Friday, February 17, 2017

Music Can Move You

The song "Alaska" was one of the first songs released by 22 year old singer, Maggie Rogers. The song is centered around the mindset and actions of someone trying put distance between themselves and the past.  Some of the first lines of the song say, "and I walked off you/and I walked off an old me." With most of the music being produced today focusing on love and relationships it is easy to slip into the default interpretation of the "you" in the line being a lover or male counterpart. However, the surrounding lyrics suggest that the desire for distance is more focused on an internal transformation than an external or physical escape from another human being. The opening section of Alaska says:

I was walking through icy streams
That took my breath away

The concept of "walking through icy streams" brings about the idea of waking up to a new self. People often use cold showers or soaking their feet in ice water as a way to wake themselves up or clear their minds with the shock of extreme temperature. If the goal of the subject of Rogers' lyrics was to purely gain physical distance from another human being or escape from a relationship, they could have described any kind of walking or travelling on solid ground. The fact that her surface of choice was a frigid stream suggests the desire for the shocking coldness and jolt from a foggy or damaged mindset. 

The chorus of "Alaska", focused on breathing, deepens the idea that the journey the subject of Rogers' lyrics is one meant to settle an inner storm rather than focus on external conflict. It says, 
And now, breathe deep
I'm inhaling
You and I, there's air in between
Leave me be
I'm exhaling
You and I, there's air in between
Breathing techniques, especially those practiced in structured environments like yoga classes, are meant to help relieve anxieties. As Rogers is describing the physical aspect of the process of distancing from the past, "walking through icy streams" and across "glacial plains", the above stanza makes it clear that within these travels, the subject of the lyrics is in the process of an internal transformation. The subject exhaling inner turmoil and inhaling the fresh air of the mountains and lake can represent a renewal from the inside out through the internalization of the purity of the physical journey itself and the world around them.

The final section of Rogers' song talks about an external change in the subject's escape from the past. It says, "Cut my hair so I could rock back and forth /without thinking of you". The action of getting hair cut carries a lot of weight in the the history of the empowerment of women. For centuries women were socially pressured to keep their hair long and heavy. A women's ability to cut her hair, to "rock back and forth" without that extra heaviness, means so much more than a desire to be pretty for someone else. While the breathing described in the chorus suggests inner healing from the inside out, a lot of inner peace can come from letting go of outer constraints, as small or insignificant as they may seem, and finding your true self from the outside in.

The lyrics of "Alaska" hold the important message that no matter what you are trying to escape from, weather it be internal or external, what matters when it comes to your healing process is finding inner peace. Sometimes a journey away from others and into yourself is all that is necessary in the process of healing.

1 comment:

  1. This a really nice analysis, made me think about a lot of symbolism I might've skipped the first time through. After reading the part about the chorus it really got me thinking about the use of 'breath' in other parts of the song too ...