In honour of The Tragically Hip’s latest album, We Are The Same, released April 7th, here’s a brief series that demonstrates the manner in which I expect my students to approach poetry — without any research, and without any input from those who may know Gord Downie’s purposes for each song. I will analyse and speculate on each song’s possible meanings. For me, the poetry of TTH’s music is great literature; among the best.
Track #5: Now The Struggle Has A Name
- Now the struggle has a name?! — When, exactly? At the end of a performance? After 12 albums? After all these years?
- What, exactly, is the struggle? — Is it the attempt to please an audience? Finding inspiration? Fighting an addiction? (If it’s the latter, is it an addiction to a substance, to the music, or to the act of performing?)
- And, what exactly is the name that you’ve given this struggle? — Is it “Honey Watson”? (Is Honey Watson really someone’s name, or is it a direction given such as Holmes saying, “Watson! Please pass the honey!”)
We are the same it hasn’t changed
I still feel the same
I love when The Hip take an album title from an obscure line rather than a title track — Of course, this album title makes the listener wonder:
- After 12 albums and a couple of decades, we’ve managed to stay together, we’re still the same band members, or
- We’re still, essentially, the same — success hasn’t gone to our heads, or
- Though this album, as the one previous, is experimental, we’re still the same band that gave the world ‘Little Bones’, or
- Listen to the variety of sound that we’ve been able to produce on this album, from Kenny G to Alan Jackson, we can do it all, we’re the same as any sound you can find on any popular radio station
Other interesting words include: sin, truth, and reconciliation.
- sunshine on a mirror
- “I struggle on” — Either someone still wallowing in pathetic anguish, or it could be someone plodding ahead and still giving it their best effort in the manner of the little blue engine
- simile: “gone like an attraction” — What’s gone? The moment? The song? The apology? (And is the apology someone saying ‘I’m sorry’ or is it apologetics in the manner of defending a belief or a position?)
- repetition: “Honey Watson” and “If it feeds the need”
- biblical allusion (Psalm 103:16)
- the image of “the sun in a mirror” is reminiscent of Morning Moon‘s “bulb in a mirror”
- the lines of “if it dies, it dies” reminds me of Downie asking the listener of The Depression Suite, “What if this song does nothing?”
Now the apology done applause can begin
“Here’s another song for you, take it or leave it. It might take off and be successful; it might not. I’ve always struggled to write music and to please an audience, and I always will. But, I’m only human and I will die someday, as will my music. Gone. Now, take it or leave it, this is my latest effort. And there’s more to come.”
This is quite possibly my favourite song on this album (though I probably said the same of ‘The Last Recluse’ and I’m sure that I’ll say the same of ‘The Depression Suite’)! I like how the symphonic orchestra sound gives it an anthem-like quality, especially when The Hip is singing about their best subject, self-reflection, and giving us a glimpse of the struggle and the success of singing, song-writing, and performing. It is inspiring. It seems, to me, to be one of three anthems on this album (along with ‘The Last Recluse’ and ‘Country Day’), and it is certainly a song that will happily get me to my feet everytime.