“Stop this Train” Song Analysis
“All I want to do is play [music] (Newman 1).” These are the words of award winning musician John Mayer. He is the “Master of Melody” and he has explored musical venues outside the world of pop music. His melodies are unique and his lyrics are personal and meaningful. Bearing this in mind, his musical lyrics make intriguing artifacts to analyze rhetorically. My work will be exploring and textually analyzing the “Stop this Train” lyrics to discover stylistic devices, and inferences to how the keywords together with the patterns add to the message interpretation in the song (Beal & Joshua, 2017).
“Stop this Train” is one song on John Mayer’s last album Continuum. The simple music lyrics comprise of nine stanzas, and the instrumental supplement is just as plain as the lyrics. He incorporated guitar as he does with many if not all of his music. One can distinguish by listening to any of Mayer’s music that his genre is rather exceptional. His voice is submissive and smooth, as are the instruments that go with his voice. “Stop This Train” is packed with stylistic devices which will be analyzed in depth in the work. A clear message is entrenched inside the lyrics of “Stop This Train,” with stylistic devices that are utilized add to the message’s outcome and how the audience interpret it.
“Stop this Train’s” lyrics have teamed with stylistic devices and patterns which contribute to the overall effect of the song. Among the most important devices intertwined in Mayer’s lyrics is the metaphor (which is also evident in the song title). Metaphor is a form of imagery that equates a thing with another one resulting from thought. Metaphors are intended to highlight ideas, and generative. They help one to see things in a new or different perspective. More often, a literal language constrains audience members to bland interpretations, but a metaphor aims at attracting the attention of the audience and persuading them to perceive things in a new light.
In the song, when Mayer sings the line “stop this train,” he equates a train with life. This metaphor compares the rapid speed of a train with life and how quickly it seems to pass by. The train metaphor seems to serve various purposes. Through it, I think that Mayer intends to compare the journey of a train to the journey of life. Mayer says in the lyrics, “I wanna get off and go home again. I can’t take the speed it’s moving in.” The journey of life moves too quickly, like the speed of a train. I further contend that he is implying that the speed of a train is rapid and not the opposite; because he says in the lyrics that he “doesn’t want to see his parents go.” He is implying that life is too fast-paced. Essentially, the metaphor in the song has served in highlighting the general message, and I think that it enables audience members to perceive the message in a new light. We often hear others say that time passes by too quickly, but the metaphor found in this song casts a new perspective on the idea.
On my view, metaphor serves as an improvement to the song, making it further pleasant to listen to. Musicians write what they think will sell, and a song that uses literal language is unlikely to sell in comparison to one that makes use of stylistic devices. If Mayer had not used metaphor but instead written something cliché such as “stop life from moving so fast, I can’t take the speed its moving at,” the song would have been altered completely and would have lost the attention of the audience. Imagery has the potential to propel rhetoric like nothing else. It allows audience members to visualize ideas rather than merely listen to what is being said. Further, I think metaphor as imagery in this song compels listeners to make subtle and subconscious connections. Everyone experiences life; therefore, everyone should be able to relate to the metaphor in his or her own way. The metaphor is also original, and I think that Mayer did this to stimulate thought and to tap into the emotions of audience members. He paints a mental picture in the minds of listeners so that they can develop a connection with the song. If individuals can connect on a more personal level with the lyrics, they are likely to become fans of his music. The ultimate goal of most songwriters is to develop a fan base.
Repetition is another important stylistic device that is evident. First, the chorus of the song, which seems to reveal Mayer’s personal feelings about life, is repeated three times. In this situation, repetition functions to create an appealing song those audience members can perhaps sing along with, but it also reinforces Mayer’s view of life and the message that he is trying to send through his lyrics. At the end of the song, however, the last two lines are changed as he draws (and accepts) a conclusion, which is that he can never stop life from passing by at this speed. By breaking this pattern of repetition at the very end of the song, he draws more attention to these lines, which also happen to contain the conclusion. The conclusion of the song is that one must accept the fact that one cannot stop life from moving at this speed.
Rhyming is yet another device that Mayer relies upon. While he does not integrate rhyme into the chorus, he does use rhyme in various stanzas of the song. In the first stanza, he rhymes the last word of every other line. He also rhymes in the fifth and sixth stanzas. The sixth stanza seems to function as a transition point in the song. He rhymes the last words of the first two lines and the last words of the last two lines of this stanza. In this section of the song, he says he “had a talk with my old man,” whom spectators can guess is his father giving him advice. It is in these lines that he gains a perspective on life, and it seems that he finally comes to a sudden understanding. I think that rhyme functions to elicit more attention to this section of the lyrics. Clearly, John Mayer wants listeners to recognize this transition in the song and his new take on life. He accepts the advice of his father, which is that he has no control over the speed of the “train,” which is a metaphor for life. In sum, rhyme has the potential to attract attention to particular verses. I think rhyming also makes it easier for listeners to recall certain lyrics.
While several reviews exist, my analysis is piece of the bigger audience. Everyone experiences life; therefore, many individuals are likely to feel this way about the song. It is likely that all individuals have felt that life goes by too quickly at times. In addition, the metaphor “stop this train” is unambiguous. It is quite clear what Mayer is referring to.
Observing, interpreting, and critiquing the song lyrics to “Stop this Train” enable individuals to gain a better understanding of rhetorical criticism. Studying it using close textual analysis would help critics understand other rhetorical artifacts as well. This song is an example of rhetorical analysis at work. Rhetorical critics would be particular interested in songs by John Mayer because he is such a popular artist and has received many awards for his music. Studying the lyrics could help critics draw conclusions as to what makes his songs so unique. Perhaps studying his lyrics through close textual analysis could also help one to understand what makes a song effective (Fell, Michael & Caroline, 2014).
Beal, Joshua. Stop this Train: A Metaphorical Analysis of John Mayer’s Album Continuum. Diss. 2017.
Fell, Michael, and Caroline Sporleder. “Lyrics-based Analysis and Classification of Music.” COLING. Vol. 2014. 2014.