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A Look At Lyrics: Rocking The World This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   When the Guns'N'Roses recently released a new album and went on tour to promote it, critics attacked the group scathingly. Not only did a T-shirt promoting the tour display a raped woman, but some of the songs in "Appetite for Destruction" contained quite explicit and destructive lyrics. Although such violent and even destructive songs currently abound, there exist some others, such as Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire," that decry deterioration in the world, condemn violence, and call out for action in solving the earth's problems.

"We Didn't Start the Fire" is actually simply a list of some of the events and debacles of the past decades. While the song does contain good occurrences, the singer heavily emphasizes the tragedies, such as AIDS and cocaine. Despite this, Billy Joel unifies his audience by declaring that they didn't cause all the problems and together they "tried to fight [them]." Using the running metaphor of fire for the evil in the world, "We Didn't Start the Fire" urges people to confront what has happened and to attempt to prevent such catastrophes from occurring again.

Genesis' "Land of Confusion" also utilizes fire as a symbol of the global problems that must be corrected. The song portrays the present world as decaying and urges people to think of the future and how it might be. The lyrics relate that although the danger seems to have passed, "... the fire's still alight." While lamenting the proliferating problems that exist, "Land of Confusion" predicts that the current generation will set the world straight. In fact, a recurring section of the lyrics seeks to inspire in others a desire "to make [the world] a place worth living in." Moreover, the song ends on a powerful verse that cries out for purpose and direction in our lives: "Stand up and let's start showing just where our lives are going to."

Another song, "The Last Domino," from the same album ("Invisible Touch") perhaps most vividly decries the turmoil and destruction that exist in many inner-city areas (ironically enough, the name "Genesis" means creation, as opposed to annihilation). The song starts by depicting the hellish life and surroundings of a ravaged neighborhood area, where bullets splatter blood on the houses and people are killed for no apparent reason. Several verses later, a section describes the sentiment of many people about contemporary newscasts: "I never did see such a terrible thing, as you seen [sic] last night on the TV." While the song does admonish those who commit such acts, its repeating refrain and one of the final lines express the helplessness and futility that characterize many who are caught in the cross-fire of the violence: "...there's nothing, nothing, nothing, there's nothing you can do."

Certainly these songs stand out as only a few among many with lyrics containing themes such as suicide and satanism. As part of a rock music industry that currently inundates teenagers with destructive and antagonistic lyrics, "Land of Confusion" and a few other songs provide some hope that the next generation will be able to improve the world.n


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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