When ‘Help!’ came out, I was actually crying out for help. Most people think it’s just a fast rock ‘n’ roll song. I didn’t realise it at the time; I just wrote the song because I was commissioned to write it for the movie. But later, I knew I really was crying out for help… The lyric is as good now as it was then. It is no different, and it makes me feel secure to know that I was that aware of myself then. It was just me singing ‘Help’ and I meant it. – John Lennon, 1980
The Power of Lyrics
The song came at the tipping point of The Beatles’ rise to fame, and heard in the lyrics was John Lennon’s cry for help as he struggled with “being a Beatle”. Lennon described the demands of fame to have had a negative impact on his physical health, relationships, and self-perception. He expressed dissatisfaction, misery, and a yearning for someone to hear him.
As displayed by John Lennon, lyrics have tremendous power to influence how we perceive, express, and understand a song. Help! presents itself with a fast upbeat rhythm and a positive cheerful melody– perhaps leading us to overlook the lyrics. But observing the lyrics, we notice an individual seeking help. We hear from someone who is unhappy, needing support, and is desperate for someone to hear their message.
Analyzing Lyrics in Therapy
Song lyrics in therapy can help us to articulate the feelings we might have but can’t quite describe. Analyzing songs that remind us of an experience, or sound as our feelings feel, can jumpstart the process of opening doors to painful experiences we’ve maybe closed.
Analyzing song lyrics can also serve as a basis for expression or discussion in therapy. We don’t need to know the history behind a song in order to connect to what the artist is singing about. Relating to the song can provide us with enough relief and healing .
Finally, song lyrics also serve as a safe distance through which we can explore our problems. Sometimes it can be too difficult to talk about what’s going on or what’s happened. So having a source of expression that’s tangible and outside of ourselves can relieve us of the pressure to articulate challenging emotions.