The two songs I am proposing for my podcast project are, “Seriously,” by Sara Bareilles and Leslie Odom Jr., which explores the mind of President Obama during the 2016 election cycle, and “Butchered Tongue,” by Hozier, which tackles the consequences of English colonization in Ireland.

“Seriously” takes place at a very specific moment in time, which may be somewhat of a limiting factor, but would give me the chance to delve into not only the cacophony surrounding the 2016 election, but to more closely examine how the White House and President Obama handled the situation. The song uses tension, strings waiting with baited breath to finish their musical phrases, to demonstrate the anger that the president must have felt but been unable to express given his position. The protest is implicit in every inch of the music and lyrics, and in the strained and grieving performance given by Leslie Odom Jr., against not only Donald Trump but the overall growth in white nationalist activity, by people seemingly unconcerned with being labeled as racists and white supremacists.

This is a song that I’ve come back to over and over again across the many years since its release, because it is such a brilliant showing of how music and lyrics can work together to build a mood and to punctuate it with meaning. The music slowly builds as the narrator, the fictionalized Obama, becomes more and more incensed, even as he still maintains most of his restraint. It’s a testament to what the 2016 election meant in politics and in the country, and the disappointment and fear layered into the song, released even before the actual election, make clear the stakes of what we now know to be one of the most devastating outcomes in modern American politics.

There is much research to be done with this song – I would likely focus on the ways that Donald Trump gave confidence to white nationalists on the 2016 campaign trail, and to the ways the White House attempted to prevent this. I would examine how Obama spoke of Trump and the election at the time, and how he has expressed his views in the years since leaving office. I would also consider the ways in which white nationalism has continued to grow since Trump’s election, particularly in regards to the January 6th attack on the Capitol.

Though this song does take the view of only a single person and look at dangers through that lens, considering that person is the hugely influential former president of the United States, I think there would be enough ground to cover in focusing on this song. My main concerns would be that since Obama’s public discussion of Trump was so limited, I would need to focus on other aspects more than on his words specifically, like with the research into white nationalism.

The second song I would like to consider is, “Butchered Tongue,” by Hozier. This song, written and performed by an Irish musician, is a haunting ode to the lost music and language of Ireland (and other cultures), having been erased and tortured out of the population by the British. As someone who has studied Gaeilge and Irish history here at Saint Joseph’s, this song holds a lot of meaning to me personally, and as a longtime fan of Hozier’s, it feels like a powerful piece of art that he’s been building to for a long time.

I would love to spend more time looking into Hozier’s specific influences and what he has said personally about the meaning of this song, but I would also spend significant time dedicated to the history of Irish culture being suppressed and current efforts to revive it. The song also makes reference to multiple places where indigenous cultures in the United States and Australia have been suppressed and protests their loss of language and torture as well, further topics that I would research for the podcast. As someone with much family in upstate New York, I can relate to the concept of going places with Native American names and knowing that almost no one living there could tell you what that word meant in its native language, a point Hozier makes in the Apple Music notes for the album (Hozier,

Though this song is a very new release, and so I cannot have much personal history with it, it touches on many topics close to my heart and I have no trouble at all believing I could spend ten weeks studying it and the history that inspired it. My biggest concern is that it’s a relatively short piece, which leaves not as much material to work with, but I truly believe that given all of the research that clearly went into its writing, I would have no trouble finding enough to talk about.

Thank you for your consideration of my proposal, have a lovely weekend!

Emma Kelly