A Critical Analysis of “Surf Music”

Education commentator John Taylor Gatto contends that “Close reading of tough-minded writing is still the best, cheapest, and quickest method known for learning to think for yourself.” It is with such a premise in mind that I want you to complete this final Blogpost of the semester, which should (I hope) be both fun and thought-provoking. You are completing this assignment during our pop culture unit, and in some ways we have been gearing you up for this assignment all semester via our classic “Thursday Tunes.” For this Blogpost you will select a specific piece of “surf music” to examine and analyze — in other words, a surf-related song (and one that you will likely choose from our class material on 4/15). To mix it up a little bit and variously practice/apply your critical thinking skills, you will conduct a three-part analysis of your chosen song, as outlined below.

Part One – Summary: Listen to your chosen song several times, and take a look at the lyrics online (assuming there are lyrics). Then, summarize it by briefly telling its surf-related story. What, in general, is the song about? The answer to that question should not be an interpretation, but a short, basic explanation of the contents of the song. To help write this summary, you could possibly consider working with/using the 5Ws and H idea made famous by journalists (who, what, where, when, why, how).

Part Two – Synthesis:  To synthesize means to combine or connect, and in this section I want you to synthesize the contents of your piece of surf music with key ideas and premises that we have covered so far this semester.  Put another way, I want you to draw specific connections between your chosen song and specific social, historical, scientific, commercial, or political topics that we have covered in class this spring.  How does your song relate to our coursework, and what do these connections highlight or reveal to us as “consumers” of surf culture?

Part Three – Interpretation: Most of us tend to think of music in terms of its entertainment value, but the fact is that music – especially music with lyrics – is emotionally riveting and deeply meaningful, much like literature. Hence, in this section, I want you to analyze and interpret the meaning of your chosen song. To do so, you must break down the song’s lyrics and focus on specific details that might have deeper significance. Therefore, you might take into consideration such things as: the “theme” of the song; the historical, cultural, and technological context of the music; the songwriter’s background and experience; the genre of the music and its importance; the implications of key images, words, metaphors, or other minute details found in the lyrics. Reflecting on these details, what does your song “mean,” and/or what does it say about surfing and its place(s) in society?