Through the lens of music👓

The playlist of my life project was the bridge between poetry, music, and ourselves. Music is used worldly to express ourselves, communicate, and create change. With the driving question of, “how can we use music to represent texts and ourselves” we explored many songs, poems, and how they use different language to express their meanings. I have always loved music my entire life from listening to it in the car, learning to play the guitar, and enjoying hearing others play music. I find it has the ability to express things words cannot. The ability for the instruments to create a tone and rhythm, or the have a voice sing the lyrics creates a very different message for me. Before this project I had never been that interested in poetry as I didn’t understand or really read through it carefully enough to pull out the meanings. Annotations were very helpful to break down the poetry as well as the music and get the full meaning. Below you will see an example on a way to annotate a poem or a song.

This poem although it seems simple, includes deep allusions and messages encrypted in the work.

After learning more on possible reasons of why we like the music we like I created the playlist. The songs I chose were not all necessarily the ones I listen to the most but they are the songs that have resonated with me. Many songs I like because of the sounds or voices really have not a lot of meaning to me whereas there are some you can relateto on a deeper level. The songs I chose create nostalgia, bring connections, or align with something I agree with. The songs I chose to write about in the playlist of my life were, Vienna by Billy Joel, Lady May by Tyler Childers, Cleopatra by The Lumineers, Californiacation by the Chili Peppers, and Radio by Matchbox Twenty.

Below you can read the song analyses of three of my five songs🧐

“Vienna” has always been, and forever will be one of my favourite songs. The classic song by Billy Joel showcases the artist’s vocal, instrumental, and writing talent beautifully. I found an article on Psychology Today that explains we can enjoy many different music types based upon social identity, and how function of music work to evoke emotions. “Vienna” can cause clarity and bring calmness. For me this song has been impactful this year as I have had to make very big decisions about my current life and the future. I often feel very rushed and try to complete and move onto the next thing as quick as possible but the song can be a reminder to slow down and pay attention to the present. This soft rock song symbolizes how something “waits for you” (1:03) so that you may enjoy where you are because it will always be there. When Billy Joel was interviewed on the meaning of the song he exclaimed that the song was written for his father when he was visiting him in Vienna. “He saw an elderly woman sweeping the streets, and told his father that is was awful to see an old woman doing that, but his father pointed out that she was living and doing something useful” (Billy Joel interview). Vienna can also be a metaphor for old age and to live while you’re young but also continue to live while you are old as it is not something to dread. Repetition, rhyme, and other poetic devices truly enhance the effect and the ability for the song to be interpreted in many ways. Almost every stanza within the song contains a rhyme scheme that is usually different than the one before. For example, in stanza three there is an ABACC configuration which is very different from stanza five’s AABC. Throughout the stanzas there is a constant repetition of “when will you realize, Vienna waits for you”, which can solidify the thought of having more time for the listeners. When listening to the song I have never fully dissected the meanings behind certain elements; “Though you can see when you're wrong, you can’t always know when you’re right” uses an antonym to compare the person in the song to their actions. There is also an example assonance included in the song at the end of some lines which creates more flow. The tone of the song is relaxing while still having great instrumentals and imagery. One of my favourite lines is “Where’s the fire, what’s the hurry about? You better cool it off before you burn it out.” I see this line as an analogy because it is describing running away from the your life as running away from fire. Including the second piece can also portray that sometimes we are our own fire. The depth of the song although complicated can be seen simply in a way that every human being can relate to it as we are all in need of more time but in reality we need to slow down. Sources: Author: Thomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Ph.D.
One of my childhood dreams was always to experience a day in a different life. When I hear the song “Radio” I immediately get an image of a 1960s woman dancing the streets wearing a pencil skirt, bright red lipstick, and curly hair. She is outside a diner with neon signs, checkered flooring, and vinyl records. There would be people on their way to work riding in their cars and others following their daily routine of sipping coffee and reading the paper as they walk to their 9-5s. “Radio” reminds me of songs that my grandparents would dance to and then later show us photos of them as teenagers living in the 60’s. The upbeat song has the main focus revolving around the young girl. Some lyrics that describe the girl are, “daylight came and it broke her heart” (0:26) and “in a town where dreams don’t fit”(0:31). The first line is speaking to the girl having to snap back into reality, and of her struggles with life as she has dancing to free herself at night. The next speaks to the fact that she is from a small town it can be difficult to get out of it without money and resources. Her soul seems to have been made for something bigger. One of the influential pieces of the song is the choice of repetition of “we know it’s right, we heard it on the radio”. I researched the groups meaning behind this line for some context and their ideas. The song in a way was made to question the notion of pop music. They are posing the question of “peoples willingness to give in to its influence”, this seems important to me as many people will stand with ideas without understanding the meaning to be able to align with it. The artists seem to be questioning why we follow influential peoples’ ideas without understanding the meaning or just because they seem important as if what they say is an article over a non fiction story. The line, “make all these moments burn bright” (1:58) is an analogy used to describe core memories as bright lights. Being that the important ones shine brighter. The tone of this song is very upbeat while bringing up difficult thoughts within. Until reading the artists meaning behind the verses I had no idea what the message was portraying. The reason the song resonated with me is the idea of why we follow and listen to what we do. Many of our ideas can be swayed easily when contradictory statement comes from someone you admire or think is important. I wonder how this sways our judgement and how it has changed humanity as celebrities have become a greater part of our lives with the access of social media. Everyday you can see someones opinions posted and how they act whereas before social media you might hear it on the radio but it was screened or said respectfully. Many of our decisions on important matters can be changed and our sources of information(music, internet, social media) are not always accurate or relaying the information to allow people their own opinion. In a different light, I enjoy hearing the stories people tell of them in the past. This song was nostalgic for me listening to my grandparents talk about themselves. Although it was very rare everyone enjoyed hearing about the adventures and what they would overcome. As well as the travels they went on as soon as they had the opportunity. The upbeat song and lyrics flow great to create new music with an old story for me.
I chose to write about “Cleopatra” by The Lumineers because the song has the ability to capture your full attention and ask questions. The lyrics in combination with the vocals are quite beautiful but difficult to wrap your head around the meaning. The Lumineers included important elements that make the song align with the story of Cleopatra from 69 BC. This retelling of Mark Antony’s and Cleopatra’s love story is told with an alternative and indie style with a mournful theme. As Mark Antony is one of the most powerful men in Egypt and Cleopatra is the queen. The meaning of the song can also be about another girl according to the Lumineers. Someone who lives in the present but has a similar story to Cleopatra. To me it seems that the timing of the proposal of Antony is the reason she didn’t go both him or marry him. When he leaves and remarries a woman in Rome the girl says “damn your wife I’d be your mistress just to have you around” (1:03) and then continues on to say she was “late for the love of my life” (1:12). This song is mournful then because its seemed like she had lost two people in a very short amount of time. Her father and then the love of her life. The quote, “and I left the footprints, the mud stained on the carpet, that hardened like my heart did when you left town” (0:48) created a sharp image in my mind. This simile is very powerful and descriptive. One of the allusions is quite dark but an important piece to the story. “When I die alone, when I die alone, when I die, I’ll be on time” (1:16) alludes to cleopatra’s suicide. Another piece of the song that draws back to todays references is the piece “so I drive a taxi, and the traffic distracts me, from the strangers in my backseat, that remind me of you” (1:43) is about the girl holding true to who she loves because she thinks they will either come back together or just doesn’t want to be with anyone else. When hearing this song I have always been very curious about the meaning. The details of the story of Cleopatra going hand in hand with a modern day story are a great comparison and contrast. What drew me to this song has always been the instrumentals of the Lumineers. Ophelia is one of my favourite songs but Cleopatra was very interesting to write about. The story of how people would live I this era is shocking. For more context Cleopatra at one point married each of her brothers and not by choice. We have come a long way as a society to change our morals around these situations but it took a very long time to reach that point. Cleopatra would have little say in what she did and who she married in her life. The song includes references of poems from Shakespeare and his ideas and writing. “The script and the costume seem to be references to Mark Antony and Cleopatra by Shakespeare”. I enjoyed this song and now that I understand the context it makes listening to it that much better.


To present my songs I chose to speak to the listeners in a conversation and then create a Kahoot with some of the questions from the paragraphs. I also played pieces of my songs so that they could understand the tone and hear some of the lyrics. The seven minutes of discussion on why I appreciate the song and talking about the meaning went by very fast. It was so interesting to hear about the music other classmates like and why it relates to them. When I hear presentations I find it easier absorb pieces of knowledge knowing there will be questions at the end so I am always listening, engaging, and even asking for clarification to understand the work. The Kahoot was simple and fun but I found that everyone was actively listening and asking questions. Knowing that my song choices would be different than others I had to make sure that I shared the knowledge that may make the song more relatable for everyone or create an understanding that relates it to me. All the other presentations I watched were super creative and engaging. There was a just dance, a BINGO, and many visuals on the music.

Two of my song choices were both questioning society and why we follow and like what we do. It related to how, language shapes ideas and influences others. The first one was Radio by Matchbox Twenty. In the above paragraphs you will read about how the artists purpose of the song was to ask why we follow and like what we do based upon pop music and why you “know it’s right, we heard it on the radio” (0:50). It was interesting and relatable because I notice that many people will make choices or have opinions change because someone else thinks that way. The impact language has on ourselves and society has a much larger impact than we think.Without thinking or realizing that the choice impacts them in a very different way as they have different lives so they have different experiences, and connections. The other song was Californiacation. It is about society desiring money fortune and fame without understanding what it would be like in those situations and then doing ridiculous things to try and get there. The song symbolizes the world becoming superficial much like California. In another light music and language has the ability to inspire others in a positive way and in less of a criticism. We hear many light song about peace, love and happiness. In the past few years mental health has been talked about much more. In school many people go to the club to talk or see counsellors. For a very long time the language used around mental health was not great so that has been the biggest change I have personally noticed. There are many podcasts you hear about with people talking about the importance of it and how daily habits create change to it. The realization of the fact that ‘it can’t be pushed under the mat’ has changed many opinions. This speaks to the way that our language shapes ideas and it has made change.

When choosing these songs I had to be creative and open my mind to more reasoning when analyzing poetry and music. To comprehend the text I worked on looking at small pieces within the lines and then as a whole. A common question among my group was, “it this literal or alluding to something greater?” I found that looking at small pieces made the annotation much easier to comprehend to piece together a meaning. When researching my songs I looked at other peoples ideas on the song, my idea, and then the authors idea to see that the song could fit into different aspects. A piece I liked a lot was how many authors and artists speak to the same ideas but from a different angle, or like in the song Cleopatra they include references to other text like Shakespeare.

The project was very personal and meaningful. I enjoyed writing the comprehensive pieces on the song but then also being allowed to include how it relates to you or how you feel about the song. The poetry analyses made understanding the music easier and made me realize I do enjoy reading poetry. I have noticed that since this project I have been exploring many songs and there meanings to create connections to major events or even just other pieces of myself.

To answer the driving question; music can represent pieces of personality, philosophy’s you subscribe to, pieces of your life, relating to your experiences. We can share it to others as if we are sharing a personality trait. Thanks for reading!



Click below to see the Playlist of My Life!

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