“Dun, dun, dun. I hear the beat in my head, dancing alongside the tapping of my foot. A combination of eight notes creating every single piece of music. The joy while listening almost makes me forget I have work to do. Yet, it allows me to concentrate on my task and keep my spirits high.
A void for the silence accompanying me to the end of my essay, it’s yelling in my ears to keep going. I had heard motivation from what felt like every singer on Spotify, and after the third time through my playlist, ‘I’m done!’ Until tomorrow…”
Music, a universal language, is seen in every religion, from the most desolate places on earth to our galaxy’s outermost parts: 23 billion km away on the Voyager 1. Music is constant. It has brought generations together and has been a catalyst in shaping ideas and influencing people. Music represents us, often tending to reflect a massive areas of our life.
Why do we like music, and what makes us connect with it? Selecting five different songs to analyze, we needed to answer, “how can we use music to represent ourselves and text?” At face value picking any five pieces and analyzing them seems simple enough. You can choose any song in the world that describes any emotion you could feel — but how can you possibly pick. That feeling is defined as the paradox of choice where more choice ultimately leaves us with less choice. I would eventually choose five songs (shown in the playlist below) for their depth of literary devices and connection to my life.
Literary devices are everywhere; you just have to know where to find them. Take “The street lamp sang like sopranos,” for instance. The poem is riddled with devices that are often overlooked. It contains a simile highlighted by alliteration, creating an image for the reader that is hard to ignore. Learning 42 Literary devices, we had a large selection to choose and write about.
I can’t lose — it’s the title of the song, and at face value, it might seem arrogant, but the tone and addition of the word “again” completely change the meaning. Instead of being a statement, it’s a plea, a symbol for helplessness. “I can’t lose, I get too invested in it” (2:40-2:42) signifies the effort strained to the breaking point, and if it happens again, this might be the end. When you get knocked down, you get back up again. The second time, you know how to get back twice as fast. But the third time is where people fall. There is always a time that you will do the last of something, so “don’t slip” (0:35-0:36). Don’t let it get away from you. Everyone has regret, and often it takes two big mistakes before you start realizing what people were saying about life was true.
Life ultimately is brutally unfair; however, complaining will do nothing. The song empathizes with grief. There’s anguish in his voice, but he is relieved by the storytelling through music — a therapeutic outlet. This song is a coping mechanism for Erick as much as it is a lesson for the struggles of life. Connecting his ‘hazardous and precarious existence,’ his music is a ‘vessel for dignity and empathy.’ It allows him to reflect and create music according to the person he thinks he is. Repetition throughout the song follows the story highlighted by the two phrases “I’m so sorry” (0:00-0:01) and “I can’t lose” (0:16-0:17) used in different contexts. It captures his emotions through loss and creates an image. This story progresses, and in the second verse, he hopes to better himself with goals regarding his past.
Many of the most popular songs promote fantasy and forgetting reality; Erick is valiant and transparent with his audience. It’s a tribute to the reality we live in, and he hopes to change that. The music tackles loss, standards, and money, shedding light on these grey areas we are not proud to share with the public. There’s pressure to have next-level content, leading to imposter syndrome and a lack of personal growth. It’s an uncommon outlook, but it’s an outlook that’s necessary. Erick wants to change the world, and it’s through the music which makes it possible. He chose his diction carefully to portray a message that enhances his beliefs and shares his struggles.
This song shows me that not everything has to go perfectly and to learn from your mistakes so it doesn’t happen again. However, if you keep failing something and you aren’t enjoying it, giving up wont be frowned upon if you put your full effort into it. The song is talking to you. It’s a lesson and homage to problems everyone can relate to. So take this into account because the third time, you might not get back up.
Tone and dynamics provide another layer of complexity of analysis. My reflection on I can’t lose emphasized the tone and the addition of the word “again” to portray an entirely new message. I focused on a general outlook outside of the song, and it means to Erick. It was hindered by my lack of personal connection and neglected to show how text represents us. Being the first analysis and receiving feedback provided valuable in all of the songs to come.
Pride. The drug of emotions, killer of many, and one of the seven deadly sins. It’s the excessive belief in one’s abilities or achievements, but too much can often have adverse effects. Good in moderation, helping with motivation and growth, often creates a sense of immunity and superiority. Pride, characterized as ‘the devil,’ embodies a moral belief that it should not be played with. Personifying the concept of the devil trying to hold him down, J. Cole is terrified and paranoid of falling back into the void.
In life, we are constantly exposed to the influencers and celebrities bragging about their riches and life. It then spreads like a disease, propagating through the everyday public, making everything an unhealthy competition for those who can show off the most. Too prideful, and you fall, but for that reason, do not stop showing emotion in fear of retribution. Nobody will care if you lose when humble, and people even might help you up; however, nobody wants to help someone that was yelling in your ears about their success. One’s vanity only makes the downfall worse. And yet, once we hit decently, we instinctively act more skilled than we are. Paired with the Dunning-Kruger effect, it makes a deadly combo of false wisdom. Pride is built off hiding the realism, pain and shame, making life harder than it has to be. J. Cole alludes to his life and the responsibility he’s had with being an idol to many, reflecting on the growth he’s made through his lyrics.
“Do what I say, not what I do” describes the end of the song perfectly. Throughout the whole piece, we hear “pride is the devil” (0:12-0:13) yet the final verse is bragging about money and success and stature. Bringing up the question was this juxtaposition on purpose. The dichotomy between these two sections makes me believe the moral of the song is not about never being prideful but learning from experiences to grow. We look up to pride as arrogant and childish, but in truth, everyone has some pride. J. Cole though not alone in this flaw, is burdened with pride and bias where ‘everyone draws the line of what’s acceptable just beneath what they’re doing themselves’ (Tom Scott), contributing to the irony of the song.
I find myself relating to this song by thinking that if you do nothing, it can never come back to bite you. Which ultimately ruins life’s fun and removes any learning. It shows me that I have many things that I don’t know I don’t know. And it’s through these experiences and listening to others that help give you the knowledge to make your own mistakes and learn from them.
Pride is the Devil was my favourite analysis of this entire project, focusing on the metaphor and personification of the devil driving the story. At the same time, we are presented with the backstory and experiences and have to build our opinions on what he gave us. I found it interesting with the juxtaposition in the final verse, where contradicts everything he has said by then being prideful. Which made me believe that the moral of the song is not “don’t be prideful” but “learn from your mistakes.”
Wonder and Dreams go hand-in-hand, both connected to your aspirations and values in life. ‘I Wonder’ is a homage to following your dreams, a cliché message that doesn’t lose its effect. In a melancholic tone, the lyrics “I wonder” contain introspection towards dream chasers. It is an emotional anthem that deals with the theme of finding one’s dreams and regrowth. Showing parallels to this song and our society today, not much changes due to the dependency on a ‘perfect’ life that everyone wants.
Kanye tackles the adversity of a woman blaming her problems on him through apostrophe, but since she hasn’t followed her dreams, she has an intuitive dissatisfaction for her life. Her family life is a smokescreen that hides what she needs — independence, a sense of self and pursuit of her dreams. It’s a wake-up to a society where people have preconceived dreams that adhere to what society said they should be. It’s a play on the burdens of expectations, depicting the struggles others experience with finding self. While conveying the hardships a person goes through in the pursuit to determine meaning in their life.
Kanye is broken from women blaming him, shown by the effect of spliced singing and irregular anguished tone. However with the introduction of the third verse comes with an onset of strings, bringing back the confident demeanour of Kanye as he lets go of his anger and moves forward. The third verse comes with a greater sense of euphony as he opens up, bringing a new vibrant tone to the song. It makes you feel good and lifts your mood. It compels you to visualize your dreams and achieve them. And is a reminder to me to pursue my dreams despite how cliché it sounds. Kanye has grown throughout the song, and by the end, he asks, “you ever wonder if you’ll find your dreams” (3:15-3:16) rather than “I wonder if you know what it means to find your dreams” (0:25-0:30) Showing the mutual growth in both characters now understanding what it takes.
Connecting with, I wonder, was by far the easiest. Achieving your dreams is a satisfying idea that everyone wants to do and be encouraged to do. With the chopped-up singing transitioning into an upbeat, confident tone, you would be hard-pressed to find someone that doesn’t feel better after listening. The song is a homage to people trying to find self and meaning in life.
Apart from the driving question, we focused on the core competency, comprehend, to properly understand the text and the more immense implications outside of the text. We set out to answer this in various ways like the poetry quiz, poetry jigsaw and most notably, the final presentation of our analysis. We had to understand the material and use it within our research fully’. One thing is recognizing the terms on a sheet but actively surveying the pieces and highlighting the lyrics imprints the devices in your head. I was lucky enough to come down with Covid, so I was tasked with creating a video of analysis instead of presenting. Using stock footage, I made a video that covered my main points while highlighting the important phrases and words using text. I focused on the three songs I covered in this blog post and used tone to express my topics further.
Music is more than we give credit. Not only do the lyrics have to mean something, the tone and instrumental backing it. This project has given me a newfound respect for the inner workings of literary works in songs and poems. Every line is there for a reason, and often there are multiple layers to the meaning. I’ve always loved music, but I never thoroughly listened to the lyrics. So taking my time to appreciate what was being said has made the songs more meaningful.