Illusion of Life Analysis on 45 by Gaslight Anthem

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*CLICK HERE FOR THE LYRICS*

The retail store I work at (Sportchek) generally plays a mixture of pump-up songs aiming to make the gym-buff buy more muscle shirts, the hockey player amped to practice with his new stick, and the golfer to ready to feel his swing in the golf course simulator. This is a portion of Sportchek’s advertising scheme aimed to get customers excited while in the store. But then I heard 45 by Gaslight Anthem and wondered if the gym-buffs, hockey players and golfers that were shopping knew the true meaning of the song. I didn’t really notice the darkness of the lyrics at first because of the upbeat nature of the song itself, but after I heard it a couple more times I began to think of the dynamic interaction between virtual experience and virtual time; first about the lyrics, secondly about the music, and lastly about the incongruence between the two in this particular song.

The story within the lyrics focuses on the familiar story of a man who lost the love of his life and has to deal with his loneliness, his friend’s [sometime’s harsh] opinions, and his past. You can tell already that he is angry in the first line, “Have you seen my hands, just look at ’em shake” and catch glimpses of the pain he has for his lover by the end of the first verse. Following the chorus, it starts to dig deep into his true feelings, “The tick, ticking of hours lonely… I hear the alarm. /I used to hear when she would sleep in my arms.” The songwriter also used an interesting form of dramatic illusion, which I think creates the sense of suspense-seeking resolution in the song that tends to represent intensity. The songwriter talks about the present and looking forward into the future, but it almost seems like a poetic illusion because he is stuck in his past, “And I dance with your ghost. But that ain’t the way…/I can’t move on and I can’t stay the same.”

A hard rock song such as this offers intense rhythms, loud phrasing, fast tempo, and full instrumentation. This song has a hearty rock n’ roll feel with a kick of country bass that is infectious. Its rhythmic structure has a driving tempo that is unpredictable. Its harmonic structure is stimulating and discordant, with a melodic structure that climbs sporadically with short-held tones. Its dynamics are disjointed and punched, and get louder and faster as the song progresses. Lastly, the song has many amplified instruments. All of these aspects of the song point to representative intensity in the musical elements.

Tragic lyrics paired up with an intensity musical pattern can have various effects on the listener. I think that in this case it is meant to inspire the listener to be strong after a break up; I think that the band wanted a song that could speak to people in a similar situation.The song also uses strategic ambiguity by not including any details of the ‘break up’, leaving listeners drawn to the song because they can theorize their own background stories. I know for a fact that if I would have listened to just the lyrics or just the music I would have a very different opinion on what message the song was trying to portray.

Ultimately, the emotional message of the lyrics and the conceptual message of the music contradict each other, making the lyrical and musical messages incongruent. I believe that the band chose to combine the two incongruent elements to create a lasting effect on the listener.

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A Sweet Surrender

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The song, “Never Let Me Go,” by Florence and the Machine, was released in 2012 and went to number one on various international music charts. The soulful lyrics illustrate the feeling of drowning through the perspective of Welch, who wrote this song based on the tragic suicide of Virginia Woolf. Woolf was a writer, who had left a note for her husband explaining the amazing time she had with him and that she could no longer be a burden to him. The context in the lyrics depicts the struggles that individuals face in their life and inevitably the decision one makes to stop living. This illustrates that the song is a representation of finding peace with oneself, and realizing that life’s devotions are not always enough. This can be exemplified through the virtual experience, release patterns, and congruity.

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The virtual experience encompasses tragic lyrics as it explains the resolution of moral dilemmas. This is shown when she states, “reflections still look the same to me,” because she can no longer fix her past she decides to let them go. Also, Welch reflects on the past experiences seen through her eyes, which illustrate a poetic illusion of backwards looking with situations that cannot be changed. This shows that she regrets the choices she has made in the past but cannot amend her actions, which causes her to give in. Lyrics like, “But I’m not giving up, I’m just giving in,” exemplify release as seen often in poetic illusion. She states that she is not giving up but inevitably, she becomes enveloped in the prospect of death because it is seen as her only escape. Furthermore, when she states that, “It’s the only way to escape,” it portrays that the only way for her to move on is to escape from the reality of life.

Moreover, the release patterns found throughout the song consist of a rhythmic and melodic structure accompanied by phrasing. This illustrates that the song follows a slow temple, with long-held notes and a ritardando (gradually slower) flow (Sellnow, 118). Furthermore, the chorus is sung generally louder than the rest of the parts but still maintains a soft and mellow tone, which contributes to the overall message of leaving your attachments behind. Throughout the song, “Never Let Me Go,” the message that is conveyed through the lyrics, also contains the same emotional musical message. This is also known as, congruity. The smooth, soft and slow tempo of the song illustrates an emotional message which represents release patterns. Likewise, the conceptual message in the lyrics communicate that she has found peace in no longer living but still wants to be remembered, “In the arms of the ocean deliver me, Never let me go, never let me go.”

Overall, the message that is conveyed is blatant in that, it is about how she has found peace with dying because she can no longer handle the struggles in life. Furthermore, the patterns of the para-linguistic cues can further analyze the emotional and conceptual messages found throughout the song.

The Machine, Florence, perf. Never Let Me Go. Writ. Welch, Epworth, and Harpoon. 2012. Film. 25 Feb 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNKbeV3wM84&gt;.

Sellnow, Deana. The Rhetorical Power of Popular Culture: Considering Mediated Texts. California: Sage Publications, 2010. 118. Print.

YOLO

The LonelyIsland is a musical group of comedians from the popular show Saturday Night Live (SNL). Their popular music consists of parodies and mockeries of events that have become mainstream. The majority of their songs are featured by a very well known artist, which helps the group promote the music to the public.Image

“The Motto” is a song by Drake. “The Motto” is also commonly known as the “YOLO” song. After “The Motto” was released, the track hit the top charts within weeks. The song got so popular that people started using the phrase “YOLO”, you only live once, for almost every situation. This became so popular that everyone was using it everywhere. The phrase is slowly dying down to a fad since the majority of the population now thinks it’s annoying.Image

It is evident that the lyrics of the song is comic because “YOLO” by the Lonely Island is clearly a mockery of the mainstream phrase “YOLO”. The song is a comedic act where the artists of the Lonely Island are suggesting that society shouldn’t do anything because everything is dangerous. This is ironic because “YOLO” was intended to mean that society should act upon impulse because you only have one life, so live life to its fullest, when the lyrics of the mockery song, “YOLO”, suggests that “we are still young, so hold off the fun” and changed the acronym to mean “you oughta look out”. The artists of The Lonely Island does outrageous acts to protect themselves from losing their lives by suggesting that you should “board your windows up [because] the sun is bad for your health” and that you should “always wear a straight jacket so you’re safe from yourself”, and many more crazy ideas. These suggestions are forward-looking ideas that an audience should jokingly consider. Therefore the lyrics is a dramatic illusion.

The lyrics may suggest ambiguity. The comic lyrics can be misinterpreted as tragic lyrics if the audience didn’t know what the original YOLO phrase meant. An audience can misinterpret the lyrics as protecting yourselves from something tragic. The target audience of the song is for teens and young adults because the majority of people listening to “YOLO” by The Lonely Island most likely know about, and heard “The Motto” by Drake. Evidence that the “YOLO” by The Lonely Island is directed to teens and young adults is that the song is about people who are “still young”.

The majority of the music in YOLO falls under intensity musical patterns for all musical elements (rhythmic structure, harmonic structure, melodic structure, phrasing, and instrumentation). The song also represents release musical patterns in phrasing and harmonic structure because the music is legato (connected and smooth), and the chorus harmonizes. The music on its own gives off a catchy and happy tune.

The emotional and conceptual message flows such that the overall song is congruent. The song is a combination of dramatic illusion, comic lyrics, and mostly intensity musical patterns. The message of the song is to make fun of the overused phrase YOLO, and stop society from abusing it. Again, if the  audience didn’t know drake’s song “the motto”, then the song YOLO by the lonely island may seem ambiguous. The acts in the song are so outrageous that it should, by most people, be humorous. For the audience that does understand the humour in the song, may stop using the phrase YOLO because they realize how stupid it sounds such that a popular comedic group mocked it.

Music Video: 

Lyrics: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/lonelyisland/yolo.html

Pursuit of Happiness – Kid Cudi

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The rap song Pursuit of Happiness was released back in 2010 by Kid Cudi. In the song Kid Cudi talks about the journey one takes to achieve the happiness everyone desires, or told to aspire for. Kid Cudi’s songs typically show up on the iPods of young adults who enjoy hip-hop and rap music. This song talks about how the pursuit of happiness can induce a life style of substance abuse, anticipation and regret even though there is the possibility we will not be happy in the end.

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The lyrics of this song are catchy and easy to understand. The paralinguistic cues including the volume, pitch, rate and emphasis typically stay in the same range reflecting a calm, “chill-like” melody. The loudest part of the song is right at the beginning grabbing its listener’s attention but starts out with some discursive symbols that encourage the use of marijuana.

“Crush a bit, little bit, roll it up, take a hit
Feelin’ lit, feeling light, 2 am summer night”

Kid Cudi describes a virtual experience making life about getting intoxicated or high, and glamorize the effects these substances have. The lyrics insist that these substances are necessary for this pursuit of happiness Kid Cudi is on. The virtual time of the song compliments the meaning behind the song. When someone is under the influence they usually feel at ease and this song is supposed to replicate that feeling. Kid Cudi is able to convey a congruent message of how he feels by repeating his main point in the chorus. He talks about how he wants happiness and will keep trying to get it despite how others feel about it:

“People told me slow my roll,
I’m screaming out f*** that
Lookin’ ahead no turnin’ back
If I fall, if I die, I know I lived it to the fullest…
and missed some bullets”

Kid Cudi wants this ultimate happiness that is so perfect and is will do anything to obtain it. That’s what makes the song so relatable because everyone wants to be happy. They want to do a job that makes them happy, want to be with a partner that makes them happy or even want stability to make them happy or a combination of all. Happiness is more important than most people are willing to admit and if a person is happy they can be at ease with everything else that is occurring in life. Pursuit of Happiness has tragic lyrics, it focuses on how achieving happiness is very important but the journey may not be easy or as glamorous as expected. There will be many aspects of life that are not clear or are deceitful, but it is all worth it as longs as the end product is happiness. The chorus explains this perfectly by stating:

“I’m on the pursuit of happiness and I know
Everything that shines ain’t always gonna be gold
And I’ll be fine once I get it
I’ll be good (X2)”

By the end of the song Kid Cudi comes to terms with the fact that even though he wants happiness he may not get it and is content with that despite his desire and struggle in pursuing it.

“I’m on the pursuit of happiness,
Yeah and if I don’t get it, I’ll be good”

He even shows remorse for his substance abuse driven lifestyle, (Oh my god, why did I drink so much and smoke so much? Ah). It seems Kid Cudi chooses use these substances in order to ease the stress of the pursuit of happiness but is still unsuccessful with achieving the happiness he sought out for. Overall this song just shows that even though something is wanted, does not mean it can be obtained and we have to accept that.

You’ll Think of Keith Urban – Illusion of Life Analysis

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Performance:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jk1nw4Uoxig

Lyrics (studio version):

http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/keithurban/youllthinkofme.html

Keith Urban took the music scene by storm when he released his album Golden Road in 2002. In specific, “You’ll Think of Me” became a huge hit providing Keith with his first Grammy. But what is it about this song that makes it so worthy of the acclaim of a Grammy? As shown in his live performance of  “You’ll Think of Me”, is successful due to its ability to represent the raw emotions of a broken heart which all can connect to.

The studio album featuring "You'll Think of Me"

The studio album featuring “You’ll Think of Me”

Keith Urban is an Australian-American country singer known for infusing elements of rock and pop music into his music. Thus, country music fans are the intended audience of “You’ll Think of Me”. However, the song transcends genres making it relatable to men and women, from teenage hood to adulthood, and across all races. Thus, the song relates to anyone who has experienced heartbreak.  This specific version of the song was released on his first concert DVD, “Livin’ Right Now” and was one of my favourite recorded performances.

Musically, the song effectively functions as virtual time as it “suspends actual time” (Sellnow 118) by making listener’s engage in his heartbreaking story. The song has an overall release pattern. Rhythmically, the song maintains a consistent and slow tempo, and a predictable strumming and drumming pattern.  The phrasing changes over the course of the song. Though usually conforming to the release pattern, toward the conclusion of the song, Keith changes the phrasing to represent the intensity of his emotions by using multiple crescendos and the use of an accelerando. This is absent from his studio recording of the song, making the live performance of the song far more moving for listeners. The listener becomes completely immersed in the heart wrenching feeling portrayed through Keith Urban’s voice. From the very first beat, the instruments are organized to represent one’s heart breaking. The constant drumbeat can be said to one’s heartbeat, slowing as the pain sets in. Then, as Keith begins playing the note progression on the guitar, listeners feel as though their heartstrings are being plucked.  Toward the end of the song, the intensity pattern represents the rage and bitterness one feels after being left brokenhearted.

To accompany the arrangement of music, the lyrics to the song reinforce the heartbreaking emotions. It is no surprise that song’s lyrics are tragic (“focus on self-consummation… and coping with fate” (Sellnow 119)). The song focuses on the virtual past,  “Woke up early this morning ‘round 4 am… Thoughts of us kept keeping me awake” and the future as Keith hauntingly repeats, “You’ll think about me” or “When you’re lying alone in the middle of the night, wishing I was there to hold you tight, that’s when you’re gonna think about me baby”. As such, the lyrics create both a poetic and dramatic illusions.  The lyrics are blatant, as it unequivocally about being left broken hearted and forced to live without that person. Hence, the song is relatable to a vast audience, as suffering from a broken heart is a common feeling.

Keith Urban after winning one of his (currently) four Grammy's

Keith Urban after winning one of his (currently) four Grammy’s.

“You’ll Think of Me” is notably one of Keith Urban’s most successful songs. The congruent message of the music and the lyrics demonstrate the pain, bitterness and devastation of the broken hearted. His delivery of the song challenges audience members to have a dry eye during the performance (I find myself whipping away tears every time after watching the vulnerability and hearing the rawness of Keith’s performance). The song has the unique ability to transcend audiences, because of its ability to relate to all emotionally.  Thus, Keith Urban’s, “You’ll Think of Me” rightfully deserved to win a Grammy and all the praise it continues to receive from audiences worldwide.

Sellnow, Deanna D. ”A Musical Perspective: The Illusion of Life Theory” The Rhetorical Power of Popular Culture: Considering Mediated Texts. Los Angeles: SAGE, 2010. 115-142. Print.

Gender Analysis on “Desperate Housewives”

“Desperate Housewives” is story of Mary Alice Young, who seems to be a very perfect housewife but commits suicide due to the dark secret involving her and her husband. The friends of Mary Alice Young, Susan Mayer, Lynette Scavo, Bree Van de Kamp and Gabrielle Solis, are introduced and the story describes how they find out the reasons for Mary Alice’s suicide and how to deal with their personal problems in their lives.

The cultural text to be analyzed is the promotional video of “Desperate Housewives”. At the beginning, a woman is sitting in the bathtub bathing and three children are chasing each other while playing with the bubbles. The woman looks worried but she is depressed after the children disappear around her. Another woman is mopping the floor with red varnish but she looks very confident and arrogant. After that, a woman in a pink skirt is walking sexily and another woman just fails to cook and makes the oven full of fire but she smiles to a man bashfully. Then, there is a woman who dresses very elegantly dating a man but meanwhile she is thinking about having sex with another guy. Finally, a woman is sitting among the roses and blows out a candle, looking a man to walk across and the video shows the words – “Admit it. Everyone has a little dirty laundry.”

The promotional video reinforces some of the values and images about women. For example, women should handle the housework, behave elegantly and behave sexily. In the real world, some women behave like this because they are forced by the general ideology to do so and they are just considered the objects of men. However, in the promotional video, most of the women are independent and confident. They behave as a woman or dress as a woman because they think they are a woman so they totally have the privilege to do so.

Moreover, some women even do something which breaks the rules of daily life and the social norms. For instance, a woman mops the floor with the varnish. She is not cleaning the floor. Worse still, she is just causing a mess on the floor but she is still very satisfactory. Another woman, on the other hand, no longer protects her chastity in her thought. Although the women in the video enjoy very much, the audience may not agree with their behavior and I think there are some relationships and metaphors between the two scenes – if women do not behave well according to some of the social norms, there may be some catastrophic consequences following them.

Therefore, some social norms concerning feminism may have their values of existence. They are used to maintain the stability of society. If some of the social norms are not followed, social problems concerning morality may arouse. Thus, it is important for us to think about whether such kinds of social norms are reasonable or just the shackles which obstruct our development and deprive of our freedom.

 

Women Are Still Stuck In The Kitchen

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This commercial for Volkswagen’s newest vehicle model may not seem like an item that can be analyzed from a feminist perspective from Sellnow’s text, at least not typically, but when analyzed through each respective feminist lens, I think what it evident is that even in a minute long commercial, underlying hegemonic and patriarchal ideals still form the backbone to this ad.

 

From a Liberal Feminist Perspective, which Sellnow defines as the brand which aims to include women in traditional male-dominated areas (92). To some, perhaps, this means in other places than the home, but in this ad, it perpetuates hegemonic familial roles and even gender roles, by depicting the woman in the room that it often crassly joked about: the kitchen. This ad means to depict a typical family, the man being the breadwinner, as indicated from him coming home from work, carrying a briefcase –and the woman being in the kitchen, making a sandwich for her child, staying at home while her husband works to earn the money which in turn then buys this new, practical Volkswagen. Through a Liberal Feminist Lens, I would argue they would advocate for the woman in this ad, and in many ads alike, to be in the breadwinner role which defies typical patriarchal systems. Perhaps where we see a woman outside the home and driving the family car, coming from work where she earned money to pay for half the vehicle rather than this atypical female caretaker role cliché.

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The Radical Feminist Perspective would recognize how this ad perpetuates ideological views on family roles (93-4). This ad is designed to sell ideals to a target audience, for this one it is a family audience. It represents what every family should aspire to be like: the man runs the house, he works, he provides for his family and the woman stays at home, cleans (for the house is nice, clean, spacious), and cooks for her children and husband (as she passes a sandwich to her child). Because these are presented as ideals they are therefore continuing an already existing system, this is how Volkswagen sells cars; they would not be able to sell nor would this ad even translate to begin with if there were not existing systems in place for this ad to play off of. It’s very existence proves they are in place on ideological levels (because it addresses economical/political levels ideals because most things can be summed up on this level, but I digress). The woman is the caretaker and the man is the breadwinner, that is how they are depicted and because it is an ideal, it is an ideal that is being perpetuated as what most people should be like in their familial roles.

The Marxist Feminist Perspective is especially important with this text because it is a text that is designed with a capitalistic motive (96). The man, being the breadwinner for the family, means he has the control to decide to which car he buys for his family. It is the man who is driving it, who leaves the house, while the woman remains inside unaffiliated with the car whatsoever in the ad. A Marxist Feminist would argue that because of this, the man being the sole earner of the house, he has power over his wife and family because he decides what car he can buy. The woman has no say on the vehicle because she has no money invested in the family.

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These are three feminist perspectives discussed in Sellnow’s texts that I think are relevant and apply to this text and that are the most apparent. One thing is clear when using these analyses is that there is evident perpetuation of an ideal rather that the real situations a lot of families experience but also of a misogynistic ideal of how a family should be.