For this listening post I will be focusing on two texts that relate to my song, Promises & Pills by SOJA ft. Alfred the MC. I will be talking about the delivery of the song, the different tones used in each performance, and comments given by a veteran that are incorporated into one of the performances. The purpose of this will be to further understand the meaning of this song. Before starting this post, I want to point out that SOJA is a big reggae band, but in the scope of music it is a very small band, hence there are not many covers of this song, life performances, or a music video.

     The first song I will be focusing on is a cover the band did for OurVynil. OurVynil is a YouTube channel that its goal is to give more exposure to different bands. Compared to the studio recorded version, OurVinyl starts with a more prominent guitar sound and it is thus more noticeable to the listener. This emphasizes the anger and disgust that the singer feels toward the current problem veterans are facing when they come back home; the over prescribing of pills to deal with PTSD and other mental issues.  Following the rap stanza the band continues with the very present guitar sound, similar to heavy metal. A recurring theme in this genre of music (metal) is its heavy social commentary, being anti-establishment and anger, hence the incorporation into Promises & Pills further explains the meaning of the song. In terms of the tone of the singer, in minute 1:52 he elongates the lyrics and kind of says them with pain in his voice (//look how you made me, you made//). This represents the anguish veterans feel when they realized the person they have become after war. Moreover, in the OurVinyl version the band jumps from the last rap stanza, “Put a warrior in hell, now he’s finally back// With images in his brain of every damn attack…//”, back to the effects the war has on the veterans, “And I don’t sleep at night and I will never be the same // And my wife is terrified by these details I can’t explain”. SOJA decides to change the order from the original version to reiterate and remind the listener the struggles these human beings go through. I also want to talk about the short sentences Alfred the MC says to honor soldiers, “This song here is very important to us because it represents the men and women who fight for our freedom. Here and beyond, we salute you. Thank you for your service. The true soldiers”.  These few sentences further address the song to veterans because it directly addresses them. The band makes it a point to say thank you for your service and acknowledges that the true soldiers are those in combat, and not those that are in office dictating the orders. The soldiers are the ones who really give freedom to this land, not the government. After it is followed by a beautiful instrumental, with a prominent guitar sound. Lastly, the lead singer of the band finishes the last few lines of the song with a heavy guitar sound in the back that then subsides. The lead singer and Alfred the MC finish the song by reciting the lyrics, not singing. For me, this emphasizes more what they are trying to accomplish with the song which is to bring to light the struggles of veterans and be empathetic towards them because of all they have had to go through for the freedom of this land.

     The second version of Promises and Pills that  I want to focus on is a live performance the band did in Virginia. I picked this version because they incorporate a Marine Corp in some parts of the video. His name is not mentioned, however he explains when he first was introduced to SOJA — coming back from Iraq 2005-2006. This version of the song is very similar to the recorded one, the only difference is that there is a more prominent guitar sound as well. What really captured my attention about this performance was the Marine Corp. Further into the song he explains, while the music is still in the background, “When I came back from Iraq they (SOJA) blew my mind, set me in such a tranquil state of mind and allowed me to recuperate, to get back to civil life. They brought my heart and soul back, this reggae music. Promises & Pills tells the truth. Tells about what the system does, allowing pharmaceuticals to keep making millions off of veterans”. I appreciate that the band uploaded this video to their channel because it brings a face to the song and makes it even more meaningful. Also, I did not think of “the System” as the vicious cycle of sending people to war, taxing the nation to pay for this war, and then making the veterans pay for the pills and care they need after coming back home. Everything is about making money when it comes to the government and there is really no compassion for the people.