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«Name of the Candidate: Çağlar Demir        Class:       12 ‐ B        IB Number:      CSG575 (001129‐025)        ...»

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TED ANKARA COLLEGE FOUNDATION HIGH SCHOOL 

 

 

English A2 Extended Essay 

Investigating lyrics in rock music genres, folk music and heavy metal 

and their effects on society 

Name of the Candidate: Çağlar Demir 

      Class:       12 ‐ B 

      IB Number:      CSG575 (001129‐025) 

      School Number:     970548 

Word Count:     3975 

Abstract:

My extended essay deals with lyrics and their effects on the society. Lyrics are highly important in music; they might cause you to feel a special feeling, they can affect you in political means if it is a protest song or they can just entertain you. In my extended essay, I deal with how lyrics vary between specific genres. When doing this, I looked at the meaning behind the lyrics, what is aimed with those lyrics and the group of people that those lyrics appeal to. What I saw was that some songs were written just to entertain, some had lyrics that were part of the marketing of that band; like punk artists which used lyrics to appeal teenagers and sell more records, some were expressing some problems; political or personal; like folk artists which used lyrics to teach people. I also became aware that each lyric I studied was written not only by the author to feel relieved but it had a larger meaning, the lyrics I examined stood for a group of people, which I dealt with in my extended essay. My purpose in studying this topic was to show how effective lyrics are – to sell more records, to stand for an idea or to stand for a group of people – though we are not aware of it most of the time.

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Contents:

Page Number:

Introduction……………………………………………………………………...4, 5 Folk Music………………………………………………………………………..5, 6, 7 “Blowin’ In the Wind” from Bob Dylan…………………………………7 Rock n Roll……………………………………………………………………….7, 8, 9, 10, 11 “Johnny B Goode” from Chuck Berry…………………………………....8, 9 “Heartbreak Hotel” from Elvis Presley…………………………………...9, 10 “My Generation” from The Who………………………………………....10 Heavy Metal……………………………………………………………………....11, 12 “War Pigs” from Black Sabbath…………………………………………..11 “Wake Up” from Rage Against The Machine…………………………….11, 12 Punk Rock………………………………………………………………………...12, 13, 14 “God Save the Queen” from Sex Pistols….……………………………….13, 14 Conclusion………………………………………………………………………...14 References………………………………………………………………………...15 Appendix………………………………………………………………………….16 - 24

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happiness, frustration, love…. We listen to music when we ride to some place, when we work on something or they play at the background even though we can’t notice it. I listen to music more than ever for the past 3 years, which made me notice something; the melody and the lyrics are the most essential parts in conveying the feelings to the listener. They can be used separately whereas their combination is just as effective. Lyrics can be used for any purpose;

for marketing, to inform or just to express emotions. Nowadays; one of the most popular genres is rap. As there is little instrument usage in this genre, rap music is based mostly upon the lyrics. Their lyrics seem to be social, expressing the hard life in the neighborhoods the rappers came from but there is a contrast in this situation as they use where they came from as a tool to get away from it, they express the problems the likes of them deal with and with this method they earn great wealth. I am into rock music, mostly the sub genres rock n roll, blues rock, alternative rock and sometimes folk rock and punk rock, which is the reason why I will examine the lyrics from rock music in my extended essay.

Lyrics are an essential part in music. Lyrics can be about anything; they can deal with personal issues, express the feelings to a beloved, or on the other hand they can deal with more society oriented situations; they can criticize and express everyday problems, criticize wars and the destruction they bring, inform the society about what is going on in the world, criticize certain situations and people etc. In my extended essay I will examine the society oriented lyrics, dealing with how they affect the society, how are they important in informing the society and I will prove my statements from specific artists from specific periods of time.

In my extended essay I will focus on the artists from 60s, 70s and 90s era. Lyrics are a very large subject therefore I will study how they vary for specific rock genres. For rock genre, lyrics can deal with social issues or they can be in a love song format. More than dealing, if lyrics criticize something, it means that the song is a protest song. Of course there are

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Protest songs usually criticize what is going wrong in the society, world etc. They don’t offer an alternate solution but instead, they tend to inform the society. Folk artists like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez usually wrote on social issues and they were effective in informing the society in 60s era. Other than the protest songs, lyrics can deal with everyday problems, which regular people deal with and this is a subject some rock artists like Bruce Springsteen mostly write on. In addition to these, punk bands like Sex Pistols wrote on political issues and social issues, but there was always some marketing added in their situation. They got fame and to keep this fame alive, they used the social issues which caused them to be banished from most of the clubs in the United Kingdom; their lyrics were too destructive. These examples prove that lyrics are highly effective in informing and leading the society.

Folk music is one of the most politic genres. Folk music is the music that is rarely written for any profit and it is the music that is usually passed by oral traditions. Not every folk artist is a great musician and as they don’t care about the musical side, folk artists feel free to talk about social problems which cause folk music to bring a sense of community; it is people’s music. This is the reason why folk music is political; folk music is not done by musicians that aim for some profit. Rather than that, it is done by regular people with no care for profit. As the main purpose is not the profit, folk music expresses their problems, the problems of society; they criticize the government and all of this cause folk music to have a political side.

Folk artists usually wrote on social issues, their protest songs were effective in informing the society on what is going on in the world in the 60s era. Their music was usually made up of an acoustic guitar and vocals, sometimes harmonica, piano, etc but their effects were huge. There was little commercial side on what they did; they spent their lives playing

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commercial success, like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, and the rest of them were only praised among themselves. But the ones that were successful had the chance to lead the society.

Lyrics in folk music were poetic and political; they had no certain aim other than informing the society. Folk artists had a certain attitude towards the system, not for marketing and to grow attention, but it was what folk music was about. It was the image of folk artists that was against the system; a usual folk artist image was a poet who sung on political issues while playing his acoustic guitar and harmonica, travelled long distances with his guitar just to get the ability to play to different crowds, not caring for any profit. This “image” was one of the reasons Bob Dylan was booed when he walked onto stage with an electric guitar instead of his regular acoustic guitar when he was performing at Newport Folk Festival in 1965, listeners thought that Bob Dylan had betrayed folk music and what it stood for.

Famous folk artists Bob Dylan and Joan Baez rose to fame together. They were playing gigs that they would perform together at first and then one by one. Their live performances and relationship soon gained themselves success not only among folk artists but nationwide. Both of these artists wrote on social issues with a poetic style, using imageries and heavy metaphors. Their lyrics were appealing and they were affective in the 60s era. They wrote on themes like how God is inside humans, how love is necessary between humans, how war is unnecessary, there is injustice in the society, etc. Each theme was important and they were never personal. So these folk artists spoke on themes that are usually “forbidden” to talk onto.

So we can say that for folk genre, lyrics are a way of expressing not only for the artist but also for the social part they appeal. Their lyrics expressed more than everyday problems, they were more society oriented and expressed the problems of the society or the world in their songs. Their use of heavy metaphors made their songs open to interpretation, people

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Bob Dylan’s song “The Times They Are A-Changing” was interpreted as the song was about the generation gap and the political division between American Culture. However, in 1964, Bob Dylan denied this interpretation; and claimed that in his lyrics, the main aim was to separate aliveness from deadness in his lyrics in “The Times They Are A-Changing” (Gold 43).

“Blowin’ in the Wind” is a typical folk song, from Bob Dylan. In the lyrics of “Blowin’ in the Wind”, there is usage of metaphors and imageries, like “road”, “mountain”, “wind” which stand for “life”, “difficulties in life”... Though this song has been described as a protest song, it poses some philosophical questions on war, freedom, peace... The lines “Yes, and how many times can a man turn his head, pretending he just doesn't see?” is used to express the injustice and division between American society. Also, the lines “Yes and how many years can some people exist, before they're allowed to be free?” questions freedom and why is it limited. The lines “Yes, 'n' how many deaths will it take till he knows, that too many people have died?” questions the wars, claiming that they are unworthy compared to the people that have lost their lives.

“Blowin’ in the Wind” is the perfect example to a folk song. It contains the usage of imageries, society oriented political lyrics. The song doesn’t convey a clear meaning but forces the listener to make interpretations on the song. The typical folk songs are not so different from “Blowin’ in the Wind”. They may convey their meaning more clearly, there may be use of imageries less but usual folk songs are not so different from “Blowin’ in the Wind”, which means that usual folk songs are written on social issues and they inform the society.

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lyrics were so “typical”. He made use of rhymes in his songs and instead of his problems, he wrote on everyday problems we deal with. His lyrics were so “typical” that people could find something from themselves in his songs; he was not only an artist but he was one of them.

Artists like Bruce Springsteen used lyrics as a way of communicating with the society, so it was a part of their marketing. This is how the lyrics are used in Rock n Roll; they are aimed to appeal the listeners. Therefore artists write lyrics that will stand for the social group they resemble. One good example for this situation is “Johnny B Goode” from Chuck Berry, who is sometimes called as “The Father of Rock n Roll”. Chuck Berry is an African American and he was born in 1920 s, which means he dealt with social discrimination, racism etc. in his youth. His song “Johnny B Goode” expresses the life from the perspective of a black man, with all the problems and all the hopes.

In “Johnny B Goode”, lyrics are about the hopes of a regular black man. Johnny B Goode was released in 1958 and as Rock n Roll was heavily influenced by blues, which was the music of black men at the beginning, the song was on the American Dream of a poor country boy, who wanted to become a star by hard work. So the lyrics were describing dreams of Chuck Berry and many other black men and it was standing for the aimed group of people.

In the song, the lines “Who never ever learned to read or write so well but he could play the guitar just like a ringing a bell,” stand for the hopes of a regular black men. Most of the black men were poor and in 1950s and their only hope to rescue was music. These lines state that the main character of the song had little education and all he could do was playing a guitar, which was his only hope. The lines “His mother told him "Someday you will be a man" and you will be the leader of a big old band,” stand for the dreams of the main character of the song, Chuck Berry and all the other black people. The song was expressing the

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effect on black people was huge.

However, Rock n Roll was something different from blues, it didn’t completely belong to black men and as soon as it came out, it was internalized by white men, and it caused the lyrics to evolve. It wasn’t the music of despised black men anymore, so there was no need to talk about dreams of wealth. Therefore, white man started to write about love and all the good feelings that the singer was feeling for the beloved.

One good example for this is “Heartbreak Hotel” by Elvis Presley, released in 1956.

“Heartbreak Hotel” is the most sold single of Elvis and it is a perfect example of love songs.



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