Yet another one of my Christmas gifts of 2020. They were definitely the highlight of my year. My mum got this book for me. She bought it because she heard on her favorite radio, their literary correspondent laughing so hard he could not speak when he talked about this book. The title would literary translate to ‘zero inhibitions’, and is a title of one of the songs described in the book.
Michał Rusinek is a Polish literary scholar, translator, lecturer of the Jagiellonian University in Cracow, and a former secretary of Wisława Szymborska. He published several books and this is the first one I read. To get us started I can only regret that it most probably won’t be translated into other languages. As much as the specific matter of this book does not render itself to translation, the premise is completely applicable to pretty much any language, I expect.
So what is the premise here? To apply rigorous tools of literary analysis to the lyrics of broadly defined popular music. And, honestly, trying to figure out what the lyrical subject is trying to convey to us is great fun. Not to mention tracking down the multiple grammatical violations committed. Rusinek douses his analysis in a vat of irony and pretended surprise, making it hilariously entertaining. The cognitive dissonance between the academic rigor and matter it is applied to layering the whole book with a surreal feeling.
The book is divided into chapters devoted to disco-polo (don’t ask), sex in songs, rap music, theme songs from soap operas, heavy metal, patriotic songs, and the closing chapter on songs that can be generally classified as popular music.
In his analysis, Rusinek often worries about the mental and physical wellbeing of the lyrical subject and the object of their affection. For it remains true that most songs are about love. Sometimes the metaphors are really imaginative. And with the current level of language used in lyrics of popular songs one could never run out of material, so I’m sure Rusinek had some tough choices to make.
Are there any similar books about the popular music of your country?
Photo by Violetta Kaszubowska
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