M.I.A.’s “Story To be Told” Iterates A Need Within Us All to Tell People About Our Lives

There is no denying the literary quality of lyricism in songs. From the poetry of Bob Dylan and Patti Smith to the glamorous emotions of David Bowie and Queen (and let’s not forget about Lana Del Rey’s predilection for the written word, which you can read about in Issue 2), music is rife with the intellectual qualities of literature and poetry. Indeed, novel-worthy devices like metaphor, simile, alliteration and personification abound in songs worth their weight in impact. For instance, M.I.A.’s “Story To Be Told,” from her third album, M/\Y/\, is a strong indication of the inclination we all feel to tell our story–particularly in easily digestible song form.

With the ambient sound of a plane taking off to introduce the message of “Story to Be Told,” M.I.A. delves right into the use of personification with the chorus, “The writing on the wall’s been beaten to a pulp.” Referencing the censorship prevalent not just on the internet, but in general, M.I.A. rails against those who “cleaned up the dope and censored [her] scope” by complaining, “I licked envelopes, wrote a letter to the pope/He never gave me rope in the times I couldn’t cope.” Employing the metaphor of needing the salvation of a life line (or, depending on how macabre you are, a noose), M.I.A. laments the inability to have the freedom to tell her story without judgment and eventual erasure.

In point of fact, one of the greatest challenges in writing is feeling the sense of comfortableness with your emotions in order to genuinely recount or reinvent the narrative. When one feels the hostility of other people’s opinions, it can detract from the openness with which he conveys his bottom line.

The device of repetition is also a key poetic device in “Story To Be Told,” with M.I.A. chanting, “All I, all I ever wanted was my story to be told.” Like countless humans, the innate desire to pass our anecdotes on to others as a means of catharsis is expressed with a unique ardency in this song. M.I.A.’s concluding metaphor, “What happens now to the truth I told?/Do they all roll over and die in the cold?” Unfortunately, this is often exactly what happens when censorship and a governmentally authoritarian need to expunge come into play. That’s why it’s so important to tell one’s story in as many ways and through as many mediums as possible. One way or the other, the truth will remain.

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