Data Point: Lyrics

  • Sumo

One of my slides in my LexThink presentation shows my Data Points stack in Evernote. A few people asked about the one labeled Music, the one labeled Lyrics, and what they mean.

Good question.

The one labeled Music has to do with songs that I suddenly remember, or that pop into my head or are the full versions of lyrics that bounce around in my head. Lyrics, however, are more interesting.

I’ve explained how I learned I’m an auditory learner, and how one of my roommates pointed out that Canadian radio must be auditory hell for me. You can imagine my joy at being back in Chicago from a purely musical perspective. Turn on the radio, and there are more than five songs in rotation! Songs played in Canada do come on, and usually bring back solid memories for me. Good memories. Inside jokes because a particular song annoyed me, so my roommates made sure to turn the volume up.

To say that music plays a crucial role for me is to play the cliche card. But where music for most amplifies thoughts, feelings or a generational mood, for me, it is Code. Part of me has used lyrics as a way to get around my “hate-filled inner critic.” and deliver messages. My inner critic didn’t always perceive anything hidden within the lyrics, and often let them pass without argument. I didn’t pay much attention myself until I noticed differences, what played in my head going to work, at work, and what played in my head when I was out doing something fun. Oddly, when out doing something fun, there was silence. I found this curious, so I performed an experiment.

I wrote down all the lyrics that played through my head when I was getting ready for work, going to work, at work. Here’s an example, from January 16, 2013:

“New Divide,” Linkin Park (2)
And your voice was all I heard
That I get what I deserve

“How’s It Gonna Be,” Third Eye Blind
How’s it gonna be when you don’t know me anymore
How’s it gonna be

“Take Me Out,” Franz Ferdinand
I know I won’t be leaving here with you

“Burn It Down,” Linkin Park (5)
Can’t wait to burn it to the ground

“Breath,” Breaking Benjamin (2)
Just sacrifice yourself
Let me have what’s left
I’ll be the death of you

“Uprising,” Muse (2)
They will stop degrading us
They will not control us
We will be victorious

“Woke Up This Morning,” A3
Like some voice trying’ to tell you
There’s something’ you should know
Last night you was flying’ but today you’re so low
Ain’t it times like these
Makes you wonder (go back) if you’ll ever know
The meaning of things as they appear to others

“8 Mile,” Eminem
I got every ingredient
All I need is the courage
I got the voice
All I need is the words
Got the urge suddenly its a surge a new burst of energy

The numbers in () are the number of times that particular lyric repeated itself in my head that day. There’s a hint of impatience, perhaps frustration, with the repeated “burn it to the ground.” Like I was impatient with myself for a stubborn inability to realize a truth, see what was plainly in front of me. These are the lyrics that were in my head on January 17, 2013:

“Mississippi Squirrel”
It was a fight for survival
That broke down in revival

“Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own,” U2
You don’t have to go it alone
Don’t leave me here alone

“Breath,” Breaking Benjamin (3)
So sacrifice yourself
Let me have what’s left

“Break,” Three Days Grace (1)
Break away from everybody
Break away from everything

“Jumper,” Third Eye Blind (5)
Step back from that ledge my friend
Cut ties with all the lies you’ve been living in

There’s a mental battle going on now.. Half of me is trying to get through this “fight for survival,” that I’m not the worthless person reflected at work. There’s a bigger picture, I have to “break away from everything” at work in order to see that I “don’t have to go it alone.” The reflection I get from those to whom I don’t report is different, and a strong counter. I must “step back from that ledge” in order to see “the lies you’ve been living in.” The battle played itself out on January 21, 2013:

“Burn It Down,” Linkin Park
The cycle repeated
Struck me down
You were there at the turn waiting to let me know

“8 Mile,” Eminem
I clam up
I just slam shut
Time for me to u-turn

“New Divide,” Linkin Park
And your voice was all I heard
That I get what I deserve
So give me reason to prove me wrong
Wash this memory clean

“8 Mile,” Eminem
Feels like I’m being pulled apart from each one of my limbs
Want out of my skin
Always stuck in this battling mode

“Everything to Everyone,” Everclear
You are blind to the fact that the hand you hold is the hand that holds you down
Stumble and you fall down
And you do it again
Stumble and fall down
Why won’t you ever learn

“Animal I Have Become,” Three Days Grace
Somebody get me through this nightmare
I can’t control myself
Somebody wake me from this nightmare
I can’t escape this cell
It’s not the real me

“Pork and Beans,” Weezer
I don’t care
I don’t care
I don’t care I don’t care I don’t care
I ain’t got a thing to prove to you

“Mass Destruction,” Faithless
A wicked mind is a weapon of mass destruction
Fear is a weapon of mass destruct
Inaction is a weapon of mass destruction

I inserted myself this time, through Eminem, Three Days Grace and Weezer. “Always stuck in this battling mode,” always in survival mode, trying to make it through the day. “Stumble and you fall down” is partly literal, partly metaphorical, the key is in “why won’t you ever learn.” Stumble in fall is when the inner critic is in charge. I think I’m going to do well, excel, something happens and I think I’ve failed. Journalism school, for example, how it felt like failure and still dogs me. Stumbling, falling, not learning, common words coded in lyrics to tell me dropping out of J-School isn’t failure. It’s wisdom. Without that experience, I’d still think I’m dumb. Without that experience, I wouldn’t know I must be challenged and that legal technology has been able to continually challenge me.

I’ve been in the legal technology space for roughly seven years now. Seven. Nothing has held my attention quite like legal technology, issues of privacy and its nuanced applications as generations new and old collide, collaborate and clash over what it means, or if it still has meaning today. How generations hold some information more private than others. How some people hold some information more private than others. The contradictory nature of privacy, technology and the law.

By the end, with Weezer and Faithless, I’ve made a choice. “Inaction is a weapon of mass destruction.” Remaining in the status quo is not an option. There is something more, something else beyond, or perhaps deeper, that I must explore.

Four months later, in April 2013, I could not get this out of my head:

“3-2-1 Contact!” Children’s Television Workshop
Contact is secret; is the moment when everything happens!
Contact is the answer; is the reason that everything happens!
Contact! Let’s make contact!

Remember that? What a great show. I still remember the part of the opening credits where you see a frog, in slow motion, capture a bug with its tongue. That always fascinated me. The whole opening sequence fascinates me. The lyrics stayed in my head for awhile, and gradually mixed with Seether’s “Rise Above This,” specifically two lyrics:

“Rise above this doubt”
“I’ll mend myself before it gets me.”

I had connected with a deeper sense of self, established direct contact I had been unable to do before. But as with any new thing, any unknown, there is a modicum of doubt. I have come to think of that as J-school residue. Unwilling to embrace it fully, unwilling to be so blind but instead, find that Monet Distance. I wonder, now, if that is paralyzing, or a method of mending before J-school residue seeps in and takes over.

Looking back one day, connecting more dots, I may have an answer.

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