Continuing on from my last song-analysis post, this month I thought I’d take a look at Emeli Sandé’s Read All About It Part III and the meaning of the song. I’m not normally one for Pop, but sometimes certain songs just speak to me. This is one of those songs. All songs are incredibly subjective – different people take different meanings from them, but this one in particular, I feel, is very open to interpretation. This was, according to Sandé, part of the purpose of the song. It was an extension of Professor Green’s Read All About It, and the meaning Sandé herself drew from that particular song.
Given the lyrics in the song, ‘Maybe we’re a little different but there’s no need to be ashamed’, and the fact that Sandé, while Scottish, has a mixed-race heritage, may give some indication as to what the song means for her personally. For me, however, as a person with mental health issues, I found it speaking to me for entirely different reasons. With lyrics like ‘you’ve got the words to change a nation’ and ‘you’ve got the light to fight the shadows’, it’s very difficult for me not to associate this song with the constant need to either hide, or explain myself. Much as Sandé struggled with her bi-racial heritage, so to have I struggled with my bipolar, my bulimia. It’s not easy to deal with either even as an adult, when I know exactly what they both are, accept the fact I have them, have treatment, and take medications. Coping with these condition throughout my teens was not easy. I had no idea what was wrong with me. I felt ashamed of everything about myself. I hid for fear of what people would think of my true self. I’ve learned to speak about it openly since I was fully diagnosed, partly for my own sake, and partly for the sake of others. People who are like me, and people who have never experienced what mental health patients have and consequently have a limited understanding or bigoted opinion of it.
Read All About It Part III is so-called because it’s a follow-on from Professor Green’s Read All About It. For him this was an exploration of his father’s suicide and the affect this had on him. Given this, it’s perhaps not surprising that Sandé’s version has echos of the themes running through the original – that sense of abandonment, loneliness, and the lack of comprehension that comes with an act like suicide.
Having tried to commit suicide several times myself, this is not an easy subject matter. This is one of those songs that made me cry the first time I heard it, because it immediately elicited such raw emotion in me. This happened without me having any idea that it was a follow-on song for another song that dealt with suicide. I only discovered that today as I was researching this post. I had already connected it with my own feelings and experiences with mental health, and with the mental health community.
Despite the fact it made me cry, it is a song I love. ‘You’ve got a heart as loud as lions so why let your voice be tamed’ is one of my favourite lyrics, I think, of all time. It’s so true – those of us who find ourselves in minority groups, for whatever reason, be it race, wealth, health, sex, gender, orientation, whatever, need to let that inner lion out.
These are the voices that need to be heard the most, because they belong to the people who are understood the least.