DISTANT READING ANALYSIS OF THE RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS: EXAMINING LYRICAL THEMES

By: Kyle Brynteson

Peer-Reviewed by Joseph Lawrence and Mariano De Los Rios

The Red Hot Chili Peppers are a well known and recognizable American rock band whose style combines elements of funk, punk, and psychedelic rock. Originally formed in Los Angeles, the band released their debut album “The Red Hot Chili Peppers” in 1984. Over the course of their musical career the Chill Peppers have been both criticized and praised for their diverse styles and themes found within their music.

 

To analyze the diversity within the bands lyrical themes, statements, and imagery I compared the songs “Around the World” and “Otherside” using Voyant Tools, a brilliant web based application useful for performing an in depth text analysis.

Using applications like Voyant to analyze the words found within text for deeper meaning is a method known as distant reading. Distant reading is a method of analyzing or extracting meaning from text and data by using a close eye to uncover meanings, correlations, and relationships. According to the Burdick, “Distant reading is therefore not just a “digitization” or “quickener” of classic humanities methodologies. It is, rather, a new way of doing research wherein computational methods allow for novel sets of questions to be posed about the history of ideas, language use, cultural values and their dissemination’s and the processes by which culture is made” (39).

As opposed to close reading, where someone reads to uncover layers of meaning included in the interpretation of an individual piece of literature, distant reading aims to uncover global features or cultural defining themes found across multiple types of literature. Distant reading is an effective method for scholars in the digital age because no one person has the time to read and analyze multiple source of text or literature in a short period of time, but a computer can!

Dig Hum 10

By running these two songs in the compare and contrast function in Voyant some interesting observations can be made. Although both songs appear dramatically different stylistically and thematically in the stories they tell within their lyrics, a distant reading analysis has made a few themes very apparent. Most importantly, the word “know” is the most frequently used word, appearing 15 times. Despite one song telling the negative effects of drug addiction, and the other telling of the beautiful experiences of life, knowledge seems to be an overarching theme connecting the two pieces. Even though no direct correlations were made from this distant reading analysis, small associations can be made between these two songs. 

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