Lyrical Analysis: “DLZ” by TV on the Radio

The lyrics can be found here.  You can listen to the song below:

“DLZ” (‘Deals’) by TV on the Radio is a song that deals with “evil” and how it spreads.  The first half of the song describes how a loathsome protagonist rises in power; the second focuses on his impact.  Right away, the song hits you with a massive scale of sound, a crooning arriving from the highest dimensions of the cosmic sphere – the song is profound long before learning what’s being sung.  This elaborates the scale of the protagonist’s misdeeds, as if to suggest this is a dictator, high-end arms dealer or Walter White from Breaking Bad.  When the song closes, all that’s left is a quiet chanting: “This is beginning to feel like the dawn of a loser forever”.  While every human is mortal, one’s impact lives on longer than their life – good and bad.  If we take up “loser” characteristics, they may be passed on, forever.

Indirect metaphor is painted over “DLZ”’s lyrics like a coating.  Taken as a whole, however, all these symbols paint but one color – an angry crimson.  Furthermore, the paint is being thrown in frustration against the canvas, as if the painter has been remaking the same painting over and over, growing weary in the process.  Indeed, the first line of the song, “Congratulations on the mess you made of things,” is sung with condescension and jest, summing up the song’s tone in half a sentence.

“To reconstruct the air” is impossible and the protagonist fails in his attempted reconstruction (making “a mess of things”).  Oxidation is a process in which electrons are lost – this may seem out of place until making the connection that the song is describing the loss of the soul in three sentences.  For going against what’s natural (“reconstructing the air”), you’ve dug yourself into a hole from which you cannot escape (the “mess you’ve made” / “compromise you owe”) and now you’ve lost your soul (the soul representing the electrons lost in oxidation).  Ironically, it’s beginning to feel like the dog (the loathsome protagonist) wants a bone (is starting to feel guilty / wants a break).

If the first verse provided exposition into how the protagonist turns evil, the second describes why he remains evil.  He “forces his fire” then “falsifies his deeds” – his malicious wishes are subjected to the world and when it’s time to answer consequence, he covers up ever being involved in the first place.  The song implies not only does the protagonist avoid accusation; he becomes rich off of his misdeeds.

Unfortunately, no amount of fortune could ever fill the vacuous void of his soul; regardless, the protagonist still tries to satisfy this emptiness with further wealth and power.  This is the beginning of the end, the point of no return – when evil becomes impossible to sustain with a sane mind (“This is beginning to feel like the dog’s lost her lead”).  Again, the song is implying the protagonist has found great success, perhaps even admired by many, but has lost the spark (oxidation/soul) which made him admirable in the first place.

It is now when Tunde cries out “This is beginning to feel like the long-winded blues of the never” – this is beginning to feel like there is no going back.  There is no hope, escape or plan-B.  The protagonist is so consumed by greed that he’s essentially dying (“curling up slowly”) and now looks to bring the rest of the world down with him (“finding a throat to choke”).  He descends down this self-made spiral so fast and with such reckless abandon, it could be compared to a train running itself off the tracks (“barely controlled locomotive”).

At this point, the only thing in his future is downfall – with a tunnel-vision, he ignores all outside perspective and hope (“consuming the picture”).  Again, the song references the protagonist’s desire (“static explosion”) to pass along his disease to whomsoever gets in his way (“devoted to crushing the broken”) so that they too will suffer in the same hell (“shoving their souls to ghost”).

What’s the result?  Eternal admiration; his likeness objectified into stone (“eternalized; objectified”).  His “sights” were set powerfully upon the top and the song has revealed the extent of his success.  However, this is where he begins to face criticism, as Tunde once again observes, “This is beginning to feel like the bolt’s busted loose from the lever” – he’s gone mad with power.  Unhinged, derailed, insane – the public is catching on.

The narrator now enters the song as a second character, the antagonist in this case, and asserts how impossible it would be to ever fall victim to the protagonist’s evil nature (“Never you mind, death professor! / Your structure’s fine; my dust is better!”).  This insult about “dust” seems to say “Regardless how massive or complex these structures are (“eternalized; objectified”), there’s more substance to be found in the dust from my footprint, however small it’s impact may be.”  Additionally, in the same stanza is a jab toward those who are “weak” enough (“your victims”) to be swayed by the promise of power, to the point where they give everything to reach it (“fly so high”) only to realize that at the lowest pit of hell, there’s nothing to do but drag others down with you (“all to catch a bird’s eye-view of who’s next”).

Swept away in hatred for the protagonist, the narrator continues preaching upon his soapbox.  “Love is life!  My love is better!” Tunde declares.  It’s emancipation from any remaining connection the narrator has to this narrative of evil.  He theorizes if more people weren’t “confused with who’s next”, our “eyes could be the diamonds” – our transcendent focus would astound all, the same way a diamond’s shine would catch anyone’s attention.

He elaborates — “Your shocks are fine – my struts are better” – while power’s hypnotism is profound, the ability for the narrator to cast it aside allows him to rant (“strut”) with superior ease.  Still, there’s another reference to how many are swayed by twisted promises (“Your fiction flies so high”) and how these people are past the point of self-correction, for they are tumbling down the spiral (“Y’all could use a doctor / who’s sick? / who’s next?”)

Pen-ultimately, the narrator sings how his love is electric, crystalizing into the psyches of everyone whom experiences it.  Thus, the impact will last longer than any statue or monument.  Promising how “all could be the diamond fused with–” the narrator interrupts himself: “—who’s next?”  Does he question who is next to rise, or fall?  The song ends soon after.

Though filled with abstract metaphor, the song’s overall tone is quite simple to grasp.  From here, you can translate this general narrative into something much more specific.  It is easy to fixate on the song’s phonetic title, “Deals”, as if to say this is a song about the power structure in our society and how TV on the Radio have an antidote – musical expression (“electrified – my love is better!”).  However, the song is as applicable to trust issues in a relationship as it is to a critique on organized religion.  Regardless what you choose to read into and what you choose to exclude, the ending of the song is very much about liberation and the mentality one develops when freed.  What you are being liberated from, is up to you as a listener to decide.

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“Modern Art” In Contemporary Society

Ask the average twenty-something what ‘modern art’ is and apart from an indifferent shrug, the response heard most often will be along the lines of “Oh, you mean Warhol and the soup cans?”

Warhol’s take on art was considered by many to be “the end of art”. Within the last year I have begun to realize the unintentional meaning this phrase carries in the ’00s.  To the average consumer, kid, adult and American, “art” is whatever is on television, our favorite films and the video game of the moment.  Traditional art, paintings, sculptures and the idea of a museum has become completely irrelevant apart from those who actively seek it out.  Art has faded into the background as a hobby at best and an unnecessary, exclusive, expensive and outdated luxury at worst.

Some might say, “Well, it’s simply been redefined” — this is ignoring the issue.  Paintings and the idea of putting art upon a pedestal for viewing has vanished from contemporary society and from the practical consumer’s mindset.  Sure, it has been replaced by flashier culture, but it’s only on a metaphorical pedestal, not a literal one, that we view video gaming and television.  What does a painting mean now?  If the term “modern art” means something that is half a century old (‘soup cans’), it’s clear that the very term is hypocritical.

Personally, art has meant album artwork.  This is a medium which many could toss up to containing a cohesive and beautiful statement once every 300 album covers.  Regardless, I have thrived off of my last remaining attachment I have to traditional paintings, even though the pedestal said album art is viewed upon is my laptop.

There is a poster on my wall containing the album artwork of Animal Collective’s 2009 album, “Merriweather Post Pavilion”.  When moving from college dorm A to college dorm B, I had forgotten to take down my posters.  My friend, Ryan, kindly took the posters down and stored them in his car, where they collected dust all summer long.  These posters were rolled together in a messy clump, rendering most of them ruined from being stuck together for such a long time.  However, there was one interesting effect to the Merriweather Poster.  In addition to several white tears, the sunlight had created a fantastic faded blue streak across the bottom of the image.  It gave a precise effect that looked as if it could have only been created digitally — or perhaps by leaving a poster exposed to three months of sunlight.

With no real desire to seek out far-less stimulating culture, the place for massive and vibrant paintings, sculptures and installations has been moved to one of two places:

  1. There are enthusiasts, many of them, who will never say goodbye to the wonder and subtlety that “true” art, found in a museum, provides.
  2. The second place this art has gone to (and the place which gets far more attention) is upon Flickr accounts, various impersonal Tumblr pages and occasionally upon a Google Image search.

If art was an experience to help transcend the trivialities of daily life, if even for a moment, and said experience no longer takes place outside the stream of our lives — what does that say for art?  We no longer have to visit museums to experience a plethora of styles; all we need is StumbleUpon and perhaps a search string.  Such ease allows us a whirlwind of culture, but at the same time, it is easy to under-appreciate the magnitude of the culture itself.

Conceptually, the artist is dead, because there are no longer pedestals for each artist to showcase their work upon.  All art created gets thrown into the digital void, upon one unified pedestal.  This pedestal is shared amongst all artists and with this sharing, artistic individuality has been lost in the digital stream of consciousness.  The artist is no longer relevant so much as the audience, i.e., you, as you have the power to skip to the next image or share it on your Facebook wall.  This is about as much praise as one can practically expect as an artist on a mass scale, apart from the occasional PR puff piece and blogosphere commentary.

The poster on my wall does not ask for my attention, yet it exists outside the internet, in its own museum (my room) on its own pedestal (the wall).  The audience (I and whoever is in the room at the time) is not forced to look upon this poster, but when they do, it captures the overstimulated attention span, if just for a moment.  Modern art is individually-oriented and based around personal narratives — one glance upon the poster reminds of a story.  It calls attention to something I have no control over (sunlight, the forces of nature, destroying my perfect replica of a favorite album) and in its own subliminal way, reminds of my own impermanence.  One may think that this is all a bit hyperbolic, but that’s just it!  There is nothing that is going to exist in our lives which will live up to the mythical shadow cast upon by pre-internet society, when it was impossible to fathom the audience even touching the pedestal, let alone controlling what was seen upon it.

This is why I can look to a sun-faded Animal Collective poster as the highest example of contemporary art imaginable.  This is why the definition of art in practical, contemporary society is exactly what you as a viewer, view it to be.  While artists will continue to make thought-provoking work to be seen in small scales, the masses are still left scratching their head, thinking to 1962’s “Campbell’s Soup Cans” as the only example of modern art — before tuning back into the daily programming.  Today, artistic relevance depends completely on what you personally find relevant.  Traditional art made by others will always have beauty, but it will never catch the eye as the heirlooms our lifetime will, however insignificant to an outside observer these may be.

The end of art meant the end of established artistic norms, of an invisible world telling you what you could and could not find aesthetically pleasing.  It began with Warhol realizing that art could be found anywhere, even in the supermarket.  If a supermarket is a pedestal, then it’s obvious that the museum is the human mind and whatever we attach ourselves to can be transformed into a gallery, flimsy posters included.

Existence as system-like whole

Imagine a relationship between two concepts:

  1. The essence of existence as a functional, system-like whole, and…
  2. The perspective of one functioning part in that existence (this being realized through conscious awareness).

Macro:Micro. Creator:Creation. The “creator” is the designer, the architect, but will never be able to enjoy it’s own creation, for that is reserved for the inhabitants within said creation. Being that the universe is here and we presently find ourselves within it’s confines, it makes logical and rational sense that we use our conscious awareness to develop our sense of what’s positive and what’s negative.  This allows us to perfect the filtering of the negative to enhance our overall experience in this existence. The premise being that “The Creator” is simply existence itself, and that we can choose to see any aspect of it in any life imaginable, because the endless nature of existence allows for this creativity/freedom.

In the metaphorical sense, it makes sense for the creations of “The Creator” to enjoy that which has been created solely for unlimited experience. Suffering is undergone and enjoyment is undertaken, but clearly both are the resulting choices of each individual creation, particularly for conscious humans, as we experiment with the endless situational and reactional possibilities.

From The Creator’s perspective, it’s entertaining to witness all the variety, but to see creations so happy with the creation no doubt encourages The Creator positively. This metaphor allows us to grasp the notion that perhaps existence itself is conscious in some abstract manner which we as individual parts of a grander system could never truly understand (much like cells, bacteria, insects, and other smaller lifeforms than ourselves all either form larger life or contribute to a  grander ecosystem).

Essentially, Earth happens to be a place in the universe where everything lined up just right and existence finally had a chance to experience itself consciously (through human awareness).  There are smaller worlds within our Earth, just as we are but one small portion of life upon our planet, as it is one portion of our solar system, which is one small part of our galaxy, etc — but none of this takes away the significance of conscious existence.  From our vantage-point, it does seem as if we are in the exact middle of a scale where the smallest and largest components of our universe are similar in measurable extremes.

This is a fallacy of conscious awareness, however, as regardless where we find ourselves on “the cosmic scale”, if conscious, we would likely perceive the smaller degrees and the larger degrees of life in relatively equal proportion. Technology naturally allows us to see to our absolute limits, but this will always be seen in a relatively “even” light.  Why would we be able to traverse to the edge of the universe but find ourselves unable to zoom in beyond bacteria, or vice versa?

The underlying point here is that because of this fallacy, regardless how primitive or advanced we actually are as a global community, our existence is profound.  It is profound because without our awareness, the universe would continue to exist with all it’s mystery and absolutely no one to soak in the experience of it all.  We’re aware, and regardless how limited of an awareness, it is still very much an awareness.

Lyrical Analysis: “Abducted” by Cults

The lyrics are found here.  Here is the official music video:

The music video for this song features a woman being abducted by a man, and then the man driving down a very long and winding road — constantly looking out the window the entire time.  The whole while, the woman is tied and trapped in the trunk of the car.  At the end of the video, he gets out the car, lets her out of the trunk, and allows himself to be tied up by her and eventually locked in the trunk.

The lyrics to this song focus upon a relationship where the woman is completely infatuated with the man upon first sight.  She realizes that this man is the best man she has ever been in a relationship with (“I knew right then no one was above him”).  The first three lines seem to infer to “I knew right then” as the moment/day/night she first met this man, but in the last line, “I knew right then that he would be breaking my heart“, she seems to be speaking from a later point in the relationship where she realizes that he is not in love with her like she is to him.

Unfortunately, she wants to stay with him regardless, because even though the love is not mutual, to her, he represents the closest thing to love she has ever felt (“He tore me apart because I really loved him“).  I love the next lines, “He took my heart(/it all) away and left me to bleed out, bleed out“, as it infers how she put her entire self transparently into the relationship, giving her heart to him, and the love was not returned in the manner she thought the situation would have indicated.

Then the song shifts to his perspective, this time again, the man does not seem to be speaking from the moment which they first met (“I knew right then that I’d never love her”).  He cannot control how in love someone is with him, he simply is not in love with her (“the reasons”) — and this likely became apparent when it was revealed to him how much she actually loved him.  He wishes her the best, realizing that the whole experience likely will cause her to never give herself that way to anyone ever again (“I hope the dream hasn’t left her scarred”).

This is where the video really comes full circle.  The vulnerability and emotion shown by the woman in the video really contrasts how stern and detached the male kidnapper comes across as.  That is, until the end, where the very thing the male voice in the song alludes to comes true — she becomes the cold and detached kidnapper, and now she will likely “kidnap” another’s heart in the same manner she was.  The cycle perpetuates, and we now can empathize with the male kidnapper, for it’s implied he was turned cold after opening himself to another, but then being rejected.  This song captures the emotion of the entire situation, and the video acts as a perfect visual allegory for the male and female characters within the song’s lyrics.

Pyramids: A perfect metaphor for humanity’s ideological progression?

As humans first began to philosophize and contemplate, myths came about, religions gathered worship and philosophers entered the scene — everyone offering their own version of truth to the populous. As time passes, all these ideas get accepted, rejected, loved, hated and eventually — incorporated into human development.

When an idea is first presented, it’s still in the initial forming stages. However, even if it means an idea is rejected, the resulting wisdom eventually goes into future, forming generations. It is only natural that certain ideas become irrelevant as humanity tries to build upon previous ideas.

Do you see how a pyramid acts a perfect metaphor for this? The base level is the largest — the foundation. However, it is not very high up off the ground. As you go higher, as time passes on and ideas are refined, the ideas become more complex and the lesser ones are eliminated.

You continue this pattern until you eventually start eliminating more and more ideas, getting down to the core concepts that really speak volumes of truth — which reflect all that has been learned. Imagine a pyramid, and each level representing an era of human thought. What is at the very top of the pyramid?

A singular point. The divine truth. A truth which encompasses all prior wisdom. For what we do not even realize, is that as we are raised as children today in this world, television programs, societal attitudes, what we find sexy, what we engage in for recreation — all of these things subconsciously incorporate all that has since passed. It’s in our day-to-day living on such an instinctual level, that we do not even realize just how many philosophies and concepts are completely ingrained within our life.

If you could look at a pyramid, and attempt to figure out how such a thing was constructed prior to all this new technology we have, you may be able to directly figure out EXACTLY how human intellectual evolution persists — the very mechanics behind the thing. Interestingly enough, one of the biggest mysteries revolving around the pyramids is the idea that no one really knows how the Egyptians built them!

I propose, however, that regardless how they were built, once you reached the midway point, and had the first half of the pyramid complete, the remaining construction would take hardly any time at all. Think of Moore’s Law and the Singularity:

The construction of the pyramid is likely the same, as why would it take LONGER to put the finishing upper-half upon a pyramid? You already have the foundation laid down, now it’s just perfecting your craft.

Apply the same logic to intellectual progression of humanity — we have come so far and laid down so much foundation. It only makes sense that at this stage, every layer of wisdom will be proposed and incorporated/rejected (but with wisdom learned) into society at faster and faster rates. We are naturally reaching the peak level of society, and eventually, we are going to, as a species, stumble upon a truth which encompasses all prior truths, which answers everything. It is only natural, and it is inevitable — look to how our wisdom has developed since our early days, and look now.

(It’s all very similar to the Mayan calendar’s progression. This “rate” is actually found everywhere. Think about how your life as a child takes forever, then in your 20s/30s things start to go fast and then for the most part, time flies to your death. Another example of this progression: sex/orgasm, literal evolution.)