The Happiest Place on Earth, An Interpretation

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Packed tightly into thirty-six short lines is a depiction of America today as viewed by Conor Oberst, front man for the Desaparecidos. "The Happiest Place on Earth" covers their opinions on patriotism, drugs, greed, pollution, military, technology, and the establishment in general. The overall feeling of the song is rebellion towards the industry, but there is also a sense of hope and a longing for social change.

Conor Oberst, the writer of the song, started the music life when he was fourteen years old in a band called Commander Venus. Soon after that, he began a record label called Saddle Creek and is the star in the popular indie band, Bright Eyes. Commander Venus and Bright Eyes both display heart-wrenching lyrics which tell stories of lost loves and emotional turmoil; but the singer's side project, the Desaparecidos, leaves all personal anguish aside to focus on a more powerful subject which everyone can relate to: societal rebellion.

The song, "The Happiest Place on Earth," is aimed toward a young audience, probably between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five. Oberst applies one of Aristotle's Artistic Proofs to persuade his audience to feel the same way he does. He uses a method called "pathos," which plays on the listeners' emotions, in order to get their attention, connect with them, and ultimately make them agree with him.

One of the cleverest aspects of this song is the way it is laced with allusions to American icons established since childhood. America is initially compared to Disney in the title as the "The Happiest Place on Earth," and again near the end of the song Oberst combines his own words with lyrics from "America, the Beautiful," written by Irving Berlin.

"O' beautiful

For spacious skies

For amber waves of grain

For purple mountain, majesty

Above the fruited plains

America, America

God shed his grace on thee

And crowned thy good

With brotherhood

From sea to shining sea"

Oberst's interpretation is as follows: "These amber waves, purple majesty are nothing but backdrops for Disney." The contrast between the classic, cheerful melody which describes the country's beauty and elegance with Oberst's warped versions of the familiar tune makes his listeners reconsider the pre-established traditional notion of patriotism in such a way as to question whether or not America is, in fact, as beautiful as illustrated in that timeless song. Oberst also puts his own twist on the traditional American spiritual, "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.

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