BY: Genise, Guest Writer**
From where is meaning derived in a song, the lyrics or the music? Have you ever walked into the middle of a conversation and totally misinterpreted a situation? When taken out of context, a phrase could have infinite meanings. Lyrics work in the same way. One could spend hours dissecting lyrics and analyzing metaphors but these words do not always account for the entire meaning of a song. Music is unique in that it gives lyrics a contextual basis. Though lacking words, music works as a dialogue and in the case of song lyrics, music provides a frame of reference. Some excellent examples are the multiple versions of “Que Sera Sera” written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans and first performed by Doris Day. After failing to find the soulful version of this song by Sly and the Family Stone on youtube, I located multiple other versions of the same song each with different meanings. Wax Tailor, a French hip-hop producer created a version by fusing hip-hop and soul while also sampling from the original waltzy Doris Day version from the 1950s. Tailor strips the phrase “Que Sera Sera” from its original optimistic meaning by giving the phrase a new musical context. This slowed 4/4 beat in part with the rhythmic snare and melancholy strains of electric guitar clearly gives “Que sera sera, whatever will be” a totally new meaning.
**Guest writers from my courses in American Music will contribute to the blog throughout the year. -Dr. Guy