Grunt’s Grumblings: The Meaning of Lyrics

Usually Frantic is the one that discusses music on his Sunday Show that goes up on our YouTube channel. However, I’m giving it a shot this time. In the past few weeks since my last column I have been listening to a lot of music as I do various tasks. In that time, I also picked up Seether’s newest album, Poison the Perish. So far, my favorite song off of that new album is “I’ll Survive”.

While listening to the previously mentioned song on repeat several times over it got me to thinking that the artist or songwriter can write the lyrics with one meaning behind them, but yet that same song can mean something entirely different to the person listening to it. Now, I’m not here to discuss the meaning of life, or some weird theory that there is a song that explains it…but let’s be honest, that probably exists too. I’m here to briefly discuss some of the ways (in my mind anyhow) that a song can have a different meaning to someone when they listen to it. Call it whatever you wish, but I’m not entirely sold on the argument of the artist/songwriter writing a song and their meaning being the only one that should exist.

Of course, you can pick up on the same message or theme that the artist intended, but you can have that song mean something entirely different to you at the same time. What this song means can vary depending on numerous things from simply what mood you are currently in. Or, maybe what your viewpoints are on certain real-world subjects. Even to something as simple as your own personality can influence this in my mind.

Speaking of personality, and on a quick, personal note here, whenever I listen to “I’ll Survive” I feel it describes part of my personality perfectly to some extent. I can take the difficult things that come up in my life once in a while, but I usually won’t be showing too much how it affects me on the outside. Is this what Shaun Morgan (the band member whom wrote the song) intended for the meaning behind the lyrics? Probably not, but it lends credence to my point of the meaning behind lyrics for a song can mean many different things.

Your current mood is something else I feel that can change the meaning to a song even. If you’re having a rough day, maybe you take Limp Bizkit’s (I know, Zakk Wylde, Limp Bizkit sucks but hang with me here for a minute) “Break Stuff” literal for that day. Perhaps there is a day where you aren’t feeling too confident in yourself, maybe there is a song out there that helps with that but isn’t one of those cheery, upbeat songs that most people would expect one to listen to in a situation like this.  Again, this is just one of many things I feel that can decide what a song means to you.

I also believe that your own personal beliefs on certain subjects in the real world can have an effect on how you interpret a song. Frantic talked about religion in music on a Sunday Show a little while ago, you can check that out here; but his point was basically that if you like a song, a band, or artist but don’t necessarily agree with what they are saying lyric wise that it is perfectly ok to do that. While that is a topic for a different day, I do agree with his point he is trying to make. You should enjoy a song for what it is, and even what it means to you.

Lastly, I think another reason that a song’s lyrics can mean something different to each person is straight up sentimental value. Maybe you were dealing with something in your personal life and used this song to get through that time. For example, Skillet’s “Not Gonna Die” off of their Rise album is one that falls under this category for me. To me, the song means fighting for your life against whatever it may be. Just a few months before this album released, I was fighting for my life due to being very ill, so to go through that then hear this song as I am trying get everything back on track is what made this song mean something different to me compared to what the intention of the song was when John and Korey Cooper wrote it. I can use Switchfoot’s “This is Your Life” as another example in my case. When I hear the song, it usually means taking control of your own life and making decisions for yourself. Of course, we could chalk that up to the fact that album was my very first one I bought with my own money and under my own music preferences at the time.

I guess the overall point I am trying to make is this: we often reference how music is a universal language to people across the world and all walks of life. We also say that it speaks to each person differently, so why can’t the lyrics of a song do the same? Why do they have to have only the meaning that the songwriter intended?

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