Recently, I’ve been trying to find hidden meaning in things. Not in a crazy, over-emotional, kind of way. More like, as jargon would suggest, ‘reading between the lines,’ ‘delving into the shades of gray,’ or ‘close reading’ of different texts. Obviously, this type of critical thinking is an important facet of most, if not all, academic fields of study. However, I’ve found that it can be extended to other areas besides the boring scholarly texts holding you responsible for discussing why the color green is actually a metaphor representing our carbon footprint in a children’s narrative about a little girl named Sally walking to school. While we are often forced to ‘read between the lines,’ I have started to ask myself what other ways I can apply this skill for entertainment purposes, rather than as a chore/challenge created as a means of torturing the curious mind.

Thinking about this in more depth, I began to recognize the amusement that I gain from listening to music. I’m not going to lie and say that there’s more meaning to gain from Britney Spears’s “Gimme More” or Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl.” I’m also not going to deny that I get amusement out of both of these songs. I mean, what better way to exercise than accompanied by an upbeat peppy song by Britney Spears or an angry one by Buckcherry. Regardless of your deep-seeded interest in embarrassing pop-music, what I am referring to are those favorite songs of ours with the captivating sounds of the piano, guitar, violin, or other musical instrument playing in the background, leading us from the beginning to the end of the song. For me, this ‘close reading’ skill that I’ve developed during my years in college has allowed me to find hidden meaning in these songs, rich with metaphors and full of symbolism, that I often gloss over because I am too lost in the beauty of the music to take the meaning of the words as anything more than at face value.

For example, “Love the Way You Lie” by Eminem begins the first two lines of this song by stating “Just gonna stand there and watch me burn/ Well that’s alright because I like the way it hurts.” When I apply my critical thinking skills, I can find a hidden meaning in these lines. Who’s to say that there isn’t some allusion being made? For me, I can find a metaphor signifying Joan of Arc in these lines (who was also burned as people watched). Through this framework, I see a powerful statement about passion and war being made. I can view the song in a way that moves beyond a love song about two people in an abusive relationship to a song that discusses fighting for what you believe in (your passion), at all costs possible, even if it hurts. Sure, it’s sappy. Sure, it may not have been the original intentions of the writers behind this song. However, it is a way of personalizing the song and finding a greater meaning, as it applies to me, in something that’s both poetic and beautiful. Furthermore, it’s a way of applying my critical thinking skills in a way that is entertaining, rather than just as a chore.