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Song Analysis Writing Assignment
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Audience and Purpose:
- Music is a big part of our lives; even if we are not big music fans or CD buyers, music surrounds us--TV, movies, commercials, church, elevators (!)--but what does our listening to music reveal about our (society’s/culture’s) values? For this assignment, your audience will be your peers in English 104 and you will be conducting an analysis of music. In your analysis you should discuss how the songs (two songs of your own choosing) reflect societal trends, values, and narratives.
- We get many of our ideas and values in this society from various forms of media--TV, movies, advertisements, music, etc., and in this paper, it is your job to think about how the songs your songs create or feed those certain values. You must go beyond simply saying you like or dislike the songs; in this paper, you should investigate why this is the case. What does the song offer you that other songs do not? Is it the lyrics and the message? the beat or rhythm? the musician? the political stance?
- In this essay, you will closely read and listen to the lyrics from two songs. You can choose any songs you like, as long as you can obtain a copy of the lyrics. Your task is to determine the relationship between society (audience) and the song lyrics that you have chosen. Additionally, you will clearly demonstrate and support the relationship between the two songs. In order to conduct a thorough analysis, and not just spend your paper summarizing the songs, you should think about the following elements to your paper.
- Briefly summarize the main points of each song. What is the overall “message” or “theme” of each song? Additionally, set the song within the context of its genre or classification--rock, alternative, hip-hop, country, classical, pop, rap, R & B, bluegrass, opera, etc. Is the song typical of its genre? Why or why not?
- After you have summarized, ask yourself some difficult questions about the songs you have chosen. Describe the audience for your chosen songs. Be specific in your characterization of the audience. How do you know who the audience is? What do the lyrics reveal about the values of its group of listeners? What does the song value? love? a perfect relationship? fun? social responsibility? non-conformity? revenge? Are there stereotypes reflected in the lyrics? Why does this music appeal to some people but not others?
- You may not be able to answer all of these questions, and you don't have to answer all of them in the paper, but they might help you get started on your analysis.
- Do common themes exist between the two songs? Why or why not? What do you identify as the most important difference between the two song lyrics? Remember to clearly explain why you have chosen to compare these two songs. Are they completely opposed to one another? Are they both from the same artist/musician? Do they address common themes? Do they reflect certain cultural or moral values that are important you?
- Consider the purpose of the song: Why do you think this song was written? Does it have a strong social message? Also consider tone as it relates to the message of the song. Such considerations influence how groups of people perceive music and reveal why they value music.
A special note:
- You must include one copy of the lyrics for both songs, the names of the artists/groups, and the titles of the songs for the instructor. If these are not available on the album cover, they can be easily attained on the web. Just do a search using the artist’s name.
About this Document
This assignment compares and contrasts two separate songs. Students have to read the lyrics closely in order to be successful. It's a really fun assignment and students like pulling some of their "outside of school" selves into the paper.