Friday, December 4, 2009

Stories in Song: Evacuate the Dance Floor

Something a little fun for a Friday: finding the stories in songs.

I'm the youngest of eight children and my mom was a music teacher. Suffice to say there was a lot of music in our house. Everything from classical to rock to blues, and when I grew my own musical tastes, rap and hip-hop. While I imagine my parents must have screamed to one of us at some point or another, "Turn that music down!" I have no memory of music being shunned in our household.

And today, music is still a huge part of my life. I listen to music when I workout, I sing at the top of my lungs when I'm driving in my car (alone or not), and, like some sort of teenager, I still sing and dance in front of the mirror before I go out at night. I love music, and I also love lyrics.

As a writer, I've started to analyze songs for word choice. Songs are often mini-stories, and they really only have a few words to get their point across. So word choice is vital and I think we can learn a lot about how to express an idea, a feeling, an action or an image, with just a handful of the right words.

Take this song, "Evacuate the Dance Floor" by Cascada. Here's a snippet of the lyrics:

Steal the night
Kill the lights
Feel it under your skin
Time is right
Keep it tight
Cause it's pulling you in
Wrap it up
Can't stop
It feels like a overdose

Evacuate the dance floor
I'm infected by the sound
Stop, this beat is killing me
Hey Doctor DJ let the music take me underground

While it may look like a song about dancing at first glance, there's an underlying theme because of the specific word choice.

Evacuate evokes a sense of emergency. She didn't sing "Hey, get off the dance floor." With one word, she got her message, her sense of urgency, across.

She didn't use "turn off the lights" but "kill the lights." That's no accident. Kill creates a sense of danger. Same thing with "steal the night."

And then the music is an overdose. It's too much, it's killing her, but like a drug, she can't stay away from the music. And she expresses this in one word.

On par with overdose, she's infected by the sound. The music didn't just get stuck in her head, it's not pumping the beat through her veins, it infected her.

And when you listen to the song it sounds like "Mister DJ", a phrase used in tons of dance songs, she actually choose the unique label Doctor DJ. And who do you turn to for an infection other than a doctor?

Then she wants the doctor to take her underground. A reference to the underground music scene, or six feet under? The artistic interpretation is endless!

Through the use of specific words, Cascada created a dance song that's deeper than "I really dig the beat of this music." She labeled music as dangerous as the plague, said that it got her sick, that she was as addicted to it as a drug, yet she's willing to dance herself to death because it's all so good.

Here's the video if you'd like to have a listen. I've had this song in my head for months, and this morning was the first time I actually watched the video. While they missed out on a lovely opportunity to bring the imagery of the lyrics to life (Little Miss Performance Artist Lady Gaga would've had a field day with this one), it's still a fun dance video.

And look, I found an unplugged version! You can really focus on the lyrics better here. The song starts at the 0:48 mark, as the first part is an interview in, I'm guessing, German.

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