America. The land of the free and the home of the brave. A place where all are welcome, but only if we want you. America has always been a place of refuge to those looking for an escape. For generations people from all nations and religions have come to America for a better life, one where they can do as they please, be who they want to be, and succeed in life. However I would like to differ. Yes it is true that we have so much more freedom than many other parts of the world but is this freedom blinding us into a plastic type of lifestyle? In Katy Perry’s new hit single “Chained to the Rhythm” she addresses stereotypical behavior that now labels those who live in the United States. This so called freedom has now become a prison that separates us from the world, our friends and families, and even from ourselves.
Like most songs the title usually contains the main idea of what the song is going to promote or emphasize. When we automatically see the words “chained to the rhythm” it causes us to think of all the other songs that we have become addicted to because of their
catchy rhythm and tune. Just thinking of the word rhythm causes us to sway back and forth or tap our foot. We know that rhythm is what gives the song its life and pulls us along with the lyrics. It shapes the mood of the song. This titles purpose is to grab the listener’s attention as well as prepare them for the powerful message that she is about to present. Being intentional about word choice is very important when setting the stage for the rest of the song.
As the song begins her first starts with “living our lives through a lens, trapped in our white picket fence, like ornaments.” This alludes to ordinary people who are living life the way the advertisements tell us we should live, the typical American life. Just like the movies, we have nice houses with fences to separate neighbors. Everything is fancy, clean and fragile, just like ornaments. We start seeing the world through the “good life” lenses and we would rather not take them off. There is nothing wrong with having a nice life or enjoying nice things but when these things begin to pile up and form a wall around us it can become dangerous. We have finally put ourselves in an environment that we think is perfect and yet we are never truly satisfied. Once trapped into this stagnant lifestyle we find it harder and harder to make changes. Even if we are unsatisfied with our wonderful lives we would rather stay in our comfortable enclosures then step out and help someone. By lending a helping hand we may dirty our “white picket fence” or damage our ornamental selves.
As we move to the chorus we understand that this is the part that is repeated the most. This is done partly because it ties verses together but also because it contains a message that Katy wants the audience to remember, and how better to remember something then when it’s catchy. She states that we are so at ease with the way we are living that it like we are surrounded by a fake sense of protection, a “bubble.” And because of this we have trained ourselves into being unaware of the problems that are happening all around us. She then tells her listeners to “put your rose-colored glasses on, and party on” this part is important in that it suggests that the simple act of throwing on some shades will allow you to go about your life as if nothing is wrong. She associates the putting on of these pretty colored glasses to that of making life a party. She continues to urge the listener into a mindset of celebration by telling them to increase to volume of the music and dance, and if that’s not enough she tells you to take a drink and then repeat the whole thing again. But here is where she adds the twist. She associates the music to a “distortion”, the dancing to the movement of a “zombie”, and the partying to our belief that we are “free” to do whatever we choose. This contradiction of ideas causes the listener o reevaluate the meaning.
It often seems that we ignore problems that are not directly affecting us. We think that if we pretend something is not there it will disappear. It’s similar to the childlike thinking that if you cover your face you disappear from their sight. Katy Perry’s second verse brings this claim to the table as she sings, “Are we tone deaf? Keep sweeping it under the mat, thought we could do better that that.” Enjoying life is not the problem it’s the fact that we have become obsessed with only taking care of ourselves. Katy Perry is calling us to listen to others’ stories and problems instead of pushing them aside because they aren’t our problems. When we pretend that an issue doesn’t exist we are not only hurting others but also hurting ourselves.
The bridge section of the song is where Katy has decided to include another voice. By adding Skip Marley’s part she is stating that she is not the only one that has these convictions; others share the ideas that she addresses. The bridge talks mostly about the government and the high officials that run it. It calls out those in power who instead of taking care of the people are feeding them lies instead. But Marley reminds us that the government as we know it is coming to an end. Times are changing and people are fed up with the injustices that are happening to them and those around them. The very last phrase of the bridge is “they woke up, the woke up the lions.” This phrase suggests that those who have been mistreated who have held our tongues will not be silent any longer. They will make their voices heard and it won’t be quiet but instead loud like a lion. It will be a roar. This association with lions also makes a connection with Katy’s very popular hit “Roar” which was released in 2013. The bridge not only ties the song together but also makes some very important points that are needed to give the song the power it has.
All of these parts added together make up the song but the main theme of it is being “chained to the rhythm”. As the audience listens this originally registers to how we are attracted and drawn to the way the song is, how the notes and instruments create an exciting tune that you can jam to. As you listen to each part of the song however you come to realize that the rhythm that she is speaking of has to do with how we live life. Is the way we are living and facing life chaining us into not being able to move forward and change? This is the question that Katy asks repeatedly throughout the verses.
By the end of the song Katy has returned to the chorus and then finishes by saying “it goes on and on and on.” This suggests that things will not change if we do not wish them to. We have to make our voices heard and stand up for those who don’t have a voice. If we don’t the cycle will continue forever. Katy’s song is not only fun to listen to but also gives the listener a choice to make; whether or not to be only a listener but also a speaker. We need to step out of this “rhythm” of life that we are all stuck in and change it.
I’ve included the song below. Check it out and let me know what you think! Is my analysis of the song correct or am I taking it out of proportion?