Did you ever wonder why some songs make you feel so much emotion? Did you then ask people and all you ever got from people was “art is relative to the individual” or “there is no rule” or some other similarly unsatisfying answer?
In this article, I’ll explain what makes music so emotional and go over analysis of a few emotional songs.
Imagery In Music And Art
What we connect with in any art medium is imagery. This is clear when it comes to paintings, but what about other art genres? Music makes us see imagery in a couple of ways. The first is the emotion conveyed by the singer in how he or she acts out the song. If the singer sings with certain tones, we immediately recognize and connect their emotions. The other way music helps us connect is through the lyrics in the song. If the song lyrics have good metaphors and imagery, it will be easy for us to relate and imagine it, especially if the singer delivers the lyrics in a way that connects.
Emotions Don’t Need Words And Logic
We think that we are very logical. But many of the parts of the brain that handle emotion evolved before other parts of the brain that deal with logic and language. Sure, the parts of the brain that process logic and language come into play. But they do so after the emotion-handling part of the brain. That’s why we more strongly react to imagery than logic.
With that in mind, it becomes clear why we use imagery and metaphors in writing instead of simply explaining to people that they should feel certain things. If readers see the imagery you are trying to show them, they will connect on an emotional level.
Why Different People Interpret And Experience Art Differently
There are three main factors in a person’s experience of a piece of art.
The first is how emotionally open and ready they are at the given moment and time. If a person has had a bad day at work or is stressed about something else, they just won’t be as open to art at that moment. But that same person may appreciate the same piece of art on a different day when they are emotionally ready. Also, if I am in the mood for rock music, but I am given classical music, I am just not ready for that classical music. So the factor of openness has to be just right, especially if coming in contact with something new.
Of course, this can similarly go the other way. If someone is experiencing an emotion like loneliness, they are really in touch with that emotion at the moment. It’s not distant or theoretical. It’s immediate and they are engaged with it. So if they hear a song about loneliness, they might be much more ready than the average person to listen to a relatable song that they can relate to at that very moment.
The second factor in how a person experiences art is how prepared they are for that genre. For example, if I’ve never listened to Japanese opera before and I am shown Japanese opera, I simply won’t understand what’s going on. This is a matter of growing up in certain cultures and being prepared for certain mediums of art and not others.
There is also a third factor and that is the quality of the work of art. There is a big difference in music produced by an amateur and a professional. Any work of art has to be beyond well-made. The quality requirement is exceptionally high. It must be exceedingly well-made or better.
There are many additional factors that are relative to the individual. But less to the art itself. Now let’s examine some emotional music and go over what makes some music emotional and some less so.
The Road Song – An English Translation Of An Emotional Russian Song
I was touched by this song since the first time I listened to it. On the face of it, it’s simple, short, not flashy, but at the same time, extremely emotional. I recently translated this song to English. Here is the video of this song in English so you can get a sense for it:
One thing that makes this song so emotional and so powerful is the poignant image that just about everyone can related to in an interesting metaphor. It comes in this lyric:
Maybe if the ring of your arms was more secure, the road would have been easier for me.
We’ve all been in that situation when we needed a little more from the other person and didn’t get it. Oh how sad the next road feels. It’s something we felt and can relate to. This is describing our experience.
Of course, this song also has a nice melody that is pleasant to listen to. But this melody wouldn’t make it a classic on its own. It’s only a classic people love because they can relate.
Another Emotional Song – Moon River – A Classic American Song
This is one of my all-time favorite songs. But It’s hard to tell exactly why this song is this emotional. The lyrics are nice, but not earth-shattering. The melody is very pretty, but it’s not pretty enough to make for an all-time-great song. My only conclusion is that it’s the performance with which it is done. The tone of the singer conveys just the perfect gentle and hopeful lullaby that gives hope for everything there is in the world. So it seems to me.
Write Emotional Music And Lyrics
I’ve published a few tutorials in which I go over how to write metaphors that inspire emotion and conjure up images. Here is the tutorial on how to write metaphors.
And here is my full and free course on how to write poetry: