A Writer's Lifeblood, a Reader's Best Friend
I love metaphors. No surprise there. All writers use them, whether they like it or not. But of course, most of us like them. I also like to read things that include metaphors because they can convey an idea sometimes even better than a more direct approach. How boring would writing and reading be if we had to present everything literally?
Instead of :
A Red, Red Rose
Metaphors on My Mind
So why are metaphors on my mind? It all started several months ago while I was listening to a podcast called underneath it all: a nine inch nails podcast, which (obviously) discusses all things NIN. In one of the early episodes, the hosts were talking about the 2007 album Year Zero, which was Trent Reznor's less-than-glowing (extreme understatement here) commentary of the United States during George W. Bush's presidency.
One of the hosts said something like "I don't know how you can be a conservative and be a NIN fan. You'd have to be crazy or stupid, so just stop listening right now."
I'm paraphrasing, but you get the point.
I have listened to Year Zero many, many times. I completely understand Reznor's concept of the album. News Flash! I'm a conservative! And yet, I still like the album. A lot.
Metaphors Are the Answer
This is something that many people who are liberal don't understand. The majority of artists are liberal, many are extreme far-left in nature. I get it. It's okay. In order to be a conservative and consume any kind audio, visual, or performing art, we must seek out artists who rely heavily on metaphors.
The NIN song The Hand That Feeds is "protest" song aimed at George W. Bush (do you sense a theme?) Even though I know this, when I listen to the lyrics, I can apply them to any scenario in which a group of people blindly follow a religious leader. In my research, I discovered many other interpretations of the song, including addiction.
That's the beauty of the metaphor: Interpretation
Here's an excerpt:
"What if this whole crusade's
That's just one example. Reznor's lyrics can always be interpreted in many ways by many different types of people. A smart artist will embrace this. I seek out artists who make ample use of metaphors. Their work is more enjoyable because I can make it personal to my life. Isn't that one of the reasons we enjoy music in the first place?
And to prove that NIN is not the only example, or the only band I listen to, or the only reason I'm writing this post...
Muse is another band that makes heavy use of metaphors successfully. Their newest song Thought Contagion was inspired by their notion of mindless Trump supporters.
"You've been bitten by a true believer
You've been bitten by someone who's hungrier than you
You've been bitten by a true believer
You've been bitten by someones false beliefs"
The video is their version of a zombie apocalypse, in which Trump supporters are the infected...obviously.
But when I read the lyrics above, I can apply that concept to any number or types of "true believers" who cling to "false beliefs". Can you say Scientology?
Literal Lyrics Are Painful to My Ears
Political or not, literal lyrics hurt me. This is a major reason why I don't like country music (one of a million reasons, but I'll move on). I know many people who love country music, they love the storytelling, they love the sound of steel guitars, they love the Americana of it. I can appreciate the existence of country music, and I'm sure there are some excellent, metaphorical, country music lyrics, but I can't listen to songs about checking for ticks or looking for love in all the wrong places or worse...having friends in low places.
To be fair, I don't like literal lyrics in other genres either: Cherry Bomb by John Cougar Mellencamp, Born in the USA by Bruce Springsteen, and You're So Vain by Carly Simon (my husband's nomination for worst lyrics ever) are a few. These artists are talented and I do like some of their songs, but the hyper-literal lyrics are un-listenable to me.
I'm not even going to touch the genres of Rap and Hip-Hop.
Metaphors Cast a Wide Net
When artists use metaphors in their lyrics, they attract a wider audience by not alienating a potentially large segment of the population with in-your-face political statements. Some artists are fine with alienating potential fans. However, I think that an artist would want to reach as many people as possible.
If literal lyrics immediately turn people away, then whatever idea an artist is trying to convey will be lost. Only listeners who agree with the lyrics will buy the song or album or ticket. No minds will be opened or changed. By using metaphors in lyrics, artist can present ideas to a wider variety of listeners, potentially gaining more fans with their first listen.
I acknowledge the fact that some artists don't give a flying fig if you agree with them or not and embrace literal lyrics to the extreme. American Idiot by Greenday is a good example.
"Well maybe I'm the faggot America
I'm not a part of a redneck agenda
Now everybody do the propaganda
And sing along to the age of paranoia"
I can tell you right now, I never would have gone down the NIN rabbit hole like I did after first hearing The Hand That Feeds if the lyrics had said "George W. Bush is Literally Satan." I was already hip-deep in fandom before I took the time to learn about the inspiration for the song, and then there was no turning back. I still don't agree with his politics, but I do agree with some of the greater themes he presents. My musical tastes and exposure to different genres has vastly expanded all due to that one song. All because Trent Reznor uses metaphors.
You may think that I'm deluding myself by pretending to believe a song means something other than the original intent. You may think that I'm stupid and I should just stop listening. I happen to think that having an open mind is a good thing.
So I'll keep listening...as long as there are metaphors.
Now if only I could get all my favorite musicians to use metaphors in their Social Media accounts, I would be all set.
I write novels and poetry and this blog.