Music is powerful.

Foo Fighters
Foo Fighters concert in Atlanta.

Lately, I have been listening to the band, Nothing but Thieves.  My son introduced me to the group.  I am so happy he told me about this band for several reasons.  For starters, the lead singer has an amazing, unique voice.  His name is Conor Mason.  The band, from England, is pretty awesome as well.

Music is so important to me.  Music can take me back to a particular time or place just from hearing a song.  For example, if I ever hear any song from the Santana, Supernatural CD, I immediately think of the time Micah and our friends went to a nearby town to hang out. (You know it was an unforgettable night if you happen to have been on this trip.) We were in our mid-twenties and full of dreams, but essentially, that night was all about having fun – laughing, dancing, and enjoying each other’s stories. We had a van full of people and lots of things to say.  I can go back to the one of many activities that night just by listening to one of the songs.  Obviously, music is a powerful memory producer.

As far as one of my favorite ways to use music in my professional life, I play it in some of my classes.   Non-lyrical options are great for group activities.  However, mainstream music is used often in a favorite classroom exercise of mine, Music and Media. After all, music is another part of the human experience and is full of sociological examples.  In fact, in my Introduction to Sociology classes, we often dissect a few songs based on the theories and topics we’ve already covered in class.  One of my favorite songs to discuss is “Pumped up Kicks” by Foster the People, but there are many others.  Some students are amazed at how easily they remember the lyrics to songs, but have never truly listened to the story in the song.

Music has the ability to transcend time and is a huge part of who we are. Clearly, musical lyrics can fuel institution-wide stereotypes. However, we can also use music to stereotype people into categories.  Because of my southern accent, people are always shocked that my favorite musical group isn’t in the country genre.  In fact, they are shocked to hear that I don’t particularly like country music at all, except for traditional Christmas songs sang by country musicians.  My thoughts are just because you live near the country doesn’t mean you embrace country music.  Similarly, we can’t say all big and tough men dislike soft pop music.

Music speaks to us and has the potential to generate lots of money.  Furthermore, those creating music have a lot of power because sometimes millions of people listen to a song.  Those writing the songs, producing the songs, and the record labels, etc. make a lot of money because people want music.  Let me say that again, people want music! People want to be exposed to different songs, lyrics, and voices.  I would venture to say the majority of musicians have music “in their blood” so to speak.  Money is a bonus.  The power of being successful can be good for society, or bad for society.  Why?  Music is contagious. Music can promote positive ideas (like forgiveness, understanding, or humanitarian efforts) or negative ideas (like sexism, prejudice, or violence.) Music is a part of who we are whether we realize it while humming our favorite tunes.

Now, let me get back to the band, Nothing but Thieves.  The song, “Emergency”, is an interesting song.  I have no idea what the band would say the song means, but to me, it means looking out for other people.  It means not neglecting other people. It means being aware of people who are acting out of character and offering to lend a hand. While I have not analyzed the song using sociological terminology or principles, I have pulled meaning from the song based on my unique perspective. (I will save the sociological analysis for another day.)

A small portion of the lyrics are listed below.  The video is at the end.  I must warn you there is one use of profanity in it.

A wasted life seems to mean the most
But these seconds are valuable
Breathe in change or let it go
And breathe To me, this part of the song means, let things go.  If you don’t, life can become sad and overwhelming.  Life is too short to be unhappy or to tolerate constant negativity.

Emergency, help
Emergency, help
Emergency To me, this means, if you are not happy, figure out why and make a change.  If you see someone acting out of character or suffering, ask them if they need help.  We all need to be supportive of one another.

That medicine is killing me
I won’t lay down, I won’t give in
That medicine is killing me
Some pieces have gone missing  To me, “medicine” is symbolic of an addiction.  For some people, gambling, drug abuse, physical violence, bullying, overeating, etc. is the drug.  It is the thing we know isn’t right, but we do repeatedly, and is killing us.  The girl in the music video can’t lie down and relax. Something terrible happened and the girl cannot let it go.  Whatever her problem (or their problem), she can’t find peace. He doesn’t communicate. She doesn’t communicate. They are close, but so far away. That piece of life, having a best friend, is missing.

Oh
I’ll give you something to think about
Oh
I’ll give you something to think about To me, this means the girl is contemplating making a drastic change so that people will realize she was suffering.   (Mason, Langridge-Brown, Craik, 2014, p. 1)

I think from this song, we should learn to put down our phones and look at one another.  We should *really* look at one another, forget our egos, and ask the important questions.  “Do you feel okay today?”  “You look sad, did something happen?” “You haven’t been acting yourself lately, what’s up?.” This is my two cents, for what it is worth. I hope you enjoy the song.

Sincerely,

Mel

Reference:

Mason, C., Langridge-Brown, J. & Craik, D. (2014). Emergency. On Graveyard whistling. Sony Music Entertainment UK: RCA Records Label.

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