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Lyrics and Classic Literature

By Megan Powell, Hannah Spruce and Magali Prel

Want to dive into classic literature but don’t know where to start? Afraid that you will choose something you don’t like, and therefore feel like you are wasting your time? Don’t fret! We’re here to help you choose which classic author you should read based on your favourite artist. Many of these artists themselves are inspired by the authors mentioned and refer to them in their songs, giving you an indication of what inspires them to write music. Whether you’re team Lana Del Rey, Taylor Swift or The Beatles, there is always a classic that suits your music taste.

Lana Del Rey and Oscar Wilde

If you are into Lana Del Rey’s dreamy music that narrates her tragic but passionate love stories and her belief that she is going insane, then you are going to love Oscar Wilde’s novels. Characters in Wilde’s novels are full of eccentricism, melancholia and passion similar to Lana’s music and life.

The Picture of Dorian Gray is Wilde’s most successful novel and embraces the subject of fearing to grow old. The protagonist, Dorian Gray, is praised for his beauty and grace. However, his friend, Lord Wotton, convinces him that such beauty does not last forever, leading Dorian into committing grave acts to salvage his beauty from ever decaying. Though not a direct reference, Lana del Rey’s song Young and Beautiful can be interpreted as discussing similar themes: denial of growing old and the desire to remain forever youthful. The lyric “Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful” encapsulates the idea that both Wilde’s character and Del Rey herself have a fear of losing their beauty to age and thus, losing their ability to feel desired and attractive to others.

Furthermore, Lana does make a direct reference to Wilde’s essay The Decay of Lying in her song Gods and Monsters when she quotes Wilde’s famous “Life imitates art,” indicating that she too believes the anti-mimetic connection.

Taylor Swift’s Folklore and Little Women

Taylor Swift’s album Folklore is enriched by literary references and stories about love, loss and coming-of-age. These themes are entrenched in the enduring quality of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and Swift’s masterful lyricism will enhance the reading experience. Jo March works to financially help her family and is distressed by the passage of time and the loss of childhood. The song This is Me Trying underlines Jo’s exhaustion and struggle with adjusting to the constraints of adulthood and her changing relationships. Conversely, Amy lives in Jo’s shadow and Mirrorball highlights her desire to be noticed and valued for her talents in her family. The song illustrates Amy’s insecurities despite her outward confidence and the youthful feeling of insignificance as she desires Laurie’s attention. For the shy Beth, the peaceful song Seven highlights her associations with childhood and performing with her siblings. The song signifies the comfort of friendship and appreciating the small moments. The beautiful song Invisible String relates to Meg and her emerging relationship with teacher John. Despite their later hardships, Meg and John are a symbol of unity and strength in adversity. Overall folklore enhances the understanding of the sister’s complexities and insecurities when associating the songs with their personal journey.

Key Lyrics

Jo: This is me Trying – “they told me all of my cages were mental / so I got wasted like all my potential / And my words shoot to kill when I’m mad / I have a lot of regrets about that.”

Amy: Mirrorball – “you’ll find me on my tallest tiptoes / spinnin’ in my highest heels, love / Shinin’ just for you.”

Beth: Seven – “and I think you should come live with me / And we can be pirates / Then you won’t have to cry.”

Meg: Invisible String – “were there clues I didn’t see? / And isn’t it just so pretty to think / all along there was some / invisible string / tying you to me.”

The Beatles and Aldous Huxley

For a more timeless appreciation, none other than The Beatles emulate this sensational and phenomenal sound. From their days in the Cavern to the rooftops they remain one of the best bands of all time. For a rock and roll read, the work of Aldous Huxley makes the perfect pairing. Like the band, Huxley was prolific during the sixties and his work even inspired the namesake for The Doors. Through psychedelic drug experimentation Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds links to Huxley’s experiences with LSD in The Doors of Perception. Both detail the effects of the drug, with Huxley’s becoming autobiographical and The Beatles exploring their avant-garde sound, with ‘Day Tripper’ also linking back to this.

The connection between these two are undeniable and is also evidenced with Huxley being featured on the cover of The Beatles album Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.


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