A Music Perspective Analysis: The Temper Trap- Sweet Disposition

The Temper Trap- Sweet Disposition

The song Sweet Disposition by The Temper Trap represents how in life and relationships there are ups and downs but we can’t give up. Played twice in 500 Days of Summer, the message is conveyed in the movie in the relationship of Tom and Summer. For 500 days, Tom is challenged by the unrequited love he feels for Summer. The song is played once while the couple happily explores the city and Tom shows Summer his favourite places, and again when they are reunited on a train after their breakup. The movie shows how in a relationship (and life) there can be magical and happy times followed by sadness and the “friendzone” but you can’t let it get you down (instead you get back at it by dating someone ironically named Autumn).

The guitar at the beginning sets the upbeat tone with the continuous chord that leads into the lyrics. The singing starts off soft and slow. The drum beat sets in gradually, bringing the beat of the song up even further. The artist’s voice is high pitched for the first stanza of lyrics, still soft, but getting louder and more intense. The guitar intensifies and then returns to the same chords from the start creating a burst of energy in a mellow scene. The voice changes for the chorus, less soft and more defined, emphasizing certain lyrics with increased volume for A moment, a love the second and third time it’s sung.  The song gets louder, more instruments are introduced and the singing volume is way more intense. The vocals are held longer and louder before going back to the quieter tone from the beginning, more upbeat though until the end. Compared to other songs by Temper Trap the tempo and tone of voice he chooses to use is unique and different than their usual dance tunes.

The lyrics are primarily dramatic illusion and comic. The main lines that are repeated throughout the song are A moment, a love, a dream, a laugh, a kiss, a cry, our rights, our wrongs, and Won’t stop ‘til it’s over, won’t stop to surrender. A moment, a love… describes life. We are happy for one reason, and sad for another. Things happen that we can’t control and we have to fight through the downs to appreciate and enjoy the ups. The first lyrics sung in the song are the title, Sweet Disposition, which essentially describes life with its ups and downs that challenge us. Things happen, but that’s just life. The subject of the song is confident in overcoming these ups and downs that he has been and will be faced with and not giving up. However, the lyrics suggest strategic ambiguity with the pronouns you and we. The audience is uncertain of who that subject is, whether it’s the artist referring to someone else like a love that he wants to stay with in a relationship in hard times or himself in overcoming the feats in life. The lyrics could be suited for either life or a relationship though. “Oh reckless abandon, like no one’s watching you” is saying that you have to do whatever you’re doing for you and not because of what others think, which is relevant in both a relationship and life. “So stay there” could also be either talking about commitment in a relationship or about oneself and how you must stick through whatever situation.

The congruent combination of comic lyrics and intensity patterns in the music create an upbeat song with meaningful lyrics that make you unsure if you should cry or dance. The lyrics are motivating to not give up, but sometimes that is hard. If we look at Tom Hanes who falls madly in love with Summer who doesn’t love him back, it could be hard for him to not give up. Situations vary for all audiences but the song is still uplifting.

In 500 Days of Summer Tom asks Summer, “Why didn’t it work out?” and she responds, “What always happens? Life.” Whether it is love or life, we are challenged with ups and downs and we can’t give up or stop ‘til it’s over.


4 thoughts on “A Music Perspective Analysis: The Temper Trap- Sweet Disposition

  1. Sweet Disposition by The Temper Trap is an insert track in the popular film 500 Days of Summer, consisting of lyrics and musical arrangement that work together to illustrate the journey of life with struggles, accomplishments, laughs and heartbreaks. In short, the song is a push of encouragement for those who have lost hope and provides an avenue for listeners to accept the fact that there is no such this as a perfect life and continue on. Ally was successful in applying an illusion of life perspective and giving her own insight to the lyrics of the song and how they are congruent with the flow of the music that accompanies it. I suggest that to further improve the analysis, Ally can proceed by narrowing down the target audience of the artefact, and use this information to extract specific themes of the song that will help strengthen her main arguments and create a natural flow to the reading.

    Ally introduces two main arguments that support her thesis. First, the strongest argument is where she identifies the parallel relationship between paralinguistic cues and the virtual experience of the song. It is noted that the volume and intensity of vocals are amplified specifically in the beginning of the chorus where it is sung “A moment, a love…” producing a rush of emotions for the listener. To further improve this argument, Ally can discuss that when the music gets progressively louder and creates energy of emotions, the target audience is influenced into accepting the message offered in the chorus of the song as the beat and vocals of the chorus coincide with positive stimulations that offer motivation for continuous strive through defeat in the verse, “Won’t stop ‘til it’s over, won’t stop to surrender”. The effects of virtual time can also be mentioned, as the pace of the music in the beginning compared to the chorus serves towards suspending actual time and offers an equivalent substitute where the listener’s state of mind is shifted from emotions of defeat and loss (slow pace) to a pleasurable disposition of struggle and perseverance (fast pace).

    In Ally’s second argument, she analyzes that the lyrics are primarily comic with repeated intensity that create an overall dramatic illusion for the song. Ally cleverly notes that since the singer uses the words “you” and “we”, the song could also be portraying a story of two people in a relationship who try to commit themselves to making the bond last, which creates ambiguity in potential context of the song. I believe that more than dramatic illusion, the lyrics work to create a poetic illusion because the artist looks into the virtual past filled with “our rights, our wrongs”, from which the author draws strength from to achieve new heights. To strengthen this argument, Ally can reiterate who the target audience of the song is and what blatant or subliminal messages the author of the lyrics might be conveying to the listeners. I don’t quite see how strategic ambiguity can be applied to this song because the listeners are not lead to accepting a claim that they are opposed to. More so than strategic ambiguity, the artist uses rhetorical ascription in the lyrics where the listeners are more readily influenced because the lyrics integrate examples from stories about struggles and/or love commonly viewed in other entertainment mediums.

    By extracting primary themes noted in the song, Ally can use one or all of these themes as an umbrella for her supporting arguments in the thesis. For example, one of the more obvious themes discussed in the song is the innocence of youth. The verse, “So stay there, cause I’ll be coming over, while our bloods still young, it’s so young it runs”, touches upon the freedom that comes with youth and how you are capable of doing everything that you desire when you are young. Overall, the lyrics appear to imply positive reinforcement for youth to give it their all without any hesitation. However if we dig deeper, it could also be promoting the notion to act recklessly and to be inconsiderate about the possible negative outcomes of your actions. If we analyze the latter message, the song becomes incongruent where the emotional message of the music contradicts the conceptual message presented.

    Overall, Ally has done an exceptional job in applying the illusion of life perspective on the artefact by detailing on congruency of lyrics and music that work together to imply specific messages in the song. For the final thesis, Ally can consider working under an umbrella theme so the arguments can be more effectively tied together to create a better flow in the reading.

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