This week, you will listen to a song of your choice and sharing it with the class. This week though, we will be focused on the content or message communicated in the song.
After considering the different types of listening and the emphasis on Appreciative Listening, let’s make a better connection to communication and our listening habits by analyzing song lyrics more critically.
Songs sung on the plantations often had double meanings so they could be used as a way to carry messages around the enslaved communities. While drumming was treated with suspicion and often banned by the plantation owners because it might be sending out messages, singing was encouraged as a way of lifting spirits. However, many songs carried secret messages of rebellion with words such as ‘train’ referring to a train of people who would hide enslaved Africans as they made their way to freedom from the South to the North of America. The song ‘Steal Away’ includes the lyrics “My Lord, he calls me, he calls me by the thunder”; the word thunder would be replaced with times and places to escape. Because the songs often referred to biblical stories they could have perfectly innocent meanings too. Many Spiritual songs have different versions because they have been passed from generation to generation verbally.
More recently, the song “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People was written as a dialogue on mental illness among youth and follows a school shooting unfolding in the lyrics. Many people look past the lyrics due to the melody and upbeat character of the song.
Think critically about your generation and the current trends in music. Numerous genres are controversial because of their implied indication that they promote rape culture or carry an anti-feminist image of women. Think of songs today with hidden meanings? Are there any songs you know with double meanings or hidden meanings? Are there songs about more subtle or hidden conversations? Do we still have protest songs today? Artists like Pink Floyd and Rage Against the Machine have much more to say then what the lyrics quote.
“The End Of The Innocence,” by Don Henley and Bruce Hornsby is a protest of Reagan. “They’re beating plowshares into swords for this tired old man that we elected king”. When Hornsby sings it, he changes it to “that’s no longer king.” The entire song is a metaphor for the farmer’s struggles due to the domestic policies of Ronald Reagan. The second verse is the only verse that directly states this. (Henley, 1989)
Analyze a song of your choice for the underlying messages in the lyrics. Begin with an introductory paragraph that introduces the song, artist, and overall theme or mood of the song. Include specific lyrics and tie them to the hidden meanings and purpose behind the words in the song. Describe them in detail by defining terms or building connections to the meaning. Describe how words or phrases can be used to openly communicate messages. How do these messages reflect our society and culture? Discuss your original interpretation of the song or what your initial reasons for liking the song were. Did you simply listen to the beat or use the music to work out to? Connect the song to your own ideas, values, or concerns and conclude.
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