In this series of ‘Behind the lyrics’ I take a closer look at what makes certain songs have the ability to take us deeper. I look at a wide range of country artists, from Billboard toppers to the undiscovered and unsigned. I like to uncover the story between the lines and highlight where the lyrics are special, unique or generally make me say “I wish I’d written that!”.
If I’m honest I’d been struggling to find some guys that were singing some more meaningful lyrics other than about girls, trucks and beer. So thank goodness for Hardy. Taken from his latest album “the mockingbird & THE CROW” this song really delivers. There is plenty of the ‘usual’ country song content throughout the album, and wow the music gets heavy towards the end - really smacking a punch. Listen to this album if you want to wake up!
I’m a sucker for a one word song title; I’m likely to listen to those songs first given a choice. When well written, the whole song pivots around the title in a way you can’t help being impressed.
The word ‘Screen’ is used as a connecting word between the Chorus and Verse and as the song starts it literally starts with the word ‘Screen’. I don’t know if that’s like an intro to the song or he felt it had to be there to connect everything?!
The first verse is strong with alliteration and internal rhymes and gives us strikingly opposite imagery of a ‘rifle’ and ‘bible’. Verse 1 introduces us to the first screen - the TV. Verse 2 gives us a more positive image, experienced in real life - a shooting star. A lot of us might have never seen one unless we took the effort to stare into the sky for long enough to see them, and here’s screen 2 - a cell phone screen, cos we got bored and drawn back into rectangle world!
We then have a Pre-Chorus whose function here is to create a short break so that the Chorus can hit harder. What a blazing chorus that is too, championing the freedom and liberation of running away from the tech and being truly alive. It centres on the healing power of nature and being in the real world and not experiencing it through someone else's viewpoint. It’s a celebration of a social media break to recharge the human inside.
If you are wondering about the Red bird reference, that’s most likely a Cardinal bird, typically found in central America but also found worldwide.
The chorus rounds off and connects itself into verse 3 with the word ‘screen’ again, but this screen is a physical back porch kind of deal, so the lyrics have smartly turned what was a negative word into a positive image.
This song structure of two verses before the chorus seems quite popular these days and is a great way to move the story along fast. That first chorus still hits before the first minute mark which is typically the ‘formula’ used in hits in the pop world.
Verse 3 describes missed opportunities using the image of a dusty baseball that never gets chosen and played with because even our outdoor real life games are being played on phones instead.
It’s a real dig at a generation living their lives by proxy, in simulations of the real world, and that theme is extended in the bridge. Maybe this is something he has seen at his own shows. Hands in the air, the crowd watching the show through their phone as they video it to post back up onto the internet later. He’s telling us to put them away, enjoy the show, and trust your memory to hold on to those real precious moments longer than your battery life!
The smart thing about this whole lyric is that it’s a real commentary on modern day life and living our lives through social media and experiencing the world through a hand held rectangle. I daresay you might be reading this blog through one right now! This lyric is grounded solidly in a memory of growing up without that distraction, without being able to know every terrible thing happening in every part of the world instantly. Perhaps this is just one reason our anxiety levels are at an all time high?
Hardy himself says he likes to:
“look through the cracks of what hasn’t been said so much”.
He certainly does in this song. It’s well worth listening to his live version from a radio show:
Also listen to his song “Red (feat. Morgan Wallen)” which takes a similar approach to a single word and creates a list song capturing a whole bunch of meanings around that word. It’s added to the accompanying playlist in case you want to easily find it:
So if you are a songwriter like myself, I encourage you to seek out the less written about topics, be the oddball talking about something different. I’m sure you will find others can connect to that too, and it might just help you stand out from all those songs about girls, trucks and beer!
Until next time.
Written by: Hugh Webber
Hugh has over 20 years experience as a songwriter and creative collaborator. Personally mentored by Kinks frontman Ray Davies, and a year at the London Songwriting Academy. Find out more here
Written by Hunter Phelps / Jessie Jo Dillon / Matt Dragstrem / Michael Hardy
Someone somewhere bought a brand new rifle
Pointed at a man, holding a bible
So sad, you won't believe it
But I swear to God, I've seen it
Right there on a TV screen
Shooting star, all burning up the night sky
Something someone sees once in a lifetime
You gotta look on up 'fore it's gone
But damn, if we ain't fixed on
A good-for-nothing cellphone screen
See the world, take it in, catch a sunrise
With your own eyes
I wanna drive, wanna run 'til the wires run out
I need to heal, need to feel like I'm alive right now
Pull the plug, just shatter the glass
Make it stop, these days under a rock doesn't sound half bad
Put me alone, singing 'long to a red bird song
I wanna live like they did in the great unknown
Yeah, if you need me I'll be watching the storm
Somewhere from a chair just staring through a back porch
A baseball getting dusty at a Walmart
Could send a kid all the way to Wrigley ballpark
Might be a hall of fame one
The whole world knows his name one
But he'd rather hit a homerun on a screen
Take a good look out the window
Keep it in your pocket at the rock show
Just give it a try
Every battery does but your memory will never die
Short Guitar break
Yeah, through a back porch screen
See the world, take it in, catch a sunrise
With your own eyes