Word Up: The power of song lyrics

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By Simran Kaur Takhi

Music can be seen as the body in which messages are relayed to billions across the globe and lyrics therefore, can be seen as the skeleton that allows such messages to reach hopeful listeners. Lyrics have the power to document historical fact, provide us with thought-provoking imagery, give solace to the lonely teenager and perhaps narrate the life of someone dealing with a break-up. Lyrics have the ability to relate to every aspect of life and in this piece, I will share lyrics that I find particularly powerful, whether that be due to their poignancy or even their remarkable predictions for the future.


Southern trees bear a strange fruit

Blood on the leaves and blood at the root

Billie Holiday Strange Fruit

As mentioned earlier, lyrics can document important periods in time and Billie Holiday’s ‘Strange Fruit’ is a perfect example of this. These lyrics depict a bleak time in America’s history where the lynching of Black African – Americans was a common occurrence. The writer Abel Meeropol, presents shocking imagery through the use of metaphor and the growth of trees, only in this case, the fruit represents the flesh of the victims themselves. It’s Meeropol’s pairing of something as pure as nature, with the harsh brutality of the lynching that makes these lyrics particularly poignant.


And what will happen in the morning when the world it gets so crowded that you can’t look out the  window in the morning?

Nick Drake Hazey Jane II

Lyrics are sometimes made more gripping when reflecting on them in relation to the world in which a person lives. Nick Drake penned ‘Hazey Jane II’ in 1960/70s Britain but it appears that these lyrics transcend time. These words were written in a world, prior to the monumental increase in immigration seen over the decades but, can it be said that Nick Drake was way ahead of his time? As hyperbolic as these words are, when isolated, many would agree that the world is in fact overcrowded due to the freedom of movement and the results of the EU Referendum reflect this. These lyrics not only demonstrate the ability of a song to seemingly foreshadow events but also, show how alarmingly simple and honest words can point to something more sinister.


These are the days when I hate the world

Hate the rich, hate the happy

Hate the complacent, the TV watchers

Beer drinkers, the satisfied ones

Because I know I can be all of those little hateful things

And then I hate myself for realizing that

There’s no preventative, directive or safe approach for living

We each know our own fate

The Cribs Be Safe

One of the reasons why I included these lyrics in this piece is because they are so brutally honest and everyone at some point could have related to them. The list provides a very catchy, punchy, direct, even whimsical tone but still, with an element of despair.

And the TVs try to rape us and I guess that they’re succeeding

Regina Spektor Hero

The word ‘rape’ in any context will never fail to raise eyebrows but the use of the term here can be said to be used in order to illustrate a  point. We live in a world dominated by media and despite the importance of  TV and broadcasting, the consequences cannot be ignored. The media can have overwhelming power, in particular, for the younger generation of girls. Reality TV which portrays the lives of the über rich and the supermodel types have been to show to exert influence on how young females, perceive their own bodies – maybe providing inspiration to reach unhealthy size zeros. Similarly, broadcasting can prove to be a powerful platform for politicians to relay their misleading messages to a population of voters. The media exerts a power that can brainwash whole groups of individuals unwillingly and although this is my interpretation of Regina’s lyrics, they can be thought-provoking none the less.

Do you have lyrics that are particularly meaningful to you? Send your thoughts to humanityhallows.editor@gmail.com or join the conversation @humanityhallows





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