Essay 2 (Music Analysis)

Essay: Verbal Rhetoric, Audience, Ideology – Analyzing Music Background: According to “Musical Preferences are Linked to Cognitive Styles” (2015), and many other studies, music is a fundamental way individuals express their psychologies and identities. While listening to music may seem like frivolous entertainment, as one of the activities we engage in most often, it tells us a lot about individual and group values, primarily through the signs and symbols used in genres of music. A simple concept like “love,” for instance, has different connotations depending on if we are listening to country, Tupac, or emo rock. That we like one or more of these types of music may say something about our own constructions of love. Music is, in sum, deeply reflective of our ideological orientations.Directions: In thisat least four-page paper, you will semiotically analyze how a specific song or two songs speaks to an audience through signs and symbols, paying attention to the diction and rhetorical devices (pathos; ethos; metaphor; irony; etc.) used. The argument is up to you, but you should focus on how you think the song uses symbols and signs to craft its message; you won’t just repeat the message (since that’s not arguable), but instead make an argument about the importance of signs and symbols in that message. Two possible approaches to this essay:1. Analyze how the songs uses signs and symbols to make an argument about some aspect of culture, identity, politics, etc.2. Answer the following question in your thesis, adapted from Karen Halnon’s article “Alienation Incorporated”: what does this song attempt to commodify, and how does it do so (using rhetorical appeals and signs)? What do these signs/symbols tell us about the song’s audience?You will close read particular signs (words, musical tones, images) as evidence. Using screenshots of a music video in your paper is highly recommended, though you are welcome to focus primarily on lyrics, too.Goals:This paper has a few purposes. To demonstrate:● You understand both verbal and visual rhetoric and can make connections between the two.● Your close reading abilities (ability to analyze rather than summarize).● That you can critically think about how popular culture we consume daily has ideological effects.● That you understand audience.Tips: Questions to consider in formulating an argument:● How does this music video use diction and images to appeal to its audience?● What mythologies of race, gender, sexuality, class, etc. are present in this music video?
● Why did the musician/band make this song/video? What do they seem to be arguing?You must include at least two secondary sources, which will be documented in a Works Cited page according to MLA standards. These can be sources from the syllabus or articles found online. They must be critical or analytical sources (scholarly, rather than summaries or simplistic reviews).Possible Paragraph Organization Paragraph 1 (Introduction): Here you can give context for the musician and song you are discussing, explain why the musician and song are important objects of critical evaluation, and have a clear thesis explaining your argument about how the song/musician is representative of the genre’s audience.Paragraph 2(Summary): This paragraph can give a concise summary of your song(s) and the music video.Paragraph 3 (Literature Review): This paragraph can introduce secondary sources relevant to your argument and music video. This is your chance to explain what others have said about your musician/band or, if there are no critical evaluations of your musician/band, what others have said about your specific topic (e.g., “gender roles in music”). You can summarize, paraphrase, and quote the sources. This is also your chance to reintroduce your argument and explain what “gap” you are filling that other critical evaluations have missed.Paragraphs 4 through 6, maybe more (rhetorical and semiotic analysis): This set of paragraphs is where you can give the support for your argument. Each paragraph can have a topic sentence referring to your thesis and give one aspect of the music video as proof (such as a word or line from the lyrics, a sign present in the video, how the musician’s or an actor’s performance is relevant to your argument). These paragraphs should be analysis, not summary. In other words, don’t bring up a lyric if you only plan on paraphrasing (restating what it says). You should be close reading to explain how that lyric is relevant to the song’s ideologies.Paragraph 7 (conclusion):Restate your thesis, briefly explain your main points, and then expand your “so what?”. Answer the following question: Why did you write this essay? What do you want the reader to take away? How does your essay further musical analysis, understanding of the musician/band, or understanding of cultural ideologies?

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