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Welcome!

My name's Clifford Stumme, and I explain the deeper meanings of popular songs. Let's have a conversation about what you think about the songs and go deeper together. Feel free to email me at clifford@popsongprofessor.com with questions or ideas!

3 Reasons We Should Care about Song Meanings

3 Reasons We Should Care about Song Meanings

I started thinking...

I usually respond to comments on my blog every week. It takes me about an hour, and every time I do it, I wish I had started sooner.

The kinds of comments and questions that I get inspire me to think, to write, and to keep listening to songs with deep meanings.

But as I was responding today, two thoughts occurred to me: not everyone cares about song meanings and not everyone believes we should care.

If songs don't affect your lives or the lives of people around you--maybe if you're incredibly isolated and far from all other humans--I may see your point, but there are so few people like that.

For most of us, music is a way of life.

I know not everyone has the same experience as me, but from what I see, we 2016-people (at least Americans and probably most everybody else reading this) wake up to music, listen to music in the shower, listen to music on our drive to work, turn on Spotify or a radio station when we get to work, listen to music at a restaurant during lunch, listen to more music at work, listen to music on our drive to the grocery store, listen to music at the grocery store, and listen to music at home until it's time to go to bed.

Wen almost everyone does some combination of those, it's no wonder the music industry is booming and music itself is more popular than it's ever been. And why shouldn't it be? It's a powerful, powerful thing.

So, my big question for you is my first reason we should care about song meanings:

1. Don't you want to tap into that power?

Now, this isn't the kind of power you can use to save the day or win fame or acclaim.

It's the kind of power that helps you to better understand yourself and the world around you--sometimes a greater struggle than saving the day.

When an artist gets vulnerable (like Twenty One Pilots, Bastille, and Panic! at the Disco all do), they open up to us about the struggles they feel, the doubt that racks them, or the messes their lives feel like.

But they've also figured out things that we haven't figured out yet, and we can be encouraged or figure those things out for ourselves too now that we've heard them sing about it. And when they share about problems, we can know that we're not the only ones. Our concerns are validated, and we gain the courage to keep looking for answers.

Listening to Music
Listening to Music

2. Do you really want to live on the surface your whole life?

You can live surface level all you want. You can try to block out the lyrics and just pay attention to the melody--and that's a lot of people's excuse for listening to really terrible music--but that's not a solution. That's a refusal to go deep and wrestle with the big questions of life:

Why am I here? What should make me happy? Why should I keep living? Where did I come from?

All music, even EDM party music, has answers to those questions. And it's up to you whether you want to wrestle with those or just "enjoy the melody."

Don't get me wrong. Enjoying melodies is important, and melodies can teach us or make us feel things too, but if you don't actively dive into the lyrics you're listening to, you're missing out on a level of meaning and depth that your life could have but won't have until you buckle down and look up the lyrics and think about them or discuss them--until you start caring.

3. Music mirrors issues and ideas we see in the rest of the world.

If you want to know what's going on in your world, listen to current music. Artists deal with issues like depression, suicide, wealth, lack of wealth, finding fulfillment, international relations, sexuality, and so many more things in their songs, whether it be a small indie band or a top 40 pop star.

One of the best ways for a human to deal with unresolved questions about difficult issues is to create art about it, and music (thanks to Garage Band, Apple, and the Internet) is an accessible and popular medium for artists. So, when artists go to those places to work through these issues, they're inviting us to join them in the conversation and to think about these issues ourselves.

The more you listen to music, the more you're going to hear people singing about the issues that are bothering them, and because we're all humans all living in the same world, a lot of the same things bother all of us together. Listening to the meanings in music can help you to access that conversation.

Music is a powerful tool, and listening to it is a good thing that will help you to gain power of your own thoughts, live life on a deeper level, and join a worldwide conversation about big questions and issues that humans are thinking about.

But remember, it's not enough to just listen to music. You need to think about it and #HearTheMeaning. Look up the lyrics, journal about what you feel and think, talk to others, Google the meaning, email me--whatever works for you.

Start by caring and realizing that this is an important way to make your life and the lives of others better.

What does "Ruin" by Shawn Mendes mean?

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