Multitudes in Minutes

Have you ever listen to songs and think “this song has really great lyrics” or better yet, “this song contains multitudes in 3 minutes”. So much is meant within a matter of minutes. Every stanza, every phrase of it can be savored in moments you hear it. Literally music for your ears.

Yet songs too resemble poems, a little too much that it is unclear as to which came first and which copied from another.  Song lyrics are strikingly similar to poems because of the same structure they use. Take for example a chorus from the song Jupiter by Sleeping At Last:

Make my messes matter

Make this chaos count

Let every little fracture in me

Shatter out loud

The chorus conveys so much using very little.  The lyrics are presented in a similar way poems are.  Maybe lyrics are poems written down, woven into the fabrics of melody. I’m unsure if this revelation is new but this parallel between song lyrics and poems is a recent fresh realization for me.

Take another song, Clean by Taylor Swift:

Ten months sober, I must admit

Just because you’re clean don’t mean you don’t miss it

Ten months older I won’t give in

Now that I’m clean I’m never gonna risk it

Rain came pouring down when I was drowning

That’s when I could finally breathe

And by morning, gone was any trace of you, I think I am finally clean

This song holds a double meaning, one for her fans and one for Taylor Swift. Taylor writes this song in light of her journey to move on from her past relationship. She realizes that she has been in the same city as her former boyfriend and has not thought about him once. When she does think about him, she genuinely hopes he is doing okay, a sign that she has moved on to a certain extent. She also writes this song sort of about trying to move on from a struggle in life.

Meanwhile, some of her fans take this song as literally being ‘clean’ from mental illness, addiction and abuse. Although Taylor Swift did not intend the song to reflect that, she accepted the fandom-wide meaning once she heard about it.

So much is said within a song. So much can be said in so little. The cliché saying “less is more” rings true here. We don’t really need to convey a lot using more words, more pictures. More often that not, a simple representation, a simple symbol is enough, concise to say so much of what we mean.



senior studying economics + psychology. occasional writer, ambivert, and can be found in coffee shops

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2 Comments on "Multitudes in Minutes"

1 year 4 months ago

Your breakdown of lyrics is really cool here. You should check out the podcast “Dissect” on Spotify! It dives into lyrics, compositional elements, and backgrounds of albums by various artists. You may really enjoy it!