The great thing about art is that as the audience you have the power to do what you want with the experience of the art.
What the artist intended, and what feelings the artist conveyed in the art, do matter. It’s hard to turn a funeral dirge into a party song.
But as an audience you can take what was given and make it your own. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Many artists are aware of this so they hesitate to explain their songs, because they want to allow the audience the maximum freedom to do what they want. Creating an “official” meaning limits the potential of the art.
Carpark North’s “Burn It” is such a song for me. On the surface it looks like another fluffy breakup song. I was initially surprised that I got into it.
But there’s enough venom and intensity here, that it tapped into something I feel inside. I actually have never been in toxic relationships that resulted in this sort of vengeful thoughts. But I related to this song in reference to something different.
From video games to junk food to staying up too late, I have had a number of things whose allure have been too strong for me to control. I’m so glad I was never exposed to real addictive substances, I would’ve been so easily hooked on them. I have as addictive personality as anyone.
So when they sing
Everything I did
I did for you
I have put away my pride for you
Taking all the hardest roads I knew
Cause’ I got you on my mind
You were never there
To touch my love
It was never ever clear
What you thought about
But I can never live without you love
‘Cause I got you on my mind
I’m gonna break this
I’m gonna burn it to the ground
I project not an unfaithful lover but all the things I have been addicted to. All the stuff that promised fun but left me feeling rotten. Stuff that I somehow couldn’t live without. I empowered this stuff to make the defeated feeling my normal and familiar state.
Projection is a dangerous thing when used in real life. You can interpret events with meanings that don’t serve you. But art creates a safe place. To bring out whatever you need to feel and feel it fully. As a songwriter myself, I’m more than happy if anybody makes anything out of my songs, there is no one “correct” way to interpret a song.
I’m just glad a song creates a safe place for all emotions. There are some that really don’t have anywhere else to go. “Burn It” is a song that lets me channel my disillusionment and rage about my demons. That’s an interpretation all my own, that nobody else can take away. And I love the song for that reason.