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  • Writer's picturePeter Tanaka

Musical Outreach - Sound and Lyrical Analysis

Updated: Jun 27, 2020

"with Art as the vehicle for STEM outreach"

This is part of our motto. But what does that even mean? My mind is all over the place, but interconnected. ART and STEM overlap in a Renaissance, sometimes called STEAM. In this video, I demonstrate how sound can be an artistic bridge into scientific curiosity and expression. It's a 18 minute long video, but it's fun watch to see how kids light up for learning and they love the camera! I teach them the science behind sound, with a battery, amplifier, and speaker. At the end, we link music into sound by singing and recording happy birthday, so that the sound can be visualized and replayed. WBETET looks forward to hosting more events like this in the future!

Below are example reflections of lyrical analysis. I hope to use music to teach kids about literature. The reflection below may be above a typical child's level, but I hope to inspire kids to carefully consider how lyrics are thoughtfully composed works of expression.

Reaching out to a Friend

Hi C, J and I have been praying for you over the years. I don’t know where you are, or how you are doing, so I just pray randomly. Jon Bellion just dropped his latest album. When I listen to his music, I am reminded of you because I know about his music because of you. I am reminded of all the good times we had together. Doing push ups in Charles Commons. And hanging out in the EE lab, doing our senior design project with P. This encouragement is about how faith and musical talent can meet to be a true mouthpiece for God. I think you have an amazing musical talent, and I just wanted to share some thoughts with you I had as I was praying.


Hozier’s “Take Me to Church “ was a big hit. I thought it was a good song. It highlighted the flaws of the church. People are flawed, and churches are full of people. So of course churches will hurt people, but I’m not saying it’s alright. Criticism can be good when it helps to make sure mistakes don’t happen again, and growth and healing can occur. One line does bother me from the song: “The last true mouthpiece”. I don’t think God is done speaking, and I believe God is real and working through people.


I like following musicians over time because you see their music evolve along with their personal growth. In 2012, Macklemore released “Heist” and the song “Neon Cathedral” is almost a precursor to “Take me to Church.” But 5 years later, after having a daughter, we see the personal change along with the musical change in his music. In 2017, Gemini came out, which is one of my favorite albums. “Excavate” talks about Haggerty’s pursuit of faithfulness, despite how hard it’s been.

Even the old Kanye vs the new Kanye. From “I Love Kanye

I miss the old Kanye, straight from the Go Kanye

Chop up the soul Kanye, set on his goals Kanye

I hate the new Kanye, the bad mood Kanye

The always rude Kanye, spaz in the news Kanye

I miss the sweet Kanye, chop up the beats Kanye

Jesus Walks” was a song about Jesus being with people who are viewed as the dregs of society. “Ultralight Beam” is about how Kanye compares himself to the apostle Paul having a revelation from God. I shouldn’t judge Kanye, and I do think he’s smart enough to perhaps even put on an act for the sake of being famous. But there is still that transition over time as Kanye got more and more famous and fame can get to your head.

Lastly, there are the ups, downs, and ups again. I remember seeing an old video of Justin Bieber singing for his church. He was a young kid before he got famous. He was passionately singing “I Could Sing of your Love Forever.” But as fame took over, we see the departure of his young and simple faith. But things do come full circle, and seeing Bieber trying to return back to his faithful roots is encouraging.

Spectrum of Judgement

I am trying not to be judgmental of all these musician’s. I don’t know them personally, but it is so easy to pass judgement. I think it’s human nature to judge. But judging without knowing is dangerous. Please take my opinions with a big bunch of salt, and I know that there is probably a lot of misjudgments being made.

As we judge, we can put people into categories across a spectrum. The truly faithful to the fake believers. Let me just make some examples:

  • “Kanye, Kendrick, Bieber, Macklemore. They are good people. Trying to find God, but obviously flawed. At least they try.”

  • “Chance the Rapper, Lecrae, Tori Kelly, Jon Bellion. Those guys are truly faithful. They don’t hide their faith. “

  • “Hillsong and Bethel are potentially corrupt. I just listen to Hymns: Housefires and City Alight all day.”

I would argue, that all are equal in God’s holy and righteous judgment.

“For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

It is not healthy to judge because it really is between them and God. We don’t know them. We should only try to love the way God loves, not judge the way God judges.

In some sense, it is even more beautiful that God uses broken: Broken Hallelujah. Beauty in my Brokeness

From “Always Knew - Lecrae

How can he love Jesus, Kanye, and K Dot?

Martin, Malcolm, and Schaeffer, Mitsubishi, and Maybach?

Contradictory, nah, it's complimentary

There’s a saying “Crooked sticks can draw straight lines.” We don’t need to be perfect in order to glorify God and point people to God. God takes our imperfect sacrifices, and makes it holy. God can use anything. And we shouldn’t be shy because we aren’t sure if our faith is truly strong. God can take our small faith and strengthen our faith beyond what we can imagine. And use us in ways we never thought possible. We may not even see the impact we make. The above lyrics are about how Kanye might seem like a bad example, but he still inspired those like Chance the Rapper and Jon Bellion. It’s not contradictory, but complementary, because it all points back to Romans 3:23. Everyone is a sinner, but anyone can glorify God. I like the songs “Hallelujah - Tori Kelly” and “Joy - Housefires.” The broken hallelujah of trying to offer a broken self up to God. And the “beauty in my brokenness” of having God be the one to restore Joy. Be a true mouthpiece for God!

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. Romans 10:9-10

Personal Connection

I really like how faith has impacted the music of these people I’ve mentioned. I believe music has impacted and encouraged me deeply. Whether I’m jamming in my car or worshiping at church. And I’d also like to encourage you to make faith a part of your work. I try to incorporate faith in my work as much as I can.

I had an emotional connection to the song “Mah’s Joint - Jon Bellion” It reminded me of my parents and the difficult times I’ve been through. Having to take care of someone who once cared for you and watching them slowly die in front of you. At the end of the lyrics, the song transitions into somber trumpet. Usually Taps is played at a soldiers funeral to mourn the loss, but the trumpet takes a turn into upbeat and jazzy. I think this represents the transition of mourning into joy, to celebrate the life lived, and to know they are no longer suffering. And then later, the song transitions into celestial and angelic sounds. I think it represents the eternity ahead, to be worshipping and praising God for all eternity in heaven where there is no more pain, and all the memories left behind are cherished, and to look forward to all the crowns and mansions ahead. The album art paints this picture.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. - Matthew 6:19-21
In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. - John 14:2

Good Role Models, Humility vs Arrogance.

I’ve got some last miscellaneous thoughts related to music. I mentioned how music can be impactful and influential. I like how young people growing up in rough neighborhoods have good role models they can look up to. Gangster rap that promotes violence and carelessness harmed more than we might know. But to have people like Kendrick or Chance be good role models is inspiring.

Jon Bellion and Charlie Puth are both amazingly talented young musicians. But I think Bellion’s humility because of his age is refreshing. In the song “Maybe IDK” he talks about how he is not sure of everything, and doesn’t have all the answers. He is so young, so of course he doesn’t have everything figured out. However, Puth’s song “Through it All” he talks about how he has been through everything and has seen it all. To be so young with that attitude seems more like a lack of maturity and presence of arrogance. Yes, I’m being more judgmental than I should be, but the point I’m trying to make is that I like listening to musicians whom my values align with. I want to be encouraged and inspired, not misled. Not that I won’t listen to or can’t appreciate beautiful music made by people with different values. In fact, I think there is much to learn through the analysis of why I am not giving, and perhaps the flawed mindset I might have. Puth’s song “Change” was inspiring and challenging to me, to love people even who have different values, because we are all human.

Songs Referenced

Take me to Church - Hozier

Neon Cathedral - Macklemore

Excavate - Macklemore

I could sing of your love forever (Can’t find video. Justin Bieber is a young kid singing for his church. Way before he became famous. He does occasionally include worship songs at his concerts.)

I Love Kanye - Kanye

Jesus Walks - Kanye

Ultralight beam - Kanye

Hallelujah - Tori Kelly

Joy - Housefires

Always Knew - Lecrae

Mah’s Joint - Jon Bellion

Through it All - Charlie Puth

Maybe IDK - Jon Bellion

Change - Charlie Puth

Tori Kelly - Hiding Place

Macklemore - Gemini

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