As you get trained as a sociologist, you cannot help but look at the world critically. You begin to question things in your everyday life, view things from a fresh lens, and achieve a better understanding of the deep functioning of society. Many things that we do every day play a vital role in forming our understanding and perspectives. Similarly, music is a regular part of our lives. A very famous saying says that “your playlist defines you.” As sociologists, we do not agree or disagree with this phrase, but we dissect it. Any song, its lyrics, music, and much more can be studied sociologically. Today that’s what we’re going to do and learn how to sociologically review a song.
Step 1: Choose a Song to review
You can choose any song. A song you might love, a song you may hate, a popular song, a hidden gem, etc., really any song would do.
To understand better, we will make use of an example. The song we will review in this article will be “The Man” by Taylor Swift.
Step 2: Do a Background Research
Once you have chosen the song of your liking, make sure to do background research. Discover the lyrics, search about the writer, composer, singer, and producer. If it is a song with a music video, find out a little about its director and the actors recruited as well. Doing background research helps us understand the context of the song and all the processes of the song making.
Luckily for our example, “The Man” is written, directed, and acted by Taylor Swift herself. Therefore we will do a brief research on Taylor Swift.
Step 3: Determine HOW you want to write the review
There are many ways to sociologically review any material. However, two ways are the most common ways to review. You can choose a single perspective in the first style and apply it to review the song. Or in another style, you can select two or more viewpoints and then compare them to present a comparative analysis. Whichever style you choose to adopt for reviewing, make sure that you are well aware of the existing literature and debates.
Without a strong base, you cannot apply the theory in a context outside of it. In the realm of sociology, there are many ‘schools of thought’ that you can use to study any phenomenon. Some of these are the functionalist, the conflict, the feminist, the structuralist, etc. To do your best work, it is imperative that you look for the best method (applying a single perspective or a comparative analysis) and the best lens to review (which school of thought) the song.
To review “The Man” by Taylor Swift, we will apply the Feminist lens to decipher the song. By analyzing the song from a feminist perspective, we can argue how it exaggerates the male privilege and mocks it while conveying the message that the world has long been patriarchal.
Step 4: Start with your Review
Until now, you have shortlisted a song, done its background research, and chosen the lens you will allocate to review the song. Now it is time to put all this hard work into writing your review. Your sociological song review structure is very similar to the structure of any assignment you do.
- Abstract or Aim of your study
- Summary or the Background of the Song and its video (optional)
- Main body
Learn to write a Sociological Essay in the most simplistic way!
- Abstract/ Aim
The abstract or the aim should be a reflection of your assignment. An abstract should tell the readers a bit of your article’s structure and content. It is like a snippet of your larger work. Write in your abstract why you chose this particular song and how you aim to analyze it, using which lens. Keep it concise and to the point. It is best to write the abstract in the end because by then, you know exactly what your work is about. If you plan to write the abstract beforehand, do not be scared to change it after completing the review. Oftentimes the plan you choose at the beginning and the reality of your analysis can vary.
In the abstract of a song review, you can write how the feminist perspective is the best way to analyze this song. You can highlight the concepts and debates of feminist studies that you plan to apply and then how the song collaborates with them, such as accentuating various concepts like patriarchy, glass ceiling, sexuality, etc.
- Summary or the Background
It is a great possibility that the reader would not have heard the song you are reviewing. Therefore, it is always great to provide them with a link to the song and its lyrics so that they can make themselves acquainted with the song before reading further. The background research that you did will be applied here. Provide background about the singer, lyricist, composer, and director to build a context around the song. Keep in mind that you remain as objective as possible. Write in a neutral, third-person voice, where you just dwell in explaining the song’s context to your reader. Do not include your sociological perspective in this subsection.
- Main Body
The main body is where you shine. Now is the time for you to review the song by applying the chosen sociological lens. The main body is where you emphasize the various concepts and debates. You can either divide your main body into subsections or arrange paragraphs in such a way that they cover all the topics. Although to make your work look more professional, it is best to use subsections or subheadings. This way, your analysis will look cleaner, and the reader can navigate easily. No matter what sort of arrangement you choose for your song review, there is a way to write and arrange paragraphs academically.
You should divide the content into two to three sections while introducing and explaining any concept, either through paragraphs or subheadings. In the first paragraph, point out the specifics of what you wish to analyze. Shed light on the lyrics, the scene in the music video, or the concept you want to deliberate on. Use the second paragraph to form a connection between your theory and your subject of study. Apply theoretical knowledge to explain what’s happening in the song and why. Back it up with theoretical groundwork. Utilize the third paragraph to form a relationship between the theory and the song with current or recent examples. When you add contemporary examples to back up your argument, it shows finesse and intelligence. It reflects that you understand a theory in its entirety to pally it into different scenarios.
To review the song “The Man” by Taylor Swift from a feminist perspective, you can divide the main body into subheadings such as:
Dissecting The Man,
Mockery as a form of expression,
Commentary on Patriarchy,
Exaggerating Stereotypes to break them,
Relating Reel and Real, etc.
The objective of a conclusion is to tie all the loose ends and reiterate all the points that you have dwelled on until now. The conclusion summarizes everything one last time so that the reader gets exactly what you are explaining. To write a beneficial conclusion is to point out how the analysis done by you can be located in an ongoing sociological debate and then how can it add more to it or benefit it.
The conclusion for the song can amplify how “The Man” by Taylor Swift adds to the feminist discussion because by mocking the toxic masculine traits and using strong pro-women lyrics, it is a critical way to look at the larger system of society.
Plagiarism is a crime in the world of academia. All of the hard work put in by you to complete your review can become undone if you have not done your citation and referencing correctly. Therefore, make sure that everything you produce is referenced and appropriately cited, with a bibliography in the end.
There are multiple forms of styles of citations that you can apply to your work. Some of the most common styles are MLA, APA, and Chicago. If you are working on Google Docs or Word, the citation tool makes the work easier by helping you curate citations.
How to add citations in Google Doc: Tools → Citation
How to add citations in Word Document: References → Insert Citations
But for those who want to cite manually, this is the basic format to follow:
- Author’s Name with Surname mentioned first, then initials
- Article’s Title in single or double quotes
- Journal Title in Italics
- Volume, issue number
- Year of Publication
Example: Syrkin, A. 1984. “Notes on the Buddha’s Threats in the Dīgha Nikāya,” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, vol. 7(1), pp.147-58.