Lessons Learned From 10 Pop Songs


1. Arcade Fire, “Ready to Start” (Merge)

Gritty guitar riffs, a self-aware breakdown, and lyrics every suburban white kid can relate to: “I would rather be wrong than live in the shadows of your song.” Arcade Fire makes growing up in the suburbs seem glamorous and not an affliction.

Lesson learned: Use the ‘burb experience as a tool for growth.

2. The Faint, “Mirror Error” (blank.wav)

Intro dance beat is ideal for sauntering into a club or a business meeting. Perfect lofty vocal harmonies describe dreams and the waking world as vastly incongruent. Arpeggiated keyboard chords encourage trading faces.

Lesson learned: Don’t be afraid to try on someone else’s.

3. Kanye West, “All of the Lights” (Roc-A-Fella)

A great voice from above informs listeners that “if you want it, you can get it for the rest of your life.” West makes menial disappointments (his bitch is cheating) into fodder for change. Empowering and overt announcements through horn work.

Lesson learned: Be focused and the light will find you.

4. Nicki Minaj, “Did It On ‘Em” (Young Money)

Building bassline, hypnotic cowbell beat, almost irritating synth lines, and samples of a cocky man yelling about his wealth back up lyrics about what to do with a dick. Minaj is the baddest bitch in the game, and she’s not one for keeping secrets.

Lesson learned: Assert femininity; have balls.

5. The Faint, “Fulcrum and Lever” (blank.wav)

Sexy synth groove, ethereal vocals about jumping off the roof at age 9 segue into a social critique of adults as foreign bodies. Vocals soar saying, “gravity seems weak until you look down.”

Lesson learned: Don’t look down.

6. Kanye West, “Monster” (Roc-A-Fella)

Rick Ross proclaims: “Bitch, I’m a monster, no good blood sucker.” Unifying, pulsing, primal drum beat. Each verse discusses the need for badassery and, more importantly, the public recognition of it.

Lesson learned: Have no shame.

7. Enrique Iglesias, “Tonight (I’m Fucking You)” (Universal)

Enrique’s been to every nation and nobody’s ever made him feel the way that I do. Infectious juicy dance beats in the brain; sweaty raunchy sex in the bed.

Lesson learned: Make demands and they will be met.

8. The Hood Internet, “Front Row x Treasure Fingers” (unsigned)

The juxtaposition of hand claps and sincere electronica make for a crunchy, treble-heavy dance beat. Lyrics regarding exclusivity and the lifestyle of a sexy but emotionally broken rock star are revealed through breathy, earnest female vocals.

Lesson learned: Don’t be afraid to pursue doomed-but-glamorous relationships.

9. Spice Girls, “Never Give Up On the Good Times” (Virgin)

Booty-shaking organ chirps laid under universal truths regarding positivity and the feeling of lightness. Mental flexibility and soaring instrumental solos are the key to a happy life.

Lesson learned: Look around and be thankful.

10. Albert Hammond, Jr., “Hard to Live In the City” (New Line Records)

Lo-fi guitar chords and a pensive bass line lead up to a jazz-inspired trumpet trombone preaching. Lyrics expose Hammond Jr.’s alienation: “I’ve been following you for blocks, and I wish that you would stop and tell me your name;” and the city’s not helping either.

Lesson learned: Pursuit of answers is more important than acquisition.

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Thumbnail image – “All of the Lights” by Kanye West and Hype Williams