One thing I really love about college is that it’s challenging. It’s not just academically challenging, it challenges you to think in ways you haven’t before about idea’s you never considered. I’m an English major, but my favorite class by far this semester is Introduction to Human Geography. I signed up for it in order to fulfill a core requirement thinking maybe it wouldn’t be too horrifically boring, but it has exceeded every expectation I had. The professor has asked some pretty tough questions, but the best part are his lectures. He’s given a lecture on graffiti, medical geography, sports stadiums, and today, music. These things I thought had very little meaning (graffiti and sports stadiums especially) actually have a huge impact on society. The lecture on music is what really inspired this post. He pointed out how music has gradually lost meaning, and that we have become desensitized to it. We listen and buy songs that all sound the same, and glorifies all the wrong things: drugs, sex, alcohol, objectification of women, etc. He asked us “When was the last time you really listened to a song? When was the last time you listened to a song that really meant something?” There were a lot of expressions of epiphany on the students’ faces. It reminded me of a conversation I’d had in my English class the day before. The professor had asked us to rhetorically analyze a building, and most of the students grumbled about how pointless it was, albeit impossible. The one guys spouted off, saying that we looked into things too much, that there was no hidden meaning in art, music, or literature; he said we gave things meaning because we wanted to. All I could think was, how sad it must be to live in a world with no meaning. To listen to a song without really listening; to read a book and see nothing but words strung together on a page; to look at a piece of artwork and see nothing but a mix of colors. To see none of the beauty that artistic creations provides us. Music, above all, is where I find meaning. These songs in particular are ones that have either made me think about culture today, or helped me through a rough time.
Fun- Troye Sivan (Trxye EP)
When I first heard this song, the only thing that stood out to me was the catchy beat, and the lyrics I wanted to hear. I only heard “don’t you want to see the world?”, “I swear you’ll feel alive”, and “Let’s go have fun”. I was in a good mood, driving down the highway, and in typical American fashion, I subconsciously blocked out the true lyrics and meaning of the song and heard the happy song about having fun that I wanted to hear. However, when I listened to it the second time, sitting on my balcony at midnight, just listening to music and thinking, I actually heard the lyrics. It caught me totally off guard. I swear I listened to the song 10 times, just absorbing the lyrics. Troye is addressing a very serious issue, one that is not often discussed, especially in pop music today. The child soldiers in the Middle East. They’re told it will be fun, that they’ll feel alive, and see the world. But Troye also reveals the horror of the situation in this song, with the lyrics “Just don’t look them in the eyes” and “You’re gonna make them proud, until they put you in the ground.” This song is hard hitting, as is the entire album.
Close as Strangers – 5 Seconds of Summer (5 Seconds of Summer)
This was one of my instant favorites off of the album simply because of the intense emotion expressed in the song, however it wasn’t until I left everything behind when I left for university that it took on a more personal meaning. While the song is supposed to portray a difficult long-distance romantic relationship, it could be applied to any long distance relationship. I did not leave a boyfriend at home, however I left my mom and brother at home, and this song really expresses what I’ve been going through.
“Late night calls and another text, is this as good as it’s going to get?”
“Everyday you feel a little bit further away, and I don’t know what to say.”
“Are we wasting time, talking on a broken line? Telling you I haven’t seen your face in ages, I feel like we’re as close as strangers. Won’t give up, even though it hurts so much. Every night I’m losing you in a thousand faces. Now it feels we’re as close as strangers.”
I feel like this is a song many can relate to, though it may be brushed aside due to 5 Seconds of Summer’s newly acquired “typical boyband” status. I urge you to listen to the album, because while some of the songs are typical pop songs about teenage love, some have real meaning and deep messages.
Clean – Taylor Swift (1989)
I will be posting an entire album review next week, however I still wanted to include this song, because it really hit me in a way that no Taylor Swift song ever has before. That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed her music, but I’ve never really related to it. This song, however, tells a story. It tells the story of someone who was in a relationship that ended painfully and messily; it was the kind of the relationship that left a permanent mark that was nearly impossible to get rid of. However it is possible to recover, and Taylor shows us that by the end of the song. I know what it’s like to be the person in this song. To let all the emotions, the pain, the hurt, the betrayal, just wash over you in a perfect storm, until you are so awash in emotions you can’t separate one from another; however you’re finally letting yourself feel. You’re finally able to breathe despite the fact that you’re drowning, because you’re finally letting yourself feel.
“Rain came pouring down when I was drowning
That’s when I could finally breathe
And by morning, gone was any trace of you, I think I am finally clean.”
Silent – Tori Kelly (The Giver Soundtrack)
This society puts a lot of pressure, especially on young people, to “fit in”. To live the norm. I first heard this song my second week of college. I was scared, alone, and confused. I kept my head down, wore the types of clothes everyone else was wearing, and tried to be the person they wanted me to be. I desperately wanted to be friends with the girls on my hall, just so I wouldn’t feel quite so alone, so I pretended. I pretended I didn’t like reading for fun and I hid my books in the closet. I pretended I wanted to only ever wear t-shirts, leggings, and boots, and that I didn’t care what I looked like for class. I pretended that I enjoyed listening to the mainstream pop and rap, whose constant lyrics of sex, drugs, and the objectification of women sickened me. I spent an entire week pretending, but it got tiring. I wanted to be the person I was deep down. And then I heard this song, and I broke. I stopped pretending after that. I wasn’t silent about what I liked and who I really was anymore. And yes, the girls on my hall stopped talking to me and branded me the “weird girl”, but I didn’t care. Because who wants friends that only like you because you’re like them?
“Wake up in a new day but it don’t feel that new
Same faces around me with the same point of view
Everything is perfect, everything’s ok
Just swallow the lies and let your emotions fade
But my heart won’t be quiet, I feel a change.
No more black and white
This life’s too colorful, beautiful.”
Disconnected – 5 Seconds of Summer (She Looks So Perfect EP)
I know, know, another 5SOS song. But bear with me. Hidden behind the upbeat, catchy tune, is an important and relevant message. Our world is overrun by technology. We are constantly watching something on the TV, surfing the internet, texting someone, enveloped in a social media site…the list goes on and on. It’s begun to affect out interpersonal relationships. We don’t call each other, we text. When we are with each other, someone is always on their phone. Technology has consumed us and altered our relationships, and this song addresses that. But it also addresses how the best moments in life are when you’re with someone you care about, whether a significant other or just a friend, and are simply talking. Some of the best moments I’ve had with people weren’t when we went to the movies or sat in an ice cream shop buried in our individual worlds of social media, but when we were sitting on a playground jungle gym at 1am, just talking, staring up at the stars. When we were driving with the windows down on a back road at night, talking about life. Or even just sitting alone on the balcony the night before I left for college, listening to the sounds of the life I was leaving behind. I swear I sat out there for 3 hours, just listening. That’s what this song is about. It’s about cutting all the chatter of technology and really living life.
“Life’s a tangled web
Of cell phone calls and hashtag I-don’t-knows
And you you’re so caught up
In all the blinking lights and dial tones
I admit I’m a bit of a victim in the worldwide system too
But I’ve found my sweet escape when I’m alone with you.
Tune out the static sound of the city that never sleeps
Here in the moment on the dark side of the screen.”
Matter – for KING & COUNTRY (Run Wild. Live Free. Love Strong.)
My music taste is all over the place, and I am a Christian, so naturally there is some Christian/Gospel music on my iPod. However, at the risk of sounding like a “bad Christian”, I don’t listen to the typical “Hallelujah, He is Risen” types of songs. They are often repetitive and most sound the same. I like the songs that have lyrics that encourage me, that build me up and give me hope. Matter is that song. Life has been rough lately, and I’ve been questioning a lot of things. I’ve asked myself so many times whether or not the pain is worth it, if there really is a purpose to all the struggles. I’ve doubted so many times whether or not any of this matters. This album was released after I had been at college for about a month, and was still struggling. I think I listened to the entire thing on repeat for about a week, but the song that really stood out was this one. Because they’re right, it will matter.
“All of the dreams that haven’t come true
And all of the hurt that happened to you
It matters, I hope you know it matters
You felt the pain of a bitter defeat
Where the weight of the grief is more bitter than sweet
It matters, I’m telling you it matters.”
Pretty Hurts – Beyoncé (Beyoncé)
This song is another one that addresses a relevant issue in today’s society. Women are under constant pressure to be beautiful. To wear clothes that are classy but yet revealing, to wear enough makeup but then again not too much, to have the right hair cut. There are so many guidelines and expectations, and people try to pretend they aren’t there, that women inflict the pressure on themselves, but that’s just not the case. It’s the media, society, popular culture, and Beyoncé addresses that. Because it doesn’t matter how hard we try, we are never good enough, and that causes emotional damage, and it hurts. The entire message of the song can be summed up in the title: Pretty Hurts. It’s that simple. Pretty hurts.
“Pretty hurts, we shine the light on whatever’s worst
Perfection is a disease of a nation, pretty hurts, pretty hurts
Pretty hurts, we shine the light on whatever’s worst
We try to fix something but you can’t fix what you can’t see
It’s the soul that needs the surgery.”
Social Casualty – 5 Seconds of Summer (5 Seconds of Summer)
Do you ever hear a song that so perfectly describes your life that it just shocks you into silence, and you have the urge to post it on every social media page you have? Shouting to the world “This is me, this is my life” without actually saying the words. That’s what this song is for me. I’ve talked about it previously in this post several times. I’m sick of conforming to society. I’m sick of listening to the countless voices telling me how to act and be. Of the voices telling me I won’t make it. There’s not much more I can really say about the song, other than this is me. This is my life. In fact, I loved the following lyrics so much that I painted them onto a canvas and have it hanging in my dorm room.
“Just a girl turned 18
She ran away to chase her dreams.
And they said she wouldn’t make it far.
She took a chance and packed her bags
She left town and didn’t look back
So tired of wishing on the stars (wishing on the stars).”
Photograph – Ed Sheeran (X)
When I first got to college, I was feeling a lot of things, but primarily it was pain. I chose to attend a university that was 1500 miles from home. I missed my friends, my family, even my city. The pain literally made me sick. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat, and I barely dragged myself out of bed everyday. When I feel pain like that, I usually turn to music. Music has always been an outlet for me. It has been able to put emotions into words that I could not find. So I searched. I searched for a song that would help me process what I was feeling. I found several, but this one really stood out. I had already covered the walls of my dorm in pictures I had organized and printed before I left. I remember this song coming on Spotify, and I just sat and listened while looking at those pictures, silently crying. But even though I was crying, even though I felt the pain ripping through my chest, I felt relief. I finally had put words to the emotions I was feeling. I could finally process. I’ll be honest, I’ve been at college for over 2 months, and I’m doing so much better, but this song still brings tears to my eyes.
“We keep this love in a photograph
We made these memories for ourselves
Where our eyes are never closing
Hearts are never broken
And time’s forever frozen still
So you can keep me
Inside the pocket of your ripped jeans
Holding me closer ’til our eyes meet
You won’t ever be alone, wait for me to come home.”