This week I have a question for you guys: Have you ever noticed the number of people with headphones in on your way to class? I am one of those people, and I always find myself wondering what other people are listening to and why they are listening to it. After much consideration and wondering I think I’ve come to a conclusion: People listen to the songs they do based on how it makes them feel and what it means to them.
But what if what people interpret isn’t actually what the artist meant when writing the song? Does it change their opinion of the song? Well with websites like Rap Genius it is now possible to find out what an artist might have been thinking about when writing their songs. However, after doing some research I found a lot of harsh comments about Rap Genius from people high up in the music industry. They seem to think that it is ruining music as an art. I’m not sure if I agree or not, but I can see both sides of the argument.
As a music-loving freak I’ve found myself watching interviews with artists on YouTube because I was dying to know if my interpretation was right. Music videos can help figure out the meaning of a song as well, but sometimes I feel they make it even more confusing (i.e. “Beware the Dog" by the Griswolds, “Mr. Brightside” by the Killers and “Sugar, We’re Goin Down” by Fall Out Boy) Even interviews don’t give you word-for-word annotations of the real feeling, they more or less give you a vibe or an event that inspired the writing of that song—which is better than nothing I guess, or is it? Websites like Rap Genius do give you line-by-line annotations of songs and sometimes they’re even from the artists themselves. I know Eminem has gone and annotated a large chunk of his songs on Rap Genius which is super cool to see and think about from his perspective.
There is something that bothers me though, and it is the fact that sometimes a song hits you really hard because you relate to it. But what if you realize it really had nothing to do with what you thought? Would you still like it as much? Are Rap Genius and other similar websites good or bad for the music industry? I think the answer still remains to be seen. I like to think of music as an art form. Do painters discuss the true meaning of their paintings? I don’t personally know any painters, but I would venture to guess they don’t. A lot of art critics like to think they’ve figured out the meaning of a painting, but do they really know? Music critics critique songs the same way, but do they really, truly know? I doubt it. Also, does knowing the meaning of the song make it any better? Maybe. Maybe not.
Art is considered one of those things that comes out of hurt and pain. It’s been said for centuries that the best art is made with feeling and emotion and some of the strongest emotions are negative ones. Maybe a painful song is “better” than a happy one. Who knows? These are questions I do not have the answer to but would love to know. I’d also like to know what the artists think. Apparently Eminem is all for it, but what about someone like Kanye?
Also, artists aren’t the only ones who annotate their songs. Any user can add a meaning to a song, which is sort of cool because I like to see what other people think about songs I like, and if my opinion is original or not. It can get confusing though because other people’s interpretations might affect your opinion of a song you like, but they also might give you a new perspective you never thought of and makes you like the song even more.
I do find this huge mass of opinions to be slightly annoying at times because some people just throw their stupid comments into the annotations like, “he’s telling you some real shit here man.” Like no. Get off Rap Genius. You clearly don’t understand the point here. No one cares what you have to say. I like finding out what the artists have to say, but I also think that sometimes I’m OK with just sticking to what the song means to me. It makes it more personal and makes my music, my music. I feel that even if my playlist is similar to yours, we are going to listen to each song differently, making our experiences original.
Anyway, I’m not sure where I sit on this issue, but I would like to know if any of you have strong opinions on the topic or information on the issue that I’m missing. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, but for now it looks like Rap Genius is here to stay.