There is nothing new under the sun, but sometimes it can be memorable and powerful to speak old truths in new ways through song. Many people thing that money and possessions, and enjoying those things naturally go together, that surely if you’ve got money and you’ve got stuff that you will enjoy it.

 

But this is not always the case. In fact, people often suffer the tragic irony of not being able to enjoy what might seem like they finally got that break, their ship finally came in, or that everything in life has all come together at that moment.

 

One of the most significant factors in music is what music says. We like to call this the s factor. And while we may not all agree or even enjoy a particular genre or style of music, or maybe we don’t like the way it is presented, we can and should recognize it when a song speaks well to what is true, or what people feel is their reality. Because such a music is meeting a basic human need that we all share; it speaks to our present state of reality (how we think and feel), whether that lines up with the truth or not.

 

I can’t say I am a big fan of Alanis Morissette, but she did this quite well at least once. She did it so well this song became quite a hit, and it is certainly memorable. It expresses the tragic irony that having and enjoying aren’t always a package deal. Here are just a few well penned lines that speak to this:

 

An old man turned ninety-eight

He won the lottery and died the next day

It’s a black fly in your Chardonnay

It’s a death row pardon two minutes too late

And isn’t it ironic… don’t you think

 

It’s like rain on your wedding day

It’s a free ride when you’ve already paid

It’s the good advice that you just didn’t take

Who would’ve thought… it figures

 

Or perhaps my favorite,

 

It’s like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife

black-fly-in-your-chardonnay

The whole song is quite prophetically truth-telling for a pop song. I think that’s why this song was such a hit with everyone. It speaks well to the vanity of life under the sun.

 

You may or may not be familiar with the Old Testament Hebrew scriptures, but you can find eerily similar lines of thought in writings of Ecclesiastes. In fact, the writer begins with a similar expression of sort of a meaningless monotony of life. But he changes his tune rather radically in the last two chapters and sings a new song about finding beauty in the burdens of life. I haven’t heard Morissette sing that one yet. Maybe someday. There really is nothing new under the sun, and people clearly desire and maybe even need songs that give voice to our issues in modern cultural context.

 

2 Responses

  1. Professor,
    Love this post! I couldn’t agree more with you regarding the Morissette comparison. I think the most impacting songs tend to be the ones that speak a broad (but not necessarily watered down) truth that is relatable across many generations. I also couldn’t help but think how just like there is nothing new under the sun, as we both know, there are also no new notes to create in music. The same notes and chords have been recycled over and over throughout history. Both the Beatles and Iron Maiden played a a D note in their day, yet their differences are starkly contrasted musically. Just like music and the writing of it, I believe this vibrantly reflects the diversity of humanity. We are all made up of the same essential parts and functions, yet every single person is so uniquely made to resonate it our own individual ways. Fascinating. Thanks for the link to your blog!

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