7 Songs With Lyrics That Make You Smarter
- Next1 of 8Glo
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Music Theory1 of 8
By Brithny Zhang
Your school days days may be long behind you (sniffle sniffle, tear tear), but we like to think of learning as a lifelong endeavor, with new ideas (and some old ones we just forgot) all around us. In fact, once we opened our ears, we realized that some of our favorite tracks are dropping serious knowledge. See if you're with it enough to get the math, history and literary references in these lyrics.
Math Is Fun!2 of 8
Now here's a word you may not have heard since fifth grade math class. To tessellate is the process of creating a plane using one repeated geometric shape, with no overlaps or gaps—like a mosaic. That said, we're not sure Alt-J is talking about making a mosaic in this folk-rock slow jam about a couple in a love triangle.
Modern History3 of 8
With an album title like "Magna Carta Holy Grail," there's bound to be a history lesson involved. (A refresher: The Magna Carta eventually provided a model for government in the American colonies.) So Jay-Z is anti-what? The Santa Maria, one of the three ships Columbus brought to America. But the rapper isn't big on the explorer. Instead, he exalts another Christopher, last name Wallace (better known as the Notorious B.I.G.), who was a pioneer of a different kind.
Story Time4 of 8
Artist: Frank Ocean
Track: Pink Matter
How does Hemingway fit into this R&B ballad? Let us elucidate: The singer, André 3000, is having trouble remembering his past relationships. He wants to give us a concise timeline of events, but isn't able to right now because everything has become warped and distorted—much like in Hemingway's short story "The Killers," where a clock runs 20 minutes fast and things are not what they seem.
Art Project5 of 8
Artist: Local Natives
Track: Cubism Dream
Sure, the avant-garde Cubist art movement was about more than beautiful squares. Painters including Picasso experimented with creating images—like faces—out of geometric shapes. Faces constructed out of squares? And on a small screen? Now that sounds kind of like video chat.
Italian for Beginners6 of 8
Track: I Am a God
Your Spanish doesn't have to be great to know the translation of "mi casa, su casa" (my house is your house). But cosa nostra? It's Italian for "our thing," and is often used to refer to Italy's Mafia.
Debate Class7 of 8
Artist: Sufjan Stevens
In this folksy tune about Decatur, Ill., the singer reminds us of the state election debates of 1858 between Stephen A. Douglas and Lincoln, which took place in—you guessed it—Illinois. Douglas actually won that state election, but Lincoln went on to defeat him in the presidential race in 1860.
Band Class8 of 8
Track: Osaka Loop Line
If you didn't play an instrument in school and never took a musicology class, then chances are you missed the lesson on "circle of fifths," which (in very, very basic terms) is all 12 keys of music written in a circle. Unless you're composing music, you probably have little use for the concept. But in this gauzy electronic-pop song, it becomes a nice metaphor for riding a train in circles.