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.

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.

kid cudi

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.

She’s The Man!

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The rule breaking behavior that is considered a violation by society in the film “She’s the  Man” directed by Andy Fickman, is the act of impersonation committed by none other than the protagonist Viola Hastings. Viola impersonates her brother Sebastian Hastings (with his permission) and enters Illyria mainly to join the boys’ soccer team due to her passion for soccer. The highlight of her strong pertinacious determination is to play this particular sport with the opposing gender, the males. Viola is considered as the star of the movie as the spotlight is on her throughout the majority of the film as she is the character filled with determination and persistency in achieving her goal that she has set up for herself even though she is suppressed completely by her coach from Cornwall and  her ex-boyfriend. She strives throughout the entire film to achieve her goal, to prove the society that they were wrong to go along with the stereotypical belief that women don’t play sports as well as the men and that they don’t have the abilities and capacities to do so. She struggles on behalf of the women for equality to be provided by their society.

How Viola chooses to carry out her scheme in achieving her ultimate goal is quite interesting in a unique way. She disguises herself as her brother Sebastian and to do this, she gets a hold of objects and clothing attire that help her create a masculine identity. Her disguise serves her well when the society believes her to be Sebastian. She does quite well of a job in shielding her feministic characteristics such as her voice, from the society when it is under the impression of her identity as being the individual, Sebastian. Such tools and techniques serve as mechanisms in aiding her to carry out her intentions regarding equality for women in the society. In modern culture and society, there has been a lot of improvement made concerning the treatment of women. The values have changed slightly compared to the previous generations, but even to this day, women are still treated unequally compared to men in many situations. The fact that these types of incidents do still take place is what this particular film portrays. The fact that the culture has such an influence over the society is what provokes the society to act in such a way. Which in turn results in the belief of males empowering women. This is illustrated in this featured film through scenes that accompany the “rule-breaking behavior event” , however this analysis focuses on the scene of the climax.

The scene that will be under analysis is the part where Viola actually gets onto the field to go against her ex-colleagues, the team that she desired to play along with before withdrawing from her previous league boarding school. She rises as the rival for Cornwall by playing for Illyria and in the middle of these specific moments, her disguise fails and her true identity is revealed such that she is a female. The fact that she is a woman playing alongside with the men on the soccer team is what is shocking to the audience (society in general) because it is out of the norm. This is not something that the society was familiar with accepting. This act of Viola’s can be justified because in the end, Viola proved the society and the stereotypical belief based on women and that they can’t play sports as well as men, wrong and she made them realize that women should be perceived as equal individuals as men. This topic of interest concerns the issue of women and how they are perceived by the society. They are viewed as individuals who are incapable of playing soccer as well as the men and so they are not taken into consideration as much as the men were.

Works Cited:

She’s The Man (Romantic comedy film 2006). n.d. Youtube. Youtube,  Feb 26,2006. Web. 31 Jan.2013 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4OhwrMidSU.

We Do not Descriminate(Romantic comedy film 2006).n.d.Yoututbe. Youtube,Jul 31,2011.Web. 31 Jan 2013 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Rtuv8k09iI

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Visual Pleasure Theory: “Diamond on a Landmine” music video

In a medium that is known to feature overtly-sexualized women as objects most often, Billy Talent’s music video for their single “Diamond on a Landmine” is a distinct departure from tradition, revolving around shots of the band performing in the centre of a darkened room for an anonymous, masked audience. The song itself is the story of a man trying to win back a former lover while battling his conflicting feelings regarding her, hinting at a possibly abusive and unhealthy relationship.

If there is any one entity being made the object in the video it is, interestingly, the band. They stand out visually from the background – a black landscape with floating white masks offering the only contrast – not only by being the only well-lit aspect of the video, but also by breaking the prevalent colour scheme in the predominantly red clothes that they are wearing. Furthermore, their relation to the on-screen audience is suggestive of a one-sided relationship in which the band exists as a source of entertainment that is only useful in the context of the audience – the band members’ individual faces are very rarely shown in the foreground without multiple masks in the background, serving as a reminder that even the individual is just a constituent part of the whole, whose collective purpose is to be seen by the larger audience.

The aspect of voyeurism is the most subtle of the three constructs in the video; the nature of musical performance is that it is a semi-public undertaking which is, by that characteristic alone, distanced from being the sort of activity that voyeurism would commonly be related to. However, certain images from the video suggest that, in context, there is a voyeuristic element involved. Most importantly, the small, barren room in the which the band is performing is distinctly different than the large-stage setting that would be expected of such a performance for a large audience. The further facts that the band is facing inwards, toward each other, rather than forward, as would be more traditional, and that they do not acknowledge the masked figures crowding around them suggests that the performance is not meant to be a public one. It is entirely possible, likely, even, that it is a private rehearsal that is being intruded upon rather than a public display. Viewed in this manner, the audience, seen pressing in on all sides as well as reaching from the backdrop toward the band, carries with it a strong suggestion of a voyeurism.

Ironically, the concept of narcissism in the video, while again created by the interaction between the band and audience, directly counters the notions created by the voyeuristic aspect. While the latter suggests negativity where the extreme involvement of the audience is concerned, the former can be seen as selling a message of the positive nature of the same thing. The band, inspiring as it does such devotion in its followers, is the centre of attention and the object of obsession; one interpretation is that the band is in the desirable position of being successful and adored on a large scale and, in the case of the latter, to the extreme.

This video is not the most obvious choice as an artifact to analyze through the Visual Pleasure theory; there is no overt sexualization of a member of either sex apparent in it, and the message that it is ultimately putting forth is not one of sexual attraction. It is uncommon in that it is a meditation on the hegemonically-enforced celebrity culture rather than on sexuality and desire and is more concerned with public image, of a sort, than personal image. Its value is, arguably, in its use as a vehicle for Visual Pleasure analysis that is more concerned with the non-sexual connotations of the imagery it provides.