. The song continues with the lines:

A tourist in a dream,

A visitor it seems.

A half forgotten song,

Where do I belong?

The robot has been disconnected from his own feelings so long that he feels like “a tourist” or a “visitor” as he remembers his own feelings. Because of how disconnected they are, they are disoriented, confused, and have no true understanding of who they are, asking themself, “Where do I belong?”. They further question their own identity as they say:

Tell me what you see,

I need something more.

Kiss, suddenly alive.

Happiness arrive.

Hunger like a storm,

How do I begin?

As the robot begins to question their own experiences and further explore their memories of touch, the music becomes more upbeat as the robot feels “suddenly alive” as they re-experience their past feelings. They feel an intense “hunger” for more feelings, asking themself, “How do I begin?”. As they further explore their memories, the robot says,

Touch where do you lead?

I need something more.

Tell me what you see,

I need something more.

The robot wants to find out where these feelings will lead them, and as they further explore their own memories, they repeat “I need something more”. With this, the music kicks into an upbeat composition as the robot experiences the joy of feeling these newfound emotions and memories. Then, as quickly as it sped up, the music slows down. The music builds into a bridge that slowly gets happier and happier as the following phrase is repeated by first Daft Punk’s robotic vocals and then a choir:

Hold on, if love is the answer you’re home.

Hold on, if love is the answer you’re home.

The robot, having found a greater understanding of themselves, finally feels like they are home. They now understand what it is they’ve been searching for, and the uplifting music displays this. Eventually, as the chorus reaches its highest point, the vocals and music are abruptly cut off, leaving a few seconds of silence. This silence is interrupted by the robot’s returning vocals, stating:

Touch. Sweet touch,

You’ve given me too much to feel.

Sweet touch,

You’ve almost convinced me I’m real.

For whatever reason, the robot has now been cut off from their feelings of touch. They have been left once again without their feelings of touch, but now with the memories of what once was, and the sadness as they wish to return to those times. This brief understanding of their feelings has left a hole in the robot, who says “You’ve given me too much to feel”. The robot is so apathetic now that they no longer believe themselves to be worthy of human feelings anymore, saying, “You’ve almost convinced me I’m real”. Now knowing what feelings and emotions feel like but left without any way to experience them any more, the robot only says:

I need something more,

I need something more.

Ending with a low piano note on the final “more”, the song leaves with a feeling of longing and sadness, replicating the longing the robot feels for the emotions and feelings humans go through, and their despair as they realize they are unable to. This song has recently become associated with Daft Punk’s split, which is fitting considering it’s themes. As time advances, we will be left with only memories of past experiences and feelings, and we will only be able to wish for more time, for something more.

Moving on

“Come Back to Earth” is a solid opening for “Swimming” a 13-track album by Mac Miller. While I thoroughly enjoy the album, none of the remaining 12 tracks compare to the rawness and vulnerability conveyed throughout this song. The song starts out strong and provides a refreshing contrast to songs found on prior albums “GO:OD AM” and the “Divine Feminine” which articulates the lust and lavishness of life. The speaker in this piece is the writer himself, however, I do believe that it’s subjective to how you interpret the piece and how/if you relate to it.

The melancholy tone of the song remains stagnant, and when analyzing and listening to the lyrics it served as an aid in understanding the meaning of the piece as a whole. I went back and forth with myself unable to come to a conclusion until finally, I settled upon the speaker not only conveying their want to find peace of mind, but also the struggle that came with it as it caused them to have to accept and move on from the past.

The song opens and closes with statements that I assume many can relate to:

My regrets look just like texts I shouldn’t send
And I got neighbors, they’re more like strangers
We could be friends
I just need a way out
Of my head
I’ll do anything for a way out
Of my head

The syntax of the lyrics while fairly simple conveys an idea that I feel is extremely relatable. That idea being that: Regrets are all consuming they take your choices and make you question the validity of what you’ve done and open the gates for self doubt to set it. Miller comparing regrets to unsent texts articulates how when you have/haven’t done something you know you should/shouldn’t have done (much like texts you want to send but are afraid to) the unknown and the what if’s consume you and leave you unsettled making it harder to move on from the past. Furthermore, Miller’s depiction of neighbors signifies how you can be surrounded by people and still feel alone and out of place. Both constantly causing turmoil as they can lead one to overthink and produce unwanted thoughts they can’t stop.

Miller goes on to speak about the feeling of temporary relief:

And I was drownin’, but now I’m swimmin’
Through stressful waters to relief

The two lines are what I woulds say are the most powerful words sung in this piece. I think they metaphorically represent calm before the storm, the temporary moments of feeling free; like you can finally move on before spiraling and giving into temptation/unwanted thoughts. I overall felt these lines resonated with me the most.

Prior to reiterating the first verse while the tone remains melancholy Miller continues to express his anxiety and internal struggles:

Grey skies are driftin’, not livin’ forever
They told me it only gets better

I think by personifying the sky Miller’s vulnerable state is being articulated as it shows a raw view of how he’s struggling to organize and understand his thoughts. All of which I feel ultimately ties back to wanting to accept the past and use it to move on and grow and the simultaneous struggle there is to find peace with the past.

Music Poetry: A Defence of Song 33

I saw a demon on my shoulder, it's lookin' like patriarchy
Like scrubbin' blood off the ceiling and bleachin' another carpet
How my house get haunted?

Within the first lines that Noname sings in her 1-minute and 9-second single titled Song 33, released in June of 2020, it is clear that the upcoming song will be nothing short of a masterpiece. Song 33 was written and released during the peak of the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests centered around the police murder of George Floyd. The main topic covered within this song, however, is the disproportionately common and infrequently-covered murders and disappearances of women of color, more specifically black women who, while being 13 percent of the female population, accounted for 35 percent of all missing women in 2020.

Within these first 3 lines, Noname has already constructed a full image of the message she is trying to send within her art. She begins by describing the patriarchy, the system that upholds the racial and gender inequalities that cause and maintain both this lack of coverage and increased disappearance rate, as a demon on her shoulder, an evil force constantly influencing her and other people’s actions, while being impossible to get away from. Next, she references cleaning up a murder scene and acting like said murder never happened, much like how society tries to cover up and ignore these missing black women, assisting in the crime through inaction.

Why Toyin body don't embody all the life she wanted? A baby, just 19 
… 

One girl missin', another one go missin' One girl missin', another

Noname continues this theme throughout the rest of the first verse by mentioning the murder of Oluwatoyin Salau, a Black Lives Matter activist from Tallahassee, Florida, who, at the age of 19, was found dead one week after being reported missing. Just hours earlier she had Tweeted about a sexual assault she had endured. Her story got relatively little coverage and Noname is pointing out an abundance of stories like Oluwatoyin’s. Then, in the closest thing to a chorus within the song, Noname repeats, “one girl missin’, another one go missin’”. This use of anaphora, both in the line itself and in its repetition between every verse, works to both make the line stick out and stay with the reader and also creates a parallel with the way how society treats these women, not as people with lives, but as inconsequential losses.

But n****s in the back, quiet as a church mouse
…
It's time to go to work, wow, look at him go
He really 'bout to write about me when the world is in smokes?
When it's people in trees?
When George was beggin' for his mother, saying he couldn't breathe
You thought to write about me?

After the anaphoric chorus, Noname proceeds to call out the silence she has noticed from other artists, comparing them to a church mouse, a clever simile using two words strongly associated with quiet while simultaneously sending the message that if just one starts making noise about this issue, or squeaking, it will, because it is surrounded by silence, be heard by many. She then digs deeper, further examining the tendency rappers around her have of writing about each other rather than about issues within society. It could also be argued that Noname is speaking about the media, of reporters writing about celebrities and media personalities while glossing over the actual problems that people around the world are affected by.

After another chorus of repetition of “one girl missin’, another one go missin’”, Noname continues,

Yo, but little did I know, all my readin' would be a bother
It's trans women bein' murdered, and this is all he can offer?

And this the new world order
We democratizin' Amazon, we burn down borders

Here, in the last verse, Noname partially expands her focus, bringing up the murders of trans women, in this context, she is clearly focusing on black trans women, who are even more disproportionately likely to go missing or be murdered. She then transitions off of focusing on the present and shares her idea of a better future. Clearly, she believes that the only way to stop this issue- to get the demon off her shoulder- is to rebuild the system in which we live. She speaks about how we are “democratizing Amazon”, both a reference to growing support and numbers of unions within large corporations like Amazon and the idea of giving more power to the workers of a company. Proceeding this, she mentions burning down borders. This could be taken in multiple ways, either abolishing the physical borders between countries for a freer world or abolishing the metaphorical borders that separate people into groups- gender, race, class, sexuality, etc.

Song 33 is not only a great song but a deep, complicated piece of poetry. In the chapter “What is Poetry?” within the book Perrine’s Sound + Sense: An Introduction to Poetry, by Laurence Perrine, he defines poetry as “a kind of language that says more and says it more intensely than does ordinary language.” Simply, poetry is an art that translates a complicated thought and/or feeling into a shorter but no less complicated or emotionally intelligent volume of language. If Song 33 does not match this definition I do not know what does. Within only 1 minute and 9 seconds and a total of 3 distinct verses of 7-8 lines, Noname is able to distill not only powerful messages surrounding current societal issues but her own picture of a better, more equal world into a truly moving song.

A Dance with the Devil

“Its Called: Freefall,” a song by Rainbow Kitten Surprise, is apart of an album entitled: How to: Friend, Love, Freefall. While I thoroughly enjoy the rest of the album, along with numerous other songs by RKS, nothing quite compares to “Its Called: Freefall.” The speaker is at his rock bottom, facing mental health issues, presumably depression and from his encounters with the devil, possibly suicidal thoughts. The entire song is revolutionary and each line adds a greater depth to the meaning.

While I have gone back and forth about the meaning of this song, I settled on the speaker searching anywhere for comfort or acceptance in a sea of internal struggles. For starters, the song opens up with a greeting from the devil,

Called to the Devil and the Devil did come
I said to the Devil, “Devil, do you like drums?
Do you like cigarettes, dominoes, rum?”
He said, “Only sundown, Sundays, Christmas”

To me, any interaction with the devil insinuates a type of desperation. When people are known to make a “deal with the devil,” it is almost always because they feel they have no other choice. I find this to be true within “Its Called: Freefall.” Furthermore, within verse two, the speaker reveals the apparent root of the struggles. His friends are subpar, despite being a great friend to them. However, with his complaining comes the devil yelling at him. Within this fight, the devil uses a compelling metaphor,

Don’t get me ventin’ on friends who resent you
‘Cause all you’ve ever done is been a noose to hang on to

While this is not the reason for my possible suspicion of suicidal thoughts, these lyrics do help reinforce it. It is because the devil compares him to a noose that the severity of his situation is revealed. He is at his lowest and as the devil acknowledges his claims of bad friends, his reason for his feelings becomes apparent.

The pre-chorus and the chorus then solidify this idea of acceptance.

You could let it all go
You could let it all go
It’s called “freefall”
It’s called “freefall”

Originally, I was torn between the meaning of the chorus. However, the meaning I pondered was the choice of suicide. The devil is known to rule things of that nature and it would make sense for his to urge such an action. For this man to kill himself, the devil would gain another man in hell, ultimately supporting his goal. The devil tells the speaker he could get rid of his despair and “let it all go,” inevitably finding peace through suicide. Furthermore, by repeating these phrases numerous times, like a demonic chant, it adds to the convincing aura of the song. The entire song is a conversation between the devil and the speaker. Another line I think solidifies my interpretation follows,

Called to the Devil and the Devil said, “Quit
Can’t be bothered, better handle y’all shit

Keep about your wits, man, keep about your wits
Know yourself and who you came in with

This is the first place the devil dismisses the speaker. Originally, the devil kept pushing the chorus, trying to get the speaker to join him in hell. By repeating with “you could let it all go,” makes it the speaker’s only option. It is because the devil repeats this phrase almost every other verse that the desperation becomes apparent. For the speaker to go back to the devil, time after time, even though he gets the same answer consistently, shows just how lost he is. Finally follows one of the last verses in the song,

Called to the Devil and the Devil said, “Hey
Why you been callin’ this late?
It’s like 2 AM and the bars all close at 10 in Hell
That’s a rule I made

This verse, by far, is my favorite line in music history. Despite the fact that I can clearly imagine this conversation and the characters within it, it powerfully adds to the desperation of the speaker and the tone of the song. I think for a lot of people, desperation and dark feelings occur at night. And for the speaker to call on the devil at 2AM, almost like a friend, it shows how difficult of a headspace the speaker must be in. However, by the devil saying “that’s a rule I made,” I think the speaker is brought back to reality. I think he almost views the devil as a friend, presumably because his current friends taught him nothing but heartache, so the speaker is looking in all the wrong places. However, when the devil concretely displays his power, like his ability to create things, the speaker resurfaces and the song ends.

Overall, I think despite the devil’s numerous chants, the speaker does not want to kill himself. If he wanted to, he would have chosen that option the first time the devil offered it. However, I do not think the speaker has a better of a person to turn to, hence his multiple conversations with the devil. Yet, he did not give into the temptations of the devil and realizes his wrong turn at the end of the song.

In my opinion, this song is the definition of a poem. By each line having multiple interpretations and meanings, it follows the same structure of poems we have read in class. This song is my favorite and I think the depth it alludes to really cements its standing as my #1.

Baby Keem: 16

In 2021, rap artist Baby Keem released his world renowned album The Melodic Blue. The song 16 was featured on the album and quickly became a hot track within the hip-hop community. 16 generated tons of buzz because of its unique way of portraying Keem’s ideals about life and his perspective on mentorship. He offers parental-like advice in a creative and nonjudgmental way – something most of his supports presumably demand.

16 offers an opportunity for one to forgive and forget, while leaving the past behind. The song depicts an individual who has broken the trust of his friends and family, but comes to realize that he can regain their trust by apologizing for his wrongdoing. As the song transitions, we gain a new perspective of the speaker, one that is harnesses the ability to realize that the mistrust experienced by both parties is not very serious from the gecko. This song demonstrates a clear theme that: a person must apologize to regain the trust of their loved one, but in hindsight, our struggles and difficulties are never really that crucial, and life continues to move on. The multidimensional lyrics reiterate this notion.

Drown yourself in expensive fabrics

This quote serves as the first time that Keem offers context into his coping mechanisms for his struggles. He sheds light on the broken friendship with his mother and girlfriend. These coping mechanisms provide the audience with reasoning for as to why Keem first struggle to apologize for his wrongdoings. Instead of apologizing, Keem indulges in luxury goods and material objects. This insight further enhances the meaning of the song and reemphasizes the importance of apologizing. This line correlates to the struggles of initiating an apology to someone you may have hurt, and how at times, our minds can be consumed with distractors.

What’s love? I guess I’ll never understand

In the quoted line, the listener, for the first time, hears Keems acknowledgement of his wrongdoings. This point in the song marks the transition from the denial period to acceptance, in this cast, wrongdoing and moving towards apology. Keem is able to take a look in the mirror and realize that his struggles with his girlfriend are beyond himself. In order to gain her trust, he must acknowledge what he has done wrong. Additionally, this quote builds on the theme of coming to realize that things are truly never that serious and life continues to flow.

Every time I say sorry, I do that shit again

Keem chooses to end the song with this necessary and powerful line. This quote incapsulates the multiple messages of the song, from the importance of apologizing to the significance of messing up again. Furthermore, this end line magnifies the meaning of the song by reinforcing the importance of apologizing, but also realizing that trust might be broken again. Realizing that life continues to move on even with our struggles, goes hand in hand with understanding that wrongdoing *might* occur again.