Monday, April 11, 2011

Lyrics (Over)Analysis - Devil's Music by Trung Doan

Play the youtube video to listen to the song Devil's Music

One of the more intriguing things about rock music, was how radical and dangerous it was perceived to be by some of the more conservative elements at that time.  Rock music was referred to as the "devil's music". From Elvis Presley who’s dancing was considered so risque that they have to censor his dancing to protect the public from being corrupted by his performance when he was shaking his arse to the controversy of The Rolling Stones who were accused of being devil's worshippers due to the song Sympathy For The Devil even if the song certainly didn't support satanism. Black Sabbath who despite writing lyrics that was against satan were routinely criticised for promoting satanism as well.

So for this song that I've written, I'm a telling a cautionary tale about the dangers of rock music influencing the youth. I sort of imagine that there was a scare campaign film illustrating the dangers of rock and roll by telling a story where a youth was listening to rock music which influences the person to go and cause chaos and then ended up being jailed for their crimes. This song is told from the perspective of the corrupted youth

It's quiet now
I'm never there
Trapped in four walls

The lyrics supposed to implicate that the main character is a naive person who has been shielded by society (assuming from their parents) and had a quiet life. The trapped in four walls was meant to be metaphorical in a sense that their minds is trapped in four walls as they haven't seen the world outside their narrow view.

You took me away and showed me a place where I never been before
I'm alive

Who is "you"?
"You" in the context of the song is the personification of rock music
By listening to the rock song, the person was seduced by the music and it felt like it open the character's mind to a different place and different world and the character felt alive from the experience. I personalised rock music to make it appear that it’s like a person seducing people to the evils of the world aka the devil.

Of course, there's no indication at this point that "you" is rock music but this will be revealed later on.

Slowly turning moving away from past life
Slowly turning moving in your sight
Boredom gone now, unlocking a part of my mind
For better or worse now see the "new me" arrive

This passage of lyrics goes through the transformation in the mind of the main character. The protagonist is no longer naive and is discovering the world around him and the person feels electrified about the discovery of rock music. This has changed his personality but he doesn't know whether it is good or bad.

Move away there's no control
Move away there's no control
Move away there's no control
In the name of fun

However it turns out that rock music made the protagonist lose all sense of inhibition and he ended up losing control over himself.  The main character is causing chaos but the person is not creating chaos out of any ideal or politics etc. They are just doing it because it is "fun". That's what the perception of rock music was in the past where it encourages people to have fun damning all the consequences that resulted from it. Rock music is quite connected to the hedonistic lifestyle.

We’re crazy kids, too much time in our hands
We’re crazy kids leaving a wake of death

So rock music ended up inspiring kids who had too much time and were bored with their lives to become chaotic that ended up leaving a wake of death (you got to ratch up the drama when you are making a scare campaign).

We're crazy kids don't tell us what to do
And watch us self-destruct

This line was inspired by The Living End song called Prisoners Of Society which I generally dislike as it romanticised youth rebellion. It had the line "We don't need no one like you, to tell us what to do"

This line is a bit of response to that by saying that if people don't tell youths what to do then their lack of discipline (plus the influence of rock music) will caused them to self destruct.

Oh no
Look what you've done now
You let the monster out
Will I be boring again?

The main character is starting to feel a bit self-conscious about the chaos he is creating. He realised that the rock music has unleashed the monster inside him and he starts to wonder whether he will ever return back to his boring old self again.

Move away there's no control
Move away there's no control
Move away there's no control
In the name of fun

We’re crazy kids, running amok
We're crazy kids, who put the devil in us?
We're crazy kids, watch us self-destruct
I guess that's rock and roll

The question is asked who put the devil in the kids that made them lose control and self destruct. It's finally revealed that the culprit was rock music itself.

It's quiet now
They locked me away
Trapped in four walls
They took me away and show me a place where I never been before
That's life

Now the main character is locked away in prison where it's quiet. The "trapped in four walls" which was metaphorical at the beginning is now literal. At the beginning of the song, rock music took the character in a place where he never been before, but that place was meant to symbolise a mental state that the character has never felt. Now it says that rock music has taken the person to prison which the character has never been before.

Slowly turning moving nowhere for now
Slowly turning keeping me away from you
Boredom back now, wishing it never left before
For better or worse now see the “new me” arrive

The person realised that he is stuck in prison and now wished that the boring old self never left him. The character realised that being boring (rock fans often tell people who find rock music to be childish to be "boring") isn't so bad as being boring may just mean being stable.

The song should end at this point with the main protagonist learning his lesson. However the main character hears rock music in the background and returns back to his chaotic ways as the "Move Away There's No Control" section repeats itself.

It turns out the "new me" wasn't a return back to his boring self but actually a return back to his chaotic self after a moment of self doubt. That ends the song as the message of this anti-rock music propaganda is that the influence of rock music is permanent and that there is no redemption from the corruption of it. That's why rock music has to be something that is stopped.


In any case, I'm not too sure whether this song is a satire of the sensationalistic reaction to rock music being the devil's music or whether this is a cautionary conservative tale warning parents about what happen to kids who aren't discipline properly when they have too much spare time on their hands. It may works on both levels in a sort of absurd way.

If I have any criticism about the lyrics of this song, that perhaps the lyrics were too vague for people to realise that the song was about rock music. I generally like lyrics to be direct and straight to the point and this song breaks my own rule by disguising the meaning of the song. Even when I reveal rock music as the cause of the problem with the line "I guess that’s rock and roll", I'm not too sure if people can connect that line to the rest of the song without me telling people the meaning behind it. I always felt that people should be able to work out the meaning of the song by studying the lyrics without external sources explaining the true meaning to them. I'm not sure whether I have accomplished that with this song.

It's also questionable that people will realise that the song is satire because I sing this song with an absolute straight face and that there is a very dramatic music in the background. The whole purpose of this is that I'm pretending that if an anti-rock music propaganda film really does exist, there will be an actor playing the character who is self-destructing due to the influence of rock music and that actor will play it straight. Therefore I have to play the character straight as well and pretend that this is serious drama. I'm not too sure if that approach works in the music medium like it does with the film medium.

Although violence was one of the concerns of the dangers of rock music (especially during the riots during the 60's and songs like Street Fighting Man by The Rolling Stones), majority of the conservative concerns about rock music was that it was advocating drug used as well as sexual debauchery. This song doesn't address that at all which impairs any satirical impact the song is making. Also how relevant is the satire when it's satiring a mindset that was common decades ago and is kind of resolved now? Maybe the song would have worked in the 60's but perhaps people can argue that the lyrics is irrelevant now.

I'm not too sure how I would fix that and for now I'll leave the lyrics of this song at its current state.

In any case, even though people may not get the connection to rock music. The song works without the connection. If people didn't get the song to be about rock music, people will just interpret that a person came and influence the naive protagonist down the dark path which caused the main character to descend into chaos until that character became imprisoned. So I don't think that's a big problem.

Despite the criticism I have with the lyrics, I'm still fairly happy with the lyrics I wrote as it was a step up to what I was writing at that time.

Anyway, that conclude my lyrical overanalysis and I welcome any feedback on the lyrics, song and analysis.

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