Written by Gerrit Cook. 9 November 2014.
The song “The Outsiders” by Eric Church has many elements that contribute to the rebellious message of the song. The song correlates with the novel The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton because it involves outlaw groups and outcasts who proudly announce their devotion to being different. To explain how he gives this message I will discuss the song’s repetitive form, and how it affects the audience’s experience. Then I will analyze the song’s sentence structure and language. Finally, I will describe how the instruments and vocals contribute to “The Outsiders” grand style.
“The Outsiders” utilizes repetitive form, which progresses to reinforce an idea that the audience can understand and take away after listening to the song. In this case, Church is trying to tell the audience that his group is different from the rest of society, and uses a variety of phrases to do so. In the first verse of the song he states, “They’re the in crowd, we’re the other ones. It’s a different kind of cloth that we’re cut from.” Starting off the song like this provides the audience with a theme that will be repeated in the rest of the song. In the same verse, Church says, “We’re the junkyard dogs, we’re the alley cats.” This line is obviously different from the previously stated line, and progresses from being an outcast to being dangerous or unwanted.
He then says, “When it hits the fan, and it all goes down, and the gloves come off you’re gonna find out.” This progression from outcast to violence helps the audience understand the rebellious mentality of the group. He gives examples of this rebellion by saying “our leather gets stained when we saddle up and ride ‘em in the pouring rain.” Leather dries up and deteriorates when wet, and Church proudly announces it like he doesn’t care. The refrain in the song is literally the words “The Outsiders.” The phrase again reinforces the idea of being different or “outside” from the others, and it is used at the beginning, middle, and end of the song.
In order to help his audience understand his character, Church uses short, energetic sentences, and language that all audiences can comprehend. For instance, he says, “We’re the bad news. We’re the young guns. We’re the ones that they told you to run from.” His sentences in the song are structured in a concise manner, and get straight to the point. Using energetic, short sentences emphasizes Church’s message and provides a sense of urgency and in this case it could be used to intimidate the audience.
He also uses direct language in “The Outsiders.” He says, “Our backs to the wall. A band of brothers, together, alone. The Outsiders, we’re the riders, we’re the ones burning rubber off our tires.” Church uses simple, clear-cut language; which helps reduce ambiguity in the lyrics of the song. This helps the audience completely understand his message, and gives little room for misinterpretation. Appropriateness is also used to characterize Church. He is clearly pledging allegiance to his “brothers,” and makes this union seem like a gang of outcasts. In the previously stated lyrics, he uses an informal language. Given the topic of the song, a formal language would not align with the content. The language in “The Outsiders” helps the audience identify Church as an informal, but appropriate character.
Church uses instruments to contribute to the grand style of the song, and to emphasize the meaning behind his lyrics. At certain points in the song the lyrics intensify in meaning, and are backed up by changes in the instruments. “The Outsiders” fits nicely in the Southern Rock subgenre because of the screeching guitar and the macho-like lyrics. As the first verse develops the electric guitar gets louder, and drums are introduced. Church also increases the volume of his voice, and lengthens the words at the end of his sentences.
During the bridge, the background vocals say, “Woah-oh-oh” while he says “The Outsiders.” Church is singing louder than the background vocals, and suggests that he is the leader of the group. The “Woah-oh-oh” sounds like wind from a Western film, and it’s hard to not picture Clint Eastwood firing a six-shooter into the sky. In an article written by Rob Harvilla, posted on SPIN’s website, it says, “The chorus explodes into THAT’S WHO WE ARE! THAT’S HOW WE ROLL!” The increase in volume almost has the effect of getting punched, and it makes the audience feel like they are in a chaotic situation.
To further emphasize the grand style, Church uses the climax scheme. In a review written by Will Hermes on Rolling Stone’s website, “The Outsiders” is described as “a roughneck-misfit anthem, delivered in a menacing drawl that triangulates singing.” The fact that reviewers are noticing Church’s energetic sound suggests that the rebellious message has been received. From beginning to end, his intensity builds up towards the playout of the song. The playout seems like anything but country, and gives one final blow to the audience.
In “The Outsiders,” Eric Church utilizes many elements to reiterate the idea of being different. The repetitive form instills Church’s message in the audience through a variety of ways. The sentence structure and language used help the audience identify who Church is, and how he wants to be perceived. Finally, the instruments paired with the meaningful lyrics emphasize the importance of different parts in the song, and contribute to the song’s grand style.
|0:00||Introduction||Guitar||Song begins with a bluesy guitar. The guitar is played at a soft-moderate volume.|
|0:05||Verse 1||“They’re the in crowd…”||Church delivers the lyrics with a nasally tone. He stretches the words out at the end of his sentences. He begins to yell mid-verse, and the guitar and drums increase in volume.|
|0:53||Chorus||“That’s who we are…”||The chorus follows the same volume as the end of the first verse. It flows smoothly after the first verse. He uses short, choppy sentences.|
|1:18||Refrain||“Woah-oh-oh…”||The background vocals sound like wind in a movie. It provides an eery/mysterious effect.|
|1:30||Interlude||Electric guitar, bass, drums||The interlude helps the audience understand that the chorus has clearly ended. It starts with a short guitar solo, and ends with a bass guitar rumbling its notes.|
|1:38||Verse 2||“We’re the bad news…”||Short sentences are used again in the verse. Church sounds like he is speaking when he says the lyrics instead of singing. He ends the verse with the intimidating phrase “When the gloves come off,” and makes it seem like a fight is near.|
|1:57||Chorus||“Who we are…”||This chorus is slightly different from the first time around. He draws out the “higher” at the end and increases the pitch as well.|
|2:21||Refrain||“Woah-oh-oh…”||The background vocals are quieter than Church when he says “The Outsiders.” This provides a sense of Church as the leader of the group, and the background vocalists as his group members.|
|2:44||Interlude||Electric guitar, bass, drums||The guitar solo is a little bit longer than the last refrain, and the bass guitar does not have a solo part in this interlude.|
|2:56||Refrain||“Woah-oh-oh”||Again the background vocals sound like wind in the distance, and Church repeats the phrase “The Outsiders” one more time.|
|3:06||Playout||Bass solo, guitar solo||The playout is significantly louder than the rest of the song. The bass guitar sounds like it would be played during a chase scene in a movie. The drums and crashing in, and the electric guitar screeches like in previous parts of the song.|
|3:56||Tag||“That’s who we are…”||Church ends the song with a much softer “That’s who we are.” The instruments draw out and quiet down, and the song concludes.|
Harvilla, Rob. “Eric Church Marks His Territory.” SPIN. N.p., 4 Feb. 2014. Web. 05 Oct. 2014.
Hermes, Will. “Eric Church The Outsiders Album Review.” Rolling Stone. N.p., 11 Feb. 2014. Web. 11 Oct. 2014.