The long awaited sophomore album from Bastille confronts a variety of themes. Similar to previous works, Dan Smith draws on his storytelling skills in order to create and depict his wild world. The album Wild World serves a Bastille’s expression of emotional turmoil. Some of these anxieties arise from world events, like natural disasters, or even people in politics who abuse power (in this case, especially, those with orange skin and small hands). In an interview with Atwood Magazine, Dan Smith explains, “The whole new album sort of goes between contemplating how difficult the world can be and how crazy things can seem, but also looking at the good that’s in the world. I think that juxtaposition is illustrative of even in your darkest moments, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak.” In order to analyze the subject, the use of rhetorical criticism methods for a more in-depth evaluation.
Wild World Communications is a fantasy “omnipresent, sinister corporation” that was created during the marketing process for the album. This “Bastille Company” is similar to what you would find in a dystopian novel. This faucet is meant to make Wild World different from other works. The face of Wild World Communications is a politician-like figure who makes appearances in music videos as well as during live shows. The band describes the “WWCOMMS thing” as a “nice vehicle to be able to nod towards the slightly bizarre and confusing times that we live in.”
This innovative way of advertising is meant to be unsettling. Dan explains, “We just wanted to make it feel like a complete show and make you feel slightly uncomfortable. It’s meant to be entertaining and amusing at the same time… it was about trying to do something that defied expectations and was interesting and slightly challenging and making you think about things” (Daly, 2016).
THE CURRENTS //
According to Edwin Black, the second persona refers to the implied audience. In the text that is being discussed you don’t have know the actual audience because the text will tell you. Essentially, the second persona exists to ask the question: who is there to judge the work? In order to pinpoint exactly how the second persona is working with a certain subject is it imperative to know: who the audience is, are they aware that they are being directed, and what it is doing to the audience (Black, 1970).
In this instance, the song “The Currents” is an excellent example when discussing the second persona. The song focuses on the impact of “bigoted opinions” held by people who are in a position of power. It is meant to reach out to those who are exposed to hurtful remarks made by those around them. In an interview with a magazine, Bastille discusses the song being about overhearing people express opinions that are unfathomable and difficult to comprehend. The band continues to say that the song is not there to offer a solution, but exists as a reminder to find comfort and separation from the situation.
I’m swimming to the surface
I’m coming up for air
Cause you’re making me feel nervous
I need to clear my head
I can’t believe my ears
I don’t wanna believe my ears
I’m swimming to the surface
I’m coming up for air
I would like to believe that the song not only adds to the discussion, but also encourages it. In the intermezzo, a line from the 1948 cartoon short “Make Mine Freedom” mentions someone trying to take away our freedom and individuality.
“When anybody preaches disunity, tries to pit one of us against the other … you know that person seeks to rob us of our freedom and destroy our very lives.”
This serves as a push to listen to what other people are saying – this could be positive ideas or negative remarks. Today there is an enormous amount of people who feel they are being discriminated against because of their skin color, sexual orientation, religious practice, and nationality. This came about because someone in power can’t comprehend the power of words. When hate is spewed it leaves the waters dangerous.
How can you think you’re serious?
Do you even know what year it is?
I can’t believe the scary points you make
Still living in the currents you create
Still sinking in the pool of your mistakes
“The Currents” gives the audience a pen and paper to allow them to create their own currents, and serves a reminder that we are all swimming in the same ocean. Bastille fights back against the currents that the mentioned aggressors create. With an implication of the audience in the text, the reader may have a better understanding of the subject’s overall message. The use of second persona allows the implied audience to feel as though they are not alone. After listening to this song in particular for the first time, I felt as though the lyrics were my own thoughts; sharing similar feelings with artists can make you feel less alone.
FINAL HOUR //
Close Textual analysis describes the subject in depth – it asks how the subject in question functions, as well as what makes it work. The bonus track “Final Hour” continues the message that the album discusses, more specifically the song in particular allows the audience to question themselves and make similarities to Dan. The ability to analyze the overall message and theme than Bastille lays behind the lyrics will allow for a better understanding of how the song encompasses the album’s overarching theme.
He’s throwing his hands up to the sky
How many more ways are there to say this?
He’s wondering how many more times will we all bear witness
And cant you feel the temperature rising?
‘Cause we’ve never felt a heat like this before
This set of lyric mention the rising temperatures of our planet. As is a common theme in Wild World, Dan shares his shock of what is happening throughout the world. He sings this question to those who do not believe in global warming, asking them if they feel the increase in temperature. Sure temperature can be taken literally, but it also represents pressure. We can see that it is a fact that global warming; science can tell us that. Can’t you see it? Can you feel the pressure? We’ve never felt a heat like this: we’ve never dealt with an administration that completely dismisses critical topics.
Would it keep you awake if the waters rise and took your house away?
Would it keep you awake if the gun you love was turned at you one day?
It’s always you standing in our way
It’s always you that is leading us astray
The mention of different tragedies adds to the weight of Bastille’s concern. It is common that people only care about certain events if they are the ones affected by it; in this case: natural disasters and gun violence.
Then he opens up his question to the floor
Would it keep you awake?
If it all just didn’t seem so far away?
‘Cause it keeps me awake
Trying to work this out until my dying day
Often, events and tragedies featured on the news are essentially, only a screen. It is so separate from the “real world,” and as such, seems far away. This reasoning is common amongst people when they are unaware or apathetic about world events.
The lyrics in this specific track are relatable in a way that captures the emotion of the reader. It is easy to relate to the pressure of wanting to be aware and involved in the events that concern our world. For me, knowing gives me anxiety because I am constantly thinking about the state our country is and what that could potentially mean for the future. Personally, I don’t think I would be able to live with myself if I didn’t care. I care about a lot of things. I cannot understand the concept of not watching the news because it freaks you out because, for me, simply not knowing would freak me out even more. This is how I can only imagine Dan feels. Dan reveals in his lyrics that the posing questions do keep him up at night; he often attempts to figure out a solution to the wild world around him. Close textual analysis, in the case, allows the listener to become more aware of the emotional chaos that can consume one’s mind. Bastille expresses their concerns but also shares the lesson of not giving up when things are in disarray.
It’s such a big wheel to try and turn
But in his final hour it’s worth it…
Come on, come on
Don’t stop running with me
Come on, come on
Don’t stop running
Close Textual analysis serves as a way of analyzing a text without restrictions. The ability to see and understand how something works allows the listener to see where the creator is coming from. In essence, the use of this particular method is useful because it illuminates the message of the song. In a similar way, ideographs serve as a was to dissect a subject in order to get to its core.
WAY BEYOND //
Ideograph is a concept that emerges from the work of Michael Calvin McGee. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, ideograph is a combination of “ideo- + -graph” and is defined as a “character or figure in a writing system that represents something conceptually without depending on a particular name for it, as in Chinese characters and most Egyptian hieroglyphics or in numerals.”
Ideographs live in language and are found in both discourse and the everyday talk of a community. Therefore, in order for ideographs to function, there has to public rhetoric that is agreed upon and shared by the community (McGee, 1980, p. 7).
Throughout the album, the theme of the human condition and the impact of the media have remained constant; in “Way Beyond” these themes swirl to create an angry cry for help. Wild World as a whole, has been described by Dan as a mixed tape discussing current issues with our world. “Way Beyond” in particular projects the idea that we all have become desensitized to what is happening around us; we lack .
When panic rises like the oceans
We just keep on flicking through the stations
‘Cause if we don’t post it does it happen?
Oh I wanna be free of this
Dan mentions wanting to “be free” of the status quo. And really, who can blame him? The constant need to post everything that we do on social media has consumed our brains. We hear or see one headline, but then it is sort of like, “Yeah, okay but what’s next? What is the next story?” When we watch the news or read up on current events it is easy to become numb and have the ability to shrug off headlines because we are used to them. This line in particular opened my eyes to the callousness of society.
“Television viewers have the choice of watching the tragedy play out from the seating and comfort of their living rooms. But victims have to respond to the pressure of the media while still in shock.”
The concept of is apparent in the lyrics of this song in particular. We, the viewers, expect a play by play of everything that is happening in the world. Microphones are shoved in the faces of people who have just lost their homes or whose family members have just died. There is no sensitivity towards victims; similar to how Dan would describe it: it’s fucked up. Nevertheless it is what the world, our world, has become.
Movies and news on television
Sometimes it’s hard to tell the differences oh
When real life’s more fucked up than fiction
Do you wanna be free of this?
There is also a desire for change in these lyrics. Throughout the song Dan mentions that we must change our way of thinking in order to create progress. He admits that he too has been a part of the problem. The message that Bastille sends to their audience with the track “Way Beyond” is there is still opportunity for change in all of the chaos around us – but it is up to us to take advantage of those opportunities.
It only matters if we care now,
If you’re way beyond that
Then I’m gonna dust you off of my shoulders
And I remember when we cared now,
If you’re way beyond that
Then I’m gonna dust you off of my shoulders, my shoulders
– – – – –
I don’t wanna play dumb, anymore
I just wanna feel something, like before
I don’t wanna feel numb, anymore
I just wanna something, like before
Dan’s feelings surrounding are ingrained in the lyrics of this track. The listeners will now understand Bastille’s point of view when it comes to the media and society’s lack of towards others. “Way Beyond,” which also happens to be my personal favorite track on the album, calls upon us to shift our way of thinking, to care.
“What the fuck are y’all doing is the question? This is the question.”
Metaphorical analysis creates an image in the audience’s mind. We typically understand a metaphor as one thing that represents another. In the text, Osborn mentions about the five functions, the process of how rhetoric, including metaphor, has influence on the audience. Within the five functions, the rhetoric would manipulate people’s mind, unify, stimulate them to participate in the activity, and make its specific parts universally well known. These functions would be related with each other and make a circle throughout the history. There are two pieces to a metaphor; the first is is called tenor, which essentially is the concept and how we (the audience) understand it. The other piece is the vehicle, this takes something that is difficult to understand and makes it concrete (Osborn, 2009, p. 79).
For instance, in the song “Snakes,” Bastille utilizes the animal to symbolize anxieties. In this track, snakes serve as metaphors that represent the concerns that torment Dan. Due to the fact that snakes are typically something to be feared (similar to anxieties) we can assume that the “snakes” act also as a simile. A simile compares two items that are already similar, which makes it easier to connect with the text. I mean, no one wants to be chased by snakes!
Snakes are biting in my heels
The worries that refuse to let us go
I’ve been kicking them away
And hoping not to let them take control
Dan Smith explains the “worries” that are consistently chasing him and not wanting them to take over his life. The song begins with him repetitively saying, “Ooh, I’m not ready.” He is not ready for his mind to be tainted with negative thoughts. The first time I listened to this, I made an instant connection to having a panic attack. Having experienced panic attacks in the past, I know that I felt a wave of anxiety that washes all over you until you are flooded with it. The time it takes consuming you, you are filled with dread and you truly are not ready.
In the intermezzo, a man’s voice says, “Come on, boys. Let’s go tear this place apart!” I understood this to be the “snakes” speaking, ready to take control of Dan’s mind. They are just about to infiltrate his mind with anxiety.
Yes, it’s easier to bury
My head in the sand sometimes
And I know, I know, I know
It’s not the right way to go
But I pray for the ground to swallow me whole
It is a struggle to deal with problems head-on and much easier to avoid and refuse to deal with them altogether. Dan is absorbed in his insecurity that he will not be ready to face his problems as they arise. Note how he explains that the “days feel dark” and he fears turning on the television due to things that add to his worries.
Ooh, I’m not ready
Drink to escape their bites
Show me distraction
Even for just one night
The use of metaphors permits Bastille space to discuss trying to avoid these fears and anxieties that chase and bother them daily. Dan tries other attempts to take his mind off of what is bothering him the most. He turns to various “distractions” like alcohol, partying, or even burying himself in people. He continues by admitting that these tactics for evading his problems won’t fix them but he still hopes to disappear. Bastille understands that these snakes will always chase them for as long as they are alive. They discuss understanding that things would be easier if they didn’t care at all.
However, is that really a life worth living?
Neoclassical analysis is a method that uses ancient works to make sense of literature and other work. The focus will be on the Aristotle proofs in this particular portion. Aristotle named three types of appeals – or what he called the “three proofs” – that speaker should use as means of persuasion. In classical Greek, the three proofs are known as ethos, logos, and pathos. Ethos is how the subject appeals to character. Does the subject display a good sense, will, or moral character? Pathos appeals to emotions, while logos appeals to logic and rationality.
The song “Warmth” is about the human condition and just how “overwhelming it can seem to be watching or reading the news. It all seems so confusing.” Dan, in the beginning of the song, believes that logic is the correct way to go about things. The song begins with sound bites from news reports:
“When the event happens, there is little time to think of those things that people would like to have remain private”
“Getting caught up in the circus-like atmosphere, feeling less responsible to conventional ethical practices”
Because there is little time to prepare for whatever may happen in the world, it is important to stay rational despite the emotions that may creep up. Being emotional can lead to impulsive decisions. When things get crazy we tend to run. And even though looking from the outside in, that is an emotional response, if you are in that situation it seems like the only logical option. This is where logos fits.
Hold me in this wild, wild world.
Burying himself in someone or something else erases the fear, regardless of this he knows that does the world no good to run away. It does no good to try to escape. This is when his mind shifts to pathos. As much as he would like to shut off him emotions, Dan is an emotionally driven person.
Never good just the bad and the ugly
Laid in front of you
Nothing quite like seeing the world through the TV’s window
Feeling helpless I look for distraction
I go searching for you, wandering through our city to find some solace at your door
The news is scaring him, and how could we possibly blame him? The world that Dan once knew versus the one “through the TV’s window” are two very different things. Facts are not what we once knew (hello alternative facts) and it is laid there right in front of him. Searching for a distraction is the only way that his mind can cope; he needs comfort: warmth.
Cause in your warmth I forget how cold it can be
And in your heat I feel how cold it can get
Hold me in this wild, wild, world
Cause in your warmth I forget how cold it can be
And in your heat I feel how cold it can get
Now draw me close
The fact that Dan can find only so much support in the warmth of his loved one is what draws him back to reality. When Dan ventures out into the world alone, he feels the frigidness of the world. On the other hand, feeling the cold while in someone’s heart may refer the way that having people who are precious to you can make you afraid. This is because you know how easily anything can slip away, and the thought of losing them is terrifying. Both of these things make you want to hold on for dear life to what you hold dear.
So come on let’s forget the emotion
Tie the blinkers on, hold both hands right over my eyes
Deafen me with music
‘Till we’re lost in the heat of the moment
And I moving in you help me keep these hours alive
Help me chase those seconds
Overall, it is Dan’s morality that makes him display ethos. Forgetting the emotion, he believes, will provide him with a good sense. Wanting to chase the seconds of feeling alive is human nature. These lyrics discuss his inner debate of wanting to do something about world events but feeling powerless.
I just keep talking about it
But I’ll do nothing about it
This portion discusses the culture of “slacktivism,” where people will talk about how bad things are, they’ll post about it on social media, argue about it, say how awful it is, but then they won’t do anything in an attempt to change the way things are, to stop it happening again. Perhaps because they feel like they won’t be able to make a difference because they are only one person. The beliefs are there but the drive isn’t. This takes us right back to the beginning of the song:
“Getting caught up in the circus-like atmosphere, feeling less responsible to conventional ethical practices.”
Dan Smith, describes the song being about figuring out ways to react against that, and sometimes that is just running to the person that you love because they’re the perfect distraction in that situation. Because ethos, pathos, and logos have to do with human conditions, they help with trying to have an honest reaction to things.
THE ANCHOR //
The metaphorical use of an anchor can serve as a way to help the listener grasp on to the concept that we all need something to hold us down at times for the currents have the ability to be chaotic. The anchor represents that one thing that brings us back to sanity. When nothing is going right or things become too overwhelming or our self-doubt clouds our brain – the anchor keeps us from drifting.
Let those fools be loud
Let alarms ring out
‘Cause you cut through all the noise
Let the days be dark
Let me hate my work
‘Cause you cut through all the noise
Bring me some hope
By wandering into my mind
Something to hold onto
Morning, noon, day, or night
The Anchor is the closing track to Wild World even if, ironically, its message is open to the listener, with Dan’s voice asking for help, for an anchor to hold on to. The song speaks to someone who is the ultimate point of reference when we’re lost, someone who can bring us hope when everything seems to be senseless. It’s a way to close the album with some positivity, as a sort of reminder to us all saying that, even though this world quite too often seems to be wild, we still have hope by our side, which is the best cure to whatever happens on Earth – right or wrong.
You are the light that is blinding me
You’re the anchor that I tied to my brain
‘Cause when it feels like I’m lost at sea
You’re the song I sing again and again
All the time, all the time
I think of you all the time
It is evident that Wild World addresses internal and external surroundings through a mixture of bombast and balladry. And while it may be a wild world, it is necessary for us to allow for self-preservation and have the ability to hold on to something that can keep us grounded. The various methods used throughout properly illustrated the juxtaposition between the dark moments and the light at the end of the tunnel. ∆
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Tour Photos: Gregory Nolan