This blog, this essay, this ‘blogessay’ is for my Media Studies class where I am required write an analysis of a pop song. It was difficult in the sense of choosing the perfect song to analyze. Not having listened to many ‘English songs’ recently as my latest playlists are comprised of all instrumentals, trance, dub-step and Japanese soundtracks, it was hard to find a song that I felt I can write a 1500 word essay on. But as I was sifting through the greatest hits, I was reminded of Coldplay – simple in lyrics (at face value), yet always backed by meaning that leaves fans and music enthusiasts wanting to decipher, learn and possibly understand the intentions of the song. So, I chose Paradise by Coldplay. With its bombastic chorus, hypnotic chords, lyrics you can easily relate to, it was the perfect candidate to write an analysis on. Paradise with its emotional story and powerful melodic punches is a compositional masterpiece that caters to the helpless young audience of today.
Para-para-paradise – a catchy chorus that most of us have heard at some point. A nominee of the Grammy Award released in September 2011, a song relatively simple in its lyrics, does its job in making it irresistible to not hum or sing along to. In its first verse, tells a story of a girl who was once still blessed with her innocence; some may call it her ignorance. She had high expectations for the world. She expected her future to be like a fairy tale, a common misperception we lead many young girls with today. Perhaps she expected the world to be fair and just, where women are treated as princesses, for her to find her Prince Charming and live happily ever after. However, as the lyrics noted “But it flew away from her reach”, as she discovered that life is not a fairy tale. Bars were set too high, expectations failed to be met; it’s a life where not everything went her way. Dreams not achieved, opportunities not seized, so she retrieved back into her dreams – “So she ran away in her sleep”, “Dreamed of para- para- paradise”, “Every time she closed her eyes”. There she was able to find her fairy tale, her fantasy. Paradise: “an ideal or idyllic place or state” (Oxford). It was there was she able to do anything (“And the bullets catch in her teeth”).
The second verse depicts how as the girl grows up, as she goes through life’s trials and tribulations (“Life goes on”, “It gets so heavy”), it breaks her (“The wheel breaks the butterfly”). The butterfly, a symbol of the girl – beautiful and innocent – ran over by the wheel, the hardships of life. “Every tear, a waterfall”, “In the night, the stormy night”, “She closed her eyes”; “Away she’d fly”. In amidst the chaos, she felt reality crushing her, physically, psychologically, emotionally; thus she would once again at night, recede back to her “Para- para- paradise”. It was there where she was safest, happiest; it was there where she felt most comfortable.
In the final verse: “So lying underneath those stormy skies”, a pathetic fallacy – a literal attribution of her then current state of mind. In her darkest hours, she had a change in mindset. “She said oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh”, “I know the sun must set to rise”. She came to a realization, an epiphany that not all of life is sitting underneath stormy skies. She realized that like a day of the year, the night must come before the sun can rise. She had to brace and endure the dark times for things to come full circle, for her reality, her life to become a ‘paradise’. Followed by this verse and up to the end of the song, the chorus repeated numerous times and changed from “She dream of para- para- paradise” to “This could be para- para- paradise”, signaling that she perhaps have finally achieved her dreams, met people’s expectations, she was no longer in dark times, she has finally made it – a reality that she could perhaps call paradise.
Now after becoming familiar with the song and its content, it begs to ask “what of it”, “why is it so successful”, “what did Chris Martin do”? How did he come up with a song where his millions of fans are able to relate to? To have them say “I’m a melancholic, reflective person and this song says exactly what I feel, it describes what I’m going through or have already gone through”, “The ‘she’ described in Paradise is ‘me’, it is an autobiographical song about ‘me’, Coldplay is singing about ‘me’!” (Durant & Lambrou, 2009). So, by the sales figure alone, it is clear that Chris Martin has succeeded in creating a composition that has the ability to make us empathetic of this fictional woman. It wasn’t hard though as the story is about feelings many of us have come across.
Chris Martin must have taken notes from Country songwriters. All successful country songwriters agree that first and foremost, lyrics are a song’s first priority. The essence of a country song is the story (Lewis, 1976). Lyrics must be simple and the hook line must be catchy – in this case “Para-para-paradise” repeated several times is just one of the many reasons to what makes this song so catchy. The song was able to convey something relatable; words used were relatively simple, where even the youngest English speakers would be able to understand (Lewis, 1976). It is a song for all ages and for either gender. Following lyrics in what makes good music would be the melody (Lewis, 1976). The melody of this song too proves its worth. With its crisp thumping bass and its smooth electronic instrumentals accompanied by simple piano chords; it all complements the easily memorable chorus and the simple but powerful lyrics.
So, why did Chris Martin choose to write the lyrics starring a girl, and not a boy? The dark times, the hopeful future can easily happen to a male. Surely we guys would love to meet our princess just as much as a girl would want to meet her prince. There’s no exclusivity when it comes to dreams, fantasies, despair and hardships. Perhaps this song was meant for the female audience who according to a fellow blogger ‘Laviniasc’, about 50% of 444,965 fans on Myspace are female. It would then make economical sense to ‘speak’ to this audience. But perhaps Chris Martin chose to star a girl because it was the ‘obvious’ thing to do. Maybe it is because we grew up with that innocent younger sister, or read and seen those fairy tales that star a female protagonist who is young and sweet, whereas the boys are tough, bratty, dirty. Thus, will it make more sense and more relatable to have a female star, as we’re more programmed via Disney films, elementary school, our parents, to feel sorry and empathetic for the little crying girl rather than a boy who we may chalk up as whiny/bratty.
With all that said and done, is Paradise a masterpiece that caters to all spectrums of society? Yes and no. With its hypnotic melody, its falsettos, at its core it tells a story that is so easily relatable and understandable, at least the majority of society will feel the emotions it tries to convey. Trials and tribulations, success and failure, problems and solutions are all aspects of life we’ve come to experience numerous of times before. It’s hard to look beyond the hills when you’re still climbing them, but it is because we understand all of these things life offers us, do we find it enjoyable and soothing to listen to a song like Paradise. If you’re currently in stormy weathers, perhaps you’ll find the song more impactful. Perhaps it’ll remind you that there are things to look forward to after you made it across those hills. If you’re at the peak of your life, at the top of your game, you may feel reminiscent of the past – melancholic of the fact that you’ve jumped through many hoops to land you in the place you are today. Will we celebrate this song in a few years from now? Probably not as there are many more iconic songs out there but will there be a handful, perhaps a room of people that will remember and cherish this song? Wouldn’t be surprised if that weren’t the case.
Durant A, Lambrou M. (2009). Language and media. New York: Routledge.
Lewish G. Country music lyrics. Journal of Communication. 1976;26(4):37-40