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The Missing Meaning in Music

What I found most interesting about watching the stories that these two music videos tell is that there is a lot of depth and purpose to the artistic choices that gets lost in translation if you never see the music video. I think people have a tendency to even miss the meaning of lyrics in songs. It’s all too easy to get caught up in a catchy chorus or a nice beat and miss the “point” entirely. In “This is America,” I think the musical shifts and the lyrics make a good basis for the point, but it really hits a different way when you see the music video and are really aware of the imagery that was chosen. With “Formation” as well, the lyrics tell their own story — and she’s addressing a lot of stereotypes of black culture — but there are images in the music video that support it and also bring up other topics, like police brutality (which automatically links to the BLM movement).

Staples’s “Just Walk on By” is a narrative that brings to life these themes of stereotypes that we see in both music videos. He tells the story of how he has to be careful just because of how he looks. It’s his responsibility to make people feel “safe” around him by whistling Vivaldi when in reality, it should be their responsibility not to stereotype him as someone who is going to mug or attack them just because he’s black. The music videos seem to be a more consumable way to address these harmful stereotypes, because people are often put off or not willing to accept first-hand accounts like Staples’s.

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