Academic Writing,

Englishman In New York.

September 18, 2016 Rebekah E. Goodall 0 Comments

Exemplar for BCM230; Will be found as plagiarism if copied. This assignment was the bane of my existence, and I did not meet the word-count.

This essay will position the work, Englishman In New York by Gordan Sumner, who is professionally known as Sting, in the cultural context of 1980s New York and discuss how it sat with the generally homophobic culture of the time. It will discuss and link analysis of the song’s rhythm, melody, harmony & tonality, structure/form, texture, lyrics, and feel, to support that the song does fit into the cultural context of 1980s New York, there are differences about it which make it unusual musically but it’s still labelled as normal compared to other pop music of the time and the music infiltrates the listeners to give them the social message of the song which might otherwise have been rejected. This message and why it may have been controversial will be explained and built on in further paragraphs.
The rhythm section in Englishman In New York, suggests that things are not what they appear to be; the rhythm is in a 4/4 Time Signature but it feels more like it should be 8/8. This beat division is heard as the strings play on the off beats (see bars 1-4). The groove and feel of the string section creates the idea of security. It does this with quick, staccato beats that are punchy and direct. This secure grove allows listeners to understand that the message it brings is well thought out and will be clearly presented- unlike an ‘insecure’ grove in free time, which in pop music would bring a message of passing ideas and unanswered questions.
        Something that happens in another layer of the beat is the sneer playing on the off-beat. The sneer brings difference and goes away from the groove with a darting pattern. The groove is secure and the beat is not, it is ‘teasing’ with the sneer coming in at unexpected times and not when listeners expect to be able to catch it (Listen to verse 1 00:23-00:40). This connects to a lyrical idea, “Confront your enemies, avoid them when you can” as the rhythm is secure and confrontational but also does the unexpected and avoids being a copy of all other pop rhythms. The ideas that are portrayed in the rhythm is of both familiarity and difference. This is a parallel to the writer knowing that there would be danger in the message of the song, that he might be lowered in society for comparing himself to a man who was not accepted, however, he still wrote the song and attempted to spread its message. In the 80’s this rhythm was accepted despite its unfamiliarities and the message of the song was accepted with it as though the beat went before and operated an infiltration on the audiences’ mind, through the music.

Melody is used in Englishman in New York to show development over time is necessary to remain functioning well as it uses a repeating motif in the verses that change each time to fit.  The phrases of the verses can be noted as a repeating motif, as the pitch pattern ascends, descends and then closes with differences in the second bar of the phrase (See motif X1, X2, and X3 from bar 5-10). The melody stays in the B minor scale.
Analysis of the harmony of Englishman In New York reveals that the key is minor overall, despite the fact that it uses strong major cords. The chord progression is a “fake” ii-V-I because it uses chords from the b minor scale but they are 7th cords with ^1 omitted.
The structure of the song is this form: AABABCDEAAB. Having a common, Verse Verse Chorus Verse Chorus Bridge, affects the song by making it seem very similar to other pop songs from this era, in terms of structure. “Yes I should be here”, says the song, It seems to be understandable and predictable. The jazz breakdown and drum breakdown have a more powerful impact as they follow the idea that is already set in the song as these sections are not the same as all others. Due to of the stability established earlier in the song, the jazz breakdown is unusual and unexpected, especially in comparison to other pop music of the time.  The drum breakdown that follows is also more surprising and the listener may wonder if there is something wrong. This runs a parallel with the message of the song because even though people are different from each other in their sex, race, sexuality, religion and other lifestyles, all should be accepted into the community of New York rather than be rejected and discriminated against. “Yes, something is wrong,” says Sting, “Have you not been paying attention?“ It might seem normal to hurt others because of your own opinion of them but such behaviour should not be settled with; it is unsettling, just as the drum solo section is unsettling of the song’s previous verse/chorus form.
Sumner wrote many layers of texture into Englishman In New York and this is created by the instrumentation, both familiar and foreign to American 1980s pop music. The instrumentation includes strings, drums, saxophone, double bass and piano. The music is used to support the melody by playing beneath it, keeping to the rhythm. The music is also used to create new ideas such as the wobbling sound of a metal band that is otherwise quite out of place considering the genre. This instrument comes in during the B sections and adds to the feel of the song’s alienation. The sound is one that could be familiar in intergalactic si-fi films of the age before Englishman In New York’s release. The harmonic arrangement develops and supports the melody to make it sound both familiar and unfamiliar.

The lyrics are where the message of Englishman In New York is most clear. The lines are simple, relatable, informative and paint a clear picture. “I don't drink coffee I take tea my dear, I like my toast done on one side.” The picture these lines create is a situation that all listeners should be familiar with, perhaps taking to breakfast in a café. They clearly tell of the social and cultural context. Later, however, the way that the song as a whole fits in with the context is left in question for those listening to it outside of the era and location that is New York. Does the song really ask for rejection because the message is known to be unaccepted in previous circumstances? Sting points out that he isn’t the same as others in New York and at this time 37 years after the song’s release the question could be asked ‘Are his differences an annoyance for him to live there, or to the people of New York?’ Sting is unapologetic for his differences. He will continue to do things the way he likes them. He brings in a perspective that is different to the outside, to the native New Yorkers. He is apart from their culture because he keeps to his own lifestyle, however, he is still accepting and gracious to those who may not understand his differences. The song makes it clear that Sumner’s own opinion is that he has not become a New Yorker by only living there.
“If manners maketh man…he’s the hero of the day” says there is someone else who is also different but he doesn’t get the same response as Sting, he won’t be accepted and have his requests met. But He turns the other cheek and says, “That is okay, I will not force you to understand me, nor like or accommodate my differences.”
Modesty, propriety can lead to notoriety
You could end up as the only one
Gentleness, sobriety, rare in this society
At night a candle's brighter than the sun
If manners maketh man, as someone said
He’s the hero of the day
Confront your enemies avoid them if you can
Be yourself no matter what they say (Sumner, 1989.)
He doesn’t rate himself at any better or worse in comparison to others. He accepts first that other people are like they are and does not ask them to reason why it is okay to believe and act as they do. This makes him famous as a target and known for being a pushover. But his kindness is still very evident because he is ‘one in a million.’ Though he suffers he cares more to be a gentleman than whatever it is they are, and such success gives him the joy to continue on. This analysis of the lyrics shows most that the song is from outside of the cultural context that it was placed into. It is in fact ‘one in a million’ to approach this topic in such a way.  The lyrical content also goes against the cultural context as it questions the culture’s intellectual achievements. The song shows an example of how humans are supposed to interact with each other but there is a chance that the message in this song is ahead of its time, and that the people who the song is directed to are possibly too immature to take the message in.

Englishman In New York has a clear notion in that being different, and being gay; living a homosexual lifestyle does not entail a reaction of brutality when people are still not used to your lifestyles. The song provides this idea alongside the understanding that there will always be people who have differences and that it is unavoidable to meet them, at least in passing throughout living in New York, so making sure the culture is given a good predetermined method of reaction to such people is an important cause, and one that Sumner has taken part in through releasing Englishman In New York. What is different now is that homosexuals are more accepted socially, and gay marriage is seen as a fulfilled covenant. This is because the culture of New York has changed and perhaps did learn to understand that being kind is more valuable in the place of forcing ones beliefs onto a person who is different. Therefore by looking at the culture of New York today it can be determined that Englishman In New York was accepted in and for its lyrical messages, despite it also having it’s differences that rubbed against the characters mentioned as enemies and their behaviours.

In conclusion Englishman in New York was a strategic infiltration of a message that was deeper than what it first seems to be. However despite being different in its message and musical ideas it was still accepted as normal an equal by the culture that it was written for and released to. It is an infiltration rather than an obvious expression of the message because the music uses familiar conventions to personify the ideas that homosexuality and people being different shouldn’t be a treated any different to others in the community and that these people should be accepted without a need for much attention as people should have an acceptable predetermined method of interacting with them that is not of brutality and will not hurt them. This was the message Sumner intended through Englishman in New York and it was accepted for both being familiar and for its differences by the culture of 1980s New York.

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