The Words Behind the Words



Its one of our culture’s greatest creations. I think we can all agree that music can truly change the way we feel and perceive the world around us. It can be a catchy tune, somber melody, emotionally resounding lyrics or one of the many other components of a song –  our moods can shift like the ocean tide when we absorb good music.

Before I began my pursuit of a writing career, in hindsight I must admit that I never truly appreciated the creations of artists. Now though, my view of music has drastically evolved. For one, after entering the world of the arts, I discovered a newfound respect for anyone in the creative arena. We all know that creative endeavors aren’t easy, requiring a lot of thought and time – but my level of admiration has grown enormously now that I myself can empathize with the amount of passion, discipline, and commitment that these individuals maintain to provide us with the better things in life. More specifically as a writer, I’ve noticed, is that I now pay particular attention to song lyrics. I make every attempt to not only appreciate the words, but to genuinely perceive their purpose. Perhaps this sounds tacky, but there have been more times than I can count where I have literally been physically impacted when the meaning of a song finally clicks. Its a phenomenon very difficult to describe if one hasn’t experienced it themselves, so if you’d like a better explanation of what I’m referring to, Google the “Stendhal Effect”. Unless this has happened to you as well, of course.

In light of these points, I’d like to use this post as a running project to highlight some of the most significant lyrics I come across. My plan is to point out individual lines or verses that resound more than the rest. The ones that allow an artist’s real, unfiltered feelings to be viscerally exposed. On occasion I might add commentary to explain why I selected a specific lyric, but generally the words should speak for themselves.

So let’s get started.


Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
There’s still time to change the road you’re on.

Led Zeppelin – Stairway to Heaven

Oh, but everybody thinks that everybody knows about everybody else.
Nobody knows anything about themselves, cause their all worried about everybody else.

Jack Johnson – Wasting Time

I have to comment here because of how powerful Jack’s writing is. Despite being known for whimsical hits like Bubble Toes, Banana Pancakes, and so on, Johnson is (IMO) one of the most somber, deeply insightful artists to have ever lived. If you read his lyrics, you’ll quickly notice his heart-wrenching views on humanity and how badly he wants a better world. Incidentally, he is constantly involved in philanthropy and other charitable endeavors. Truly one of the most genuine, good people we have.

You’ll be seeing a lot of him as this list goes on.

The message I stress: to make it stop, study your lessons
Don’t settle for less, even the genius asks his questions
Be grateful for blessings
Don’t ever change, keep your essence
The power is in the people and politics we address

Tupac Shakur – Me Against the World

One of rap’s greatest lyricists ever. The passion in his message is insanely deep.

Its a beautiful day,
Don’t let it get away.

U2 – Beautiful Day

Simple, right?

That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spotlight

Losing my religion,
Trying to keep up with you

And I don’t know if I can do it
Oh no, I’ve said too much
I haven’t said enough.

R.E.M. – Losing My Religion

I am so fuckin’ sick and tired of the Photoshop
Show me somethin’ natural, like afro on Richard Pryor.

Kendrick Lamar – HUMBLE.

Another lyrical poet. Even though every rapper EVER brags about how “real” they are…Kendrick actually is. Mad respect for him and a huge personal inspiration.

Won’t admit what I already know
I’ve never been the best at letting go
I don’t wanna spend the night alone
Yes, I need you, and I need to.

Zedd feat. Alessia Cara – Stay

Because who couldn’t empathize with that?

There’s something in the stars, there’s something missing
We’re better off apart, cause I’m out here wishin’
That we can make it right, make it feel good
I’m running out of time, I’m running out of lies

Tell me lies
Fairytales of you and I
Tell me we can make it right
Pretend we’ll never die
Pretend we’re not telling lies

Tell Me Lies – Deorro

A depressingly real song about the dynamic of so many relationships. Check this one out if you have time, its actually a pretty cool tune.

Insidious is blind inception
What’s reality with all these questions?
Feels like I missed my alarm and slept in 
Broken legs but I chase perfection
These walls are my blank expression
My mind is a home I’m trapped in
And it’s lonely inside this mansion

Yo my mind is a house with walls covered in pain
See my problem is I don’t fix things
I just try to repaint

Cover ’em up, like it never happened
Say I wish I could change. Are you confused?
Come upstairs and I’ll show you what I mean

This room’s full of regrets, just keeps getting fuller it seems
The moment I walk in to it is the same moment that I wanna leave
I get sick to my stomach every time I look at these things
But it’s hard to look past when this is the room where I sleep

And I regret the fact that I struggled trying to find who I am
And I lie to myself and say I do the best that I can
Shrug it off like it ain’t nothing like it’s out of my hands
Then get ticked off whenever I see it affecting my plans

NF – Mansion

NF is a young Christian rapper whose up and coming. This entire song is ridiculously heartfelt, and tells the story of how a history of being abused in a broken home led to his tortured mind. Google the lyrics – your jaw will drop at how creative and powerful his writing is. The song is bad ass too.

Oh there ain’t no rest for the wicked
Money don’t grow on trees
I got bills to pay, I got mouths to feed
There ain’t nothing in this world for free
Oh no, I can’t slow down, I can’t hold back
Though you know, I wish I could
Oh no there ain’t no rest for the wicked
Until we close our eyes for good

Cage the Elephant – Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked

This song is why the original Borderlands has one of gaming’s best trailers.

I only see my goals, I don’t believe in failure
Cause I know the smallest voices, they can make it major

Lukas Graham – 7 Years

I absolutely love this line.

I’m fresh to death, I’m in the zone
I checked my head, but no one’s home
The mood is right, the party’s on
Looks like tonight, I’ll be drinking alone
Fuck everyone else, I’mma party by myself
Do this shit all night, I don’t need nobody else
Fuck everyone else, I’mma party by myself
Higher than a kite with nobody but myself

Blowing up my cell but I don’t think I’mma answer!

Party by Myself – Hollywood Undead

Because this song is hilarious and great for the pregame while you’re getting ready.

Why don’t the newscasters cry when they read about people who die? 
At least they could be decent enough to put just a tear in their eyes 
Mama said 
It’s just make believe 
You cant believe everything you see 
So baby close your eyes to the lullabies 
On the news tonight

Jack Johnson – The News

This song is about how much BS “the world” feeds us, and how its numb to the real atrocities occurring throughout.

Slow down everyone 
You’re moving too fast 
Frames can’t catch you when 
You’re moving like that 

Jack Johnson – Inaudible Melodies

I assume that third line is a metaphor for how we live so fast-paced that we’d show up blurry on a photograph (pretty creative analogy). But his point is to slow down, relax, and enjoy life. Good advice.

Ever since I been alone I’ve been thinking back
Listenin’ to your autotune in my mike-phone making us laugh
You know the past was a blast but it never could last
Pretty sad when your love got a separate path
Used to read when there’s nothing to do
But it’s funny, doing nothin’s never nothin’ when it’s somethin’ with you

Lil’ Dicky – Molly

People know Dicky for being the “funny” rapper (a white Jewish kid, go figure lol). But this is one of few “serious” songs, and its sad AF. Its about the girl he loved and dated prior to his rise to fame, and how it destroyed their relationship. Its clear how much she meant (and still means) to him when you read the lyrics. That last line though…

Brendon Urie’s part is amazing, on a side note (lead singer of Panic! At the Disco).

Everyone knows what went down
Because the news was spread all over town
And fact is only what you believe
And fact and fiction work as a team
It’s almost always fiction in the end
That content begins to bend
When context is never the same 

I was reading a book 
Or maybe it was a magazine 
Suggestions on where to place faith 
Suggestions on what to believe 
But I read somewhere 
That you’ve got to beware 
You can’t believe anything you read 
But the good Book is good 
And that’s well understood 
So don’t even question 
If you know what I mean 

Jack Johnson – It’s All Understood

This song is about the prevalence of gossip a superficiality in pop culture, and how most of what people believe is grounded in baseless rumor. Just another one of his sad observations of the world. And not to critique religion, but I like how that last line (which is brilliantly delivered as if it were an ellipses) is a subtle slight to blind faith.


Thanks so much for reading!

To be continued…

Real Recognize Real: Eminem

To expand on my “Reflecting on the Greats” series, I’ve decided to narrow the focus (for now) on song lyrics…and the actual meaning behind them. I’ve noticed, because before writing I did the same thing, that often the meaning behind lyrics gets lost amidst the entertainment value of music.

So to kick off this new look, I’ve decided to highlight a personal favorite lyricist of mine: Eminem. For the particular lines I want to point out, I’ll bold the font.

“The Real Slim Shady”

May I have your attention please?
May I have your attention please?
Will the real Slim Shady please stand up?
I repeat, will the real Slim Shady please stand up?
We’re gonna have a problem here..

Y’all act like you never seen a white person before
Jaws all on the floor like Pam and Tommy just burst in the door
And started whooping her ass worse than before
They first were divorced, throwing her over furniture (Ah!)
It’s the return of the… “Ah, wait, no way, you’re kidding,
He didn’t just say what I think he did, did he?”
And Dr. Dre said… nothing, you idiots!
Dr. Dre’s dead, he’s locked in my basement! (Ha-ha!)
Feminist women love Eminem
[*vocal turntable: chigga chigga chigga*]
“Slim Shady, I’m sick of him
Look at him, walking around grabbing his you-know-what
Flipping the you-know-who.” “Yeah, but he’s so cute though!”
Yeah, I probably got a couple of screws up in my head loose
But no worse, than what’s going on in your parents’ bedrooms

**********Begin relevant lyrics***********
Sometimes, I wanna get on TV and just let loose, but can’t
But it’s cool for Tom Green to hump a dead moose
“My bum is on your lips, my bum is on your lips”
And if I’m lucky, you might just give it a little kiss
And that’s the message that we deliver to little kids
And expect them not to know what a woman’s clitoris is
Of course they gonna know what intercourse is
By the time they hit fourth grade
They got the Discovery Channel, don’t they?
“We ain’t nothing but mammals..” Well, some of us cannibals
Who cut other people open like cantaloupes [SLURP]
But if we can hump dead animals and antelopes
Then there’s no reason that a man and another man can’t elope
*********Back to reality********
[*EWWW!*] But if you feel like I feel, I got the antidote
Women wave your pantyhose, sing the chorus and it goes

[Chorus – Eminem (repeat 2x):]
‘Cause I’m Slim Shady, yes I’m the real Shady
All you other Slim Shadys are just imitating
So won’t the real Slim Shady please stand up,
Please stand up, please stand up?

Will Smith don’t gotta cuss in his raps to sell records;
Well I do, so fuck him and fuck you too!
You think I give a damn about a Grammy?
Half of you critics can’t even stomach me, let alone stand me
“But Slim, what if you win, wouldn’t it be weird?”
Why? So you guys could just lie to get me here?
So you can, sit me here next to Britney Spears?
Yo Shit, Christina Aguilera better switch me chairs
So I can sit next to Carson Daly and Fred Durst
And hear ’em argue over who she gave head to first
Little bitch, put me on blast on MTV
“Yeah, he’s cute, but I think he’s married to Kim, hee-hee!”
I should download her audio on MP3
And show the whole world how you gave Eminem VD [AHHH!]
I’m sick of you little girl and boy groups, all you do is annoy me
So I have been sent here to destroy you [bzzzt]
And there’s a million of us just like me
Who cuss like me; who just don’t give a fuck like me
Who dress like me; walk, talk and act like me
It just might be the next best thing but not quite me!


I’m like a head trip to listen to, cause I’m only giving you
Things you joke about with your friends inside your living room
The only difference is I got the balls to say it
In front of y’all and I don’t gotta be false or sugarcoated at all
I just get on the mic and spit it
And whether you like to admit it [*ERR*] I just shit it
Better than ninety percent of you rappers out can
Then you wonder how can kids eat up these albums like Valiums
It’s funny; ’cause at the rate I’m going when I’m thirty
I’ll be the only person in the nursing home flirting
Pinching nurses asses when I’m jacking off with Jergens
And I’m jerking but this whole bag of Viagra isn’t working
And every single person is a Slim Shady lurking
He could be working at Burger King, spitting on your onion rings
[*HACH*] Or in the parking lot, circling
Screaming “I don’t give a fuck!”
With his windows down and his system up
So, will the real Shady please stand up?
And put one of those fingers on each hand up?
And be proud to be outta your mind and outta control
And one more time, loud as you can, how does it go?

[Chorus 4X]

Ha ha
Guess there’s a Slim Shady in all of us
Fuck it, let’s all stand up

I think the best thing, in these cases, is to let you as the read let the writing speak for itself. Sure, I could go on about what I can only assume the writer is saying here, but its best to simply highlight the real talk and let it marinade.
The only goal here is for the true meaning, brilliantly buried within an otherwise funny and whimsical song, to really sink in. It seems (at least from the research I’ve done in regard to giants like Eminem) that there is a HUGE amount of passion and feel behind the message they want so desperately to convey. Yet they realize, at the same time, the fickle society in which we live; and they have the insight to deliver their message via a form of entertainment that our culture demands. Its a sad reality that this is the most common way of obtaining a platform for what is actually a deeply philosophical form of communicating – but that’s the world we live in.
For now, at least.