Song Analysis Essay

Johnny Cash

In this first major essay of the semester, you will analyze the kairos and rhetorical situation (speaker, occasion, audience, and presuppositions) of a song. Put simply, your task is to tell a story about how the song came about and what it might have meant to listeners at that time. Among other things, you might want to discuss the careers of the artist and songwriter, the state of the country music industry, and relevant world events. To help you brainstorm, I recommend that you browse the Wikipedia entries on the artist, the year in country music, and the year in world events.

The paper must be 1250-1500 words long include 4+ sources and a list of Works Cited in MLA format. Since the paper will be published on the class website (under the “Music” tab), it should discuss rhetorical concepts using the same audience-friendly language that you have been practicing in your blog posts.

Before continuing, please download the rubric.

Guidelines & Suggestions

Selecting a Song: Choose any country song that has not already been analyzed by students in previous semesters. (Note that I have altered these guidelines and that your paper will cover different ground than the earlier song analyses did.)

Format: Since they’re appearing side by side on the class website, all papers will follow the same format. Among other things, this includes embedding a video at the top of the page and printing a song analysis table at the bottom of the page.

  • Song Analysis Table: Note that this part of the assignment is due before the rough draft. We will discuss it in class in greater detail, but you will follow the directions that appear in Jocelyn Neal’s Country Music textbook.

Structure: Start with an introduction that catches the reader’s interest and includes a thesis statement that stakes a clear claim about the song’s place in the artist’s career, country music, and/or the world at the time of its release. (It’s okay to cover only one or two of these pieces, if you have enough to say about them.) In the next paragraphs, summarize the sound and content of the song and develop your remarks on its kairos and rhetorical situation. Conclude with an introduction that ties everything together.

Sources: Use 4+ sources to defend your analysis. The best sources will shed light on the song’s rhetorical situation and/or indicate how the song’s intended audience responded to it. Clearly indicate the details that you borrow from sources by using quotation marks (for direct quotes), hyperlinks (for digital sources), and parenthetical references (for digital and print sources).

  • Consider using user comments as a source.

Works Cited: Include a list of Works Cited in MLA format at the bottom of the essay. See the Easy Writer textbook for the details on MLA format.

Submission: Submit your rough draft to Canvas. Post your final draft to the class website as a “Page” (not a “Post”) under the “Music” tab.