Posted by: Angelique Frazier

Song #1: Angel Down by Lady Gaga

Description: This song goes along with the discussions we’ve been having in class about racism and the brutal and harsh realities of acts of racism. Lady Gaga wrote this song after unarmed teen Trayvon Martin was shot and killed, so in the case of this song, knowing the intentions of the artist and the dedication behind it is important to understanding the message and deriving meaning.

  • Music alone: Synthesizers, strings and piano are the main elements in this song. Only when the chorus comes in is there a harp present, connecting to the message “angel down” (harps + angels).
  • Lyrics alone: In this song, it doesn’t seem to be clear what the message is until the second verse:
    • Shots were fired on the street by the church where we used to meet. Angel down, angel down, but the people just stood around.”
    • “I’m a believer, it’s a trial, Foolish and weaker, oh, oh, oh. I’d rather save an angel down. I’m a believer, it’s chaos. Where are our leaders? Oh, oh, oh. I’d rather save an angel down.”
  • Vocal delivery alone: Gaga’s vocal delivery are slightly held back in the beginning of the song, and slowly build up. In some areas later on, (“Where are our leaders?”) Gaga is practically screaming. Towards the end of the song, her vocal delivery becomes less about being powerful, and upset emotionally and her vocals become more “angelic” (“hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo” etc. and the final chorus and verse).
  • Overall understanding: I thought it might be interesting to do this song for the podcast because there are certain lyrics in this song that are pretty straightforward (above) but some lyrics are a bit more up for debate. Also, if possible, I’d like to contrast the original with a cover by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles.

Song #2: Land of the Free by The Killers

Description: This song is a protest song that objects to rampant instances of anti-immigrant, racist, mass incarceration, and pro-gun idelologies and viewpoints present in America today.

  • Music alone: This song begins simply with a piano riff/introduction. Brandon Flowers then comes in with the first verse. The piano moves to the background, but it still helps carry the song. At the end of the first verse, it becomes clear that a choir will also be present and central to the song’s arrangement. When the chorus enters, the choir almost takes over completely. As the second verse starts, Flowers once again carries the melody, but the choir provides a counterpoint in between his verses with “I’m standing here crying.” Drums also enter on the second verse. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of other musical elements that are critical and at the forefront of the track. As the bridge (or third verse, depending on how you hear it) comes in, big drums are a key element. Both the music and the choir reach a climax, the song is at its loudest point, immediately after Flowers sings “We got a problem with guns,” and the beat drops. Mostly, Flowers and the choir accompanying him are the main elements, aside from the piano that intros the song and carries throughout. As the s
  • Lyrics alone: Some of the strongest lyrics in the song that directly connect the song’s message are
    • “When I go out in my car, I don’t think twice, but if you’re the wrong color skin (I’m standing, crying) you grow up looking over both your shoulders in the land of the free.”
    • “We got more people locked up than the rest of the world, right here in red, white, and blue. Incarceration’s become big business, it’s harvest time out on the avenue.”
    • “So how many daughters, tell me, how many sons do we have to have to put in the ground before we just break down and face it: We got a problem with guns?”
    • Down at the border, they’re gonna put up a wall concrete and Rebar Steel beams (I’m standing, crying); high enough to keep all those filthy hands off of our hopes and our dreams.”
  • Vocal delivery alone: Flowers remains consonant and consistent in his vocal delivery. Flowers’ dynamics don’t change much throughout the song, but the choir grows louder and more intense and emotional in their vocal delivery with each new verse.
  • Overall understanding: To me, it’s very clear what the message of the song is. It is a song that rebukes the long history of white supremacy and racist individuals who oppose gun reform and who want to hold black people back from thriving (or even just surviving) in America. Add to that our “current climate” of keeping immigrants out of our country brought on by Trump, and there you have “Land of the Free.”