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.