How can a song help with life’s questions?

The question

The amount of questions people can have about their lives is endless; what should I be doing? What should I think and how should I feel? What is it all about? I don’t think the presence of these questions will ever go away, but I do think that songs can sometimes help make us realise what the important issues are that we should be focusing on. A set of lyrics, a chorus, or just the opening bars could also allow us to go back to a time in our lives where a song possibly meant something, or it may remind us of a better time, a time we may feel happy about reminiscing. This will be unique to each person, but how a song can help with the questions we have in life could be just the thing that helps a person re-evaluate what they are doing with theirs, or even finally understand that they should actually be doing.

The power of songs

I think the power that songs can have is incredible. One example for me is whenever I hear the song ‘Three Lions’ I automatically feel the excitement and anticipation of England winning football matches (or more so, the whole feeling I had around the 2018 World Cup). I know that it is a song that is always going to make me feel happy because, for one thing, it was played in the stadiums after England had won a match, and I could hear it bellowing out alongside the scenes of elation from the players, staff, and fans in the crowd. It is the memories of feeling happy and feeling the anticipation of what will happen next. I had always loved the song before, but it now has a whole other meaning; not just hope, but possible expectation. This is probably quite a distinctive example, but songs can mean something to people for all sorts of reasons, and I think that the power they can have to change a person’s mood should not be underestimated.

Lyrics and their personal meanings

The Baz Luhrmann song ‘Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen’ was an instant hit with me when it was released in 1999. As a ten year old, I wanted to live my life by its wisdom and reflections on what is and isn’t, should and shouldn’t be important in a person’s life. Unfortunately, life gets in the way and it turns out that it is not as simple as that. Like many people though, I get a chill down my spine when I hear the song. I remember listening to a radio show and someone rang up to request this song and said pretty much the same thing. I loved that I wasn’t the only one who felt so moved by it. I think the kind of effect it has it mainly because the song is truthful, and I think, full of hope, especially for a child looking towards the future, wondering what life could bring. As an adult, I now know that it speaks a lot of sense as well, and the power of those lyrics is immense. If you have never heard of the song, I would recommend listening to it; it is seven minutes that could change your outlook on life, as it did mine. Even if it doesn’t change anything, I think it will make you smile because the wisdom it portrays is brilliant, particularly because it starts and finishes by stating that wearing sunscreen is important.
The stand out lyrics for me is ‘don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life…some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don’t’. As I have got older, to me this lyric means more and more. With age brings life experience, and the knowledge that things do not always turn out the way you plan them, or in the way you thought they could or would be, but this is also OK. Listening to this song allows me to remember that; it’s OK to not be like everyone else, or be going through the same life pattern as (it seems like) everyone is; other people will be in the same position as you, thinking the same thing. The song also sets this out by saying people’s choices are half chance; however much you can plan your life, you can never plan for the unexpected and the things you have never even thought about, or things that would not even be on your radar. As a child listening to this, I don’t think I really understood that. I suppose the only thing you can ever really rely on is yourself and how you respond to whatever life throws at you. Knowing who you are and having a sense of self can allow you to be ready for whatever happens. Knowing that there is support around you, and that other people will be thinking the same as you, even if it doesn’t feel like it, can be a powerful message for many in life.

Replying to a purpose

Of course, these are just my own thoughts and personal feelings towards one song that has enabled me to gain a lot of perspective over the years. Like most types of expression, songs can evoke different outcomes within a person, whether this be feelings of elation, sadness, or even reflection. Whatever question you have about life, I’m sure there is a song out there that could help you answer it. Whether you should take advice from a song is a unique thought process as only you can truly understand what you think. But songs allow for a collective togetherness to be shared because songs are out there for everyone to listen to them. They are there for consumption in whatever way we want. Whether it is doing the ‘Grease’ Mega mix actions at a disco, or bellowing Robbie Williams’ ‘Angels’ out at a the end of a wedding reception, songs can bring us together and allow us to think about what they are saying, even if it is just for a short time.

The answer

How can a song help with life’s questions? Well, it depends on the song, the person, and what questions they have about their life. Sometimes song lyrics can misheard or not even processed properly, but when they are, they have the potential to have a profound effect on the person listening to them. I am not saying that people should live their lives through what they hear in a song, but instead that they can perhaps help people who may be struggling to work out what to do next, or understand what they should be feeling about something. Lyrics, along with any type of advice people are given by others in their life, can be remembered or be forgotten, but maybe all that matters is that they are there to be interpreted in whatever way a person can, or wants. Songs have the potential to resonate with people, and help them out when they may not even realise that is what is happening. Whether I do actually try to live my life by the Baz Luhrmann song or not, there is one thing that I have always remembered to do - wear sunscreen.

Sarah Keeping MBPsS MSc PgDip GDip BA (Hons)

Follow Sarah on twitter at @keepingapproach