Now That's What I Call Analyzing Song Lyrics Vol. 2

Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself... My name is JOV(ial).

Song Lyric Solutions Architect

Behance Team @ Adobe

The Rules

Rule #1

Leave your Ideology at the Door

  • Offensive vs Offended
  • Remember Fahrenheit 451

Rule #2

All Interpretations are Valid, Not All are Equal

  • Death of the Author
  • Infer vs. Imply
  • Remember Fahrenheit 451

Rule #3

There are No Experts

  • Wikipedia

Analyzing Lyrics As "The Message"

Discovering The True Meaning Of Selected Lyrics

Why is meaning often ignored in music?

  • Passive Medium
  • Missing Context
  • Message vs. Medium
  • Interpreting Too Literally

Born In The U.S.A

Missed Context

Seemingly: A patriotic call for endurance through potentially rough times.

Actually: A vet comes home after fighting for his country and gets no help. "Born In The U.S.A." is more like "But I was born in the U.S.A.! How can this be what's happening?"

George Will: He is no whiner, and the recitation of closed factories and other problems always seems punctuated by a grand, cheerful affirmation: 'Born in the U.S.A.!'"

Born In The U.S.A

Missed Context

Come back home to the refinery
Hiring man says "Son if it was up to me"
Went down to see my V.A. man
He said "Son, don't you understand"

Closing Time

Missed Context

Seemingly: It is closing time at a bar, time to perform the requisite mating ritual.

Actually: It is closing time in the womb, time to go into the places you will be from.

Closing Time

Missed Context

Open all the doors and let you out into the world
Turn all of the lights on over every boy and every girl
One last call for alcohol so finish your whiskey or beer
You don't have to go home but you can't stay here

Time for you to go out to the places you will be from
This room won't be open 'til your brothers or you sisters come

So gather up your jackets, and move it to the exits
I hope you have found a friend
Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end

Staying Alive

Message Overshadowed By Medium

Seemingly: A Ladie's Man Discussing His Domination of Disco Era Tropes... Loud Music and Women 

Actually: A man struggling to get by in the big city. Disco Dancing is his only escape from the monotony of his life.

"Everybody struggles against the world, fighting all the bullshit and things that can drag you down. And it really is a victory just to survive." - Barry Gibb

Staying Alive

Well, you can tell by the way I use my walk
I'm a woman's man: no time to talk
Music loud and women warm,

I've been kicked around Since I was born

Got the wings of heaven on my shoes
I'm a dancin' man and I just can't lose
You know it's all right, it's okay
I'll live to see another day

Life goin' nowhere, somebody help me, yeah
I'm stayin' alive

Message Overshadowed By Medium

Hey Ya

Seemingly: ??? Good Dance Song?

Message Overshadowed By Medium

Actually: I think my girlfriend wants to cheat on me, but is afraid of losing our relationship, so let's end it now because staying together and being unhappy is dumb. Everyone else, lets just have a good time to avoid all this nonsense.

Hey Ya

Message Overshadowed By Medium

If what they say is "Nothing is forever"
Then what makes - then what makes
Love the exception? So why oh why oh, are we so in denial?

My baby don't mess around
Because she loves me so
And this I know for sho
But does she really want it
But can't stand to see me
Walk out the door?

Silly Love Songs

Actually: A comment on the value of love songs. An ironic response to John Lennon's accusation that all McCartney does is write poppy love songs.

Too Literal

Seemingly: Professing Love To Someone

Silly Love Songs

Too Literal

You'd think that people
Would've had enough of silly love songs
But I look around me
And I see it isn't so

Some people want to fill the world
With silly love songs
And what's wrong with that?
I'd like to know
Cause here I go again

I love you
I love you
I love you
I love you

Baby Got Back

Too Literal

Seemingly: Sir Mix a lot really likes big butts.

Actually: Yes, he loves big butts, but so does everyone else. The established concept of "skinny = beautiful" is wrong, and comes from whitewashing perpetrated by popular media.

Baby Got Back

Too Literal

Becky, look at her butt...

she's just so... black!

I like big butts and I can not lie,
You other brothers can't deny

I'm tired of magazines
Sayin' flat butts are the thing
Take the average black man and ask him that
She gotta pack much back

Baby Got Back

Too Literal

So I'm looking at rock videos
Watching these bimbos walking like hoes
You can have them bimbos
I'll keep my women like Flo Jo

when it comes to females, Cosmo ain't got nothin'
To do with my selection...

So Cosmo says you're fat
Well I ain't down with that!

To the beanpole dames in the magazines:
You ain't it, Miss Thing!

Bohemian Rhapsody

#166 on Rolling Stone's top 500 of all time

Most Played Song of All Time on BBC Radio 1

On It's Surface...

A Man Commits Murder...

Confesses to His Mother...

His Mother Please For His Life With Demons...

He resigns himself to the Demons...

His Mother Storms Away in Anger...

He Acts as if His Fate is OK...

Bohemian Rhapsody

Beneath The Surface?

Freddie Mercury has his first homosexual experience...

Confesses to his then wife...

He battles with himself and his wife over his sexuality...

He accepts his homosexuality...

His wife storms away in anger...

He is upset over hurting his wife

Bohemian Rhapsody

Methaphoric Symbols

Death / Devils = Homosexuality

God / Christ = Heterosexuality

Gun = A Certain Body Part

Mama = Mary Austin (his then wife)

Open Questions?

Why Does Mercury use negative symbolism? 

Bohemian Rhapsody

Freddie Mercury has his first homosexual experience...

Confesses to his then wife...

Mama, just killed a man, put a gun against his head
Pulled my trigger, now he's dead
Mama, life had just begun
But now I've gone and thrown it all away

Goodbye, everybody, I've got to go
Gotta leave you all behind and face the truth

Mama, ooh, I don't want to die
I sometimes wish I'd never been born at all

Bohemian Rhapsody

He battles with himself and his wife over his sexuality...

  • Mercury: I see a little silhouetto of a man
  • Mercury: Scaramouche, Scaramouche...
  • The Devil: will you do the Fandango?
  • Mercury: Thunderbolt and lightning, very, very fright'ning me
  • Mercury: (Galileo.) Galileo. (Galileo.) Galileo. Galileo figaro magnifico
  • Mercury: I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me
  • Mary: He's just a poor boy from a poor family
  • Mary: Spare him his life from this monstrosity

Bohemian Rhapsody

He accepts his homosexuality...

  • Mercury to Mary: Easy come, easy go, will you let me go?
  • Mary: Bismillah! No, we will not let you go
  • The Devils: Let him go!
  • Mercury to Mary: Mama mia, let me go... Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me, for me, for me!

Bohemian Rhapsody

His wife storms away in anger...

So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye?
So you think you can love me and leave me, to die?
Oh, baby, can't do this to me, baby!
Just gotta get out, just gotta get right outta here!

Bohemian Rhapsody

He is upset over hurting his wife

Nothing really matters, anyone can see
Nothing really matters
Nothing really matters to me
Any way the wind blows

Analyzing Lyrics As "The Medium"

Appreciating Lyrics As Art In And Of Themselves

Why Hip Hop?

  • The human voice as percussion instrument

  • Persistent use of simile and double entendre

  • Rhyme Scheme & Dialect

  • Immersive Storytelling as communication method

Human Voice as

Percussive Instrument

  • Consonance (and alliteration)
  • Assonance (and half-rhymes)
  • End Rhyme vs. Internal Rhyme


Rap rejects my tape deckejects projectile / Whether Jew or gentile, I rank top percentile

- Fugees, Zealot


Perfected poem, powerful punch lines

Pummeling petty powder puffs in my prime

 - Blackalicious, Alphabet Aerobics


Dead in the middle of little Italy little did we know that we riddled some middleman who didn't do diddly.

- Big Pun, Twinz

Slant Rhyme

And be prosperous, though we live dangerous 

Cops could just arrest me, blamin’ us, we’re held like hostages

 - Nas, NY State of Mind

End Rhyme

Now, what you hear is not a test, I'm rapping to the beat.
And me, the groove, and my friends are gonna try to move your feet.

 - Sugar Hill Gang, Rapper's Delight

Internal Rhyme

The attractive assassin

blastin the devil trespassin

Master gettin cash in an 

orderly fashion.

 - The Roots, Respond/React

Eminem - Renegade

Simile and Double Entendre

Double Entendre

If I sell a brick I can buy a house
If they find the key they might lock me up

- Logic, Gang Related

When I come back like Jordan, wearing the 45

It ain't to play games with you... probably mame you.

 - Jay Z, Encore

I don’t half-step on the ‘caine

- Jay Z, Hello Brooklyn 2.0


You stopping us is preposterous
like an androgynous misogynist

- Talib Kweli - Twice Inna Lifetime

I refugee from Guantanamo Bay
Dance around the border like I'm Cassius Clay

- Praz, Ready Or Not

My rhymes are like shot clocks,
interstate cops
and blood clots,
my point is your flow gets stopped.

 - Talib Kweli - Hater Players

Rhyme Scheme

& Dialect

Jay Z - Moment of Clarity

On Simple Rhymes:

Music business hate me ‘cause the industry ain't make me
Hustlers and boosters embrace me and the music I be making
I dumbed down for my audience to double my dollars
They criticized me for it, yet they all yell "holla"
If skills sold, truth be told, I'd probably be lyrically Talib Kweli
Truthfully I wanna rhyme like Common Sense
But I did 5 mill' – I ain't been rhyming like Common since
When your cents got that much in common
And you been hustling since your inception
Fuck perception! Go with what makes sense

Wu Tang - Triumph

Complex Rhymes & Dialect

I bomb atomically, Socrates' philosophies and hypotheses
Can't define how I be dropping these mockeries
Lyrically perform armed robbery
Flee with the lottery, possibly they spotted me
Battle-scarred Shogun, explosion when my pen hits tremendous
Ultraviolet shine blind forensics
I inspect you, through the future see millennium
Killer Beez sold fifty gold, sixty platinum
Shackling the masses with drastic rap tactics
Graphic displays melt the steel like blacksmiths

Big L - Ebonics


A radio is a box, a razor blade is a ox
Fat diamonds is rocks and jakes is cops
And if you got robbed, you got stuck
If you got shot, you got bucked
And if you got double-crossed, you got fucked
Your bankroll is your poke, a choke hold is a yoke
A kite is a note, a con is a okey doke...
I know you like the way I'm freaking it
I talk with slang and I'mma never stop speaking it

That's just the way that I talk, yo

Immersive Storytelling

Children's Story

Once upon a time not long ago
When people wore pajamas and lived life slow
When laws were stern and justice stood
And people were behavin' like they ought ta good
There lived a lil' boy who was misled
By another lil' boy and this is what he said:
"Me and you, Ty, we gonna make some cash
Robbin' old folks and makin' tha dash"
They did the job, money came with ease
But one couldn't stop, it's like he had a disease

Gimme The Loot

My man Inf left a Tec and a 9 at my crib
Turned his self in, he had to do a bid
A 1-to-3, he be home the end of '93
I'm ready to get this paper, G: you with me?
Motherfucking right, my pockets looking kinda tight
And I'm stressed
Yo, Biggie let me get the vest

No need for that, just grab the fucking gat
The first pocket that's fat, the Tec is to his back
Word is bond, I'mma smoke him, yo, don't fake no moves
Treat it like boxing, stick and move, stick and move
you ain't got to explain shit
I've been robbing motherfuckas since the slave ships
With the same clip and the same .45

99 Problems

So I, pull over to the side of the road, I heard:
"Son do you know why I'm stopping you for?"
"Cause I'm young and I'm black and my hat's real low
Do I look like a mind reader sir, I don't know
Am I under arrest or should I guess some more?"
"Well you was doing fifty-five in a fifty-four
License and registration and step out of the car
Are you carrying a weapon on you? I know a lot of you are"

"I ain't stepping out of shit, all my paper's legit."
"Well, do you mind if I look around the car a little bit?"
"Well, my glove compartment is locked, so is the trunk in the back
And I know my rights, so you gon' need a warrant for that"
"Aren't you sharp as a tack..."


Renegade Rhyme Scheme:

Spotify Playlist:

Now That's What I Call Analyzing Song Lyrics Vol. 2

By mikesherov

Now That's What I Call Analyzing Song Lyrics Vol. 2

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