The Happiest Place on Earth, An Interpretation

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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" This contrast sparks an emotion, causing you to feel sad, angry, disappointed, or frustrated; all of which are most likely the intention of the author.

Conor Oberst is also able to connect with his audience by writing lyrics to which they can correlate. Countless young people have had personal experiences with drugs and can relate to the line, "Each public school is a halfway house." Instances like this will cause the listener to think, "hey, he's right!" And anyone who has been in the army knows that, sadly, it is true that some people are there not because they are "brave or proud" of anything, but because of the desire to kill or destroy something. Every line in the song gives the listener another chance to relate and another reason to agree with him. Anyone who has witnessed a beautiful forest become a shopping mall or a crystal clear body of water turn a mucky shade of green due to pollution will instantly feel some sort of emotion when they hear this song and will, in the end, share the same ideas that are illustrated in it. Line six says, "the truth's getting around," and the Desaparecidos are doing their best to assist.

Backed by an army of passionate young Americans, the band probably hopes to start a social revolution, one which might start off small, but can potentially stir up enough commotion to instigate a change in people and society as a whole. The Desaparecidos probably wrote the entire album, including songs like "the Happiest Place on Earth," with the hopes of shedding light on these issues which they feel are important. Maybe their intent was to inspire their listeners to get up and do something outside instead of rotting away before a television screen. Maybe they just want their listeners to somehow do what they can to make our country more like what it has so heavily been made out to be.

Whatever the case might be, it is certain that they want things to change and that they feel passionately about it. An entire album devoted to their cause is one thing, but listening to Conor Oberst's voice says it all, in terms of sincerity. He is not merely singing; he is begging and pleading. He is screaming and yelling; hoping and wishing. His powerful, yet shaky voice is bursting with passion and energy which can be felt by anyone who listens. This is another element of his use of "pathos." You can tell by listening that this song is not just a collection of rock lyrics. This is not a compilation of words cleverly put together to form a song to add to an album in order to make a few dollars. In Oberst's voice, you can tell that he is almost brought to tears by his own words. It is evident that he feels so strongly about his lyrics because his voice is just that emotional. Hearing him belt out such poignant words in such an emotive way causes the message to be received on more a personal level. All of this emphasis on passion and emotion is what makes the song come alive to the band's listeners and it is what drives them to support and follow the band.

Conor Oberst is a very talented, outspoken artist who uses music as an outlet for expression his beliefs and opinions, and he uses great artistic technique in his writing in order to make his messages so powerful. His passion and demeanor make it impossible not to at least rethink your predispositions if you do not already agree with him. Conor Oberst and the Desaparecidos, as a band, are anti-industry, social rebels... Now, what are you?
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